Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
"If dat wuz mah wife," said Walter Thomas, "Ah’d kill her cemetery dead."
"More special after Ah done bought her everything mah wages kin stand, lak Tony do," Coker said. "In de fust place Ah never would spend on no woman whut Tony spend on her."
Starks came back and took his seat. He had to stop and add the meat to Tony’s account.
"Well, Tony tells me tuh humor her along. He moved here from up de State hopin’ tuh change her, but it ain’t. He say he can’t bear tuh leave her and he hate to kill her, so ‘tain’t nothin’ tuh do but put up her if she wuz mine. Ah’d break her or kill her. Main’ uh fool outa me in front of everybody."
"Tony won’t never hit her. He says beatin’ women is just like steppin’ on baby chickens. He claims ‘tain’t no place on uh woman tuh hit," Joe Lindsay said with scornful disapproval, "but Ah’d kill uh baby just born dis mawnin’ fuh uh thing lak dat. ‘Tain’t nothin’ but low-down spitefulness ‘ginst her husband make her do it." (6.208-213)
These men consider women too lowly to spend much money on and consider it appropriate to beat their wives when they don’t perform up to expectations. Any man who won’t hit a woman is thought to be a fool.
Janie did what she had never done before, that is, thrust herself into the conversation.
"Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business. He told me how surprised He was ‘bout y’all turning out so smart after Him makin’ yuh different; and how surprised y’all is goin’ tuh be if you ever find out you don’t know half as much ‘bout us as you think you do. It’s so easy to make yo’self out God Almighty when you ain’t got nothin’ tuh strain against but women and chickens."
"You getting’ too moufy, Janie," Starks told her. "Go fetch me de checker-board and de checkers." (6.215-217)
Janie breaks out of the traditional role of the silent obedient woman and speaks her mind to the men, telling them how stupid they’ll feel when they learn the truth of how hard women work and how much they know. Joe feels threatened by Janie’s outburst and puts Janie back into her place by taking a commanding tone with her and reasserting his dominance by bossing her around.
[Mixon teasing Janie about her lack of skills with a knife]: "Looka heah, Brother Mayor, whut yo’ wife done took and done." It was cut comical, so everybody laughed at it. "Uh woman and uh knife – no kind of uh knife, don’t b’long tuhgether." There was some more good-natured laughter at the expense of women. (7.10)
Knives and weapons of any kind are usually considered a product of a masculine realm and Janie’s clumsiness with the knife is caused by a female venturing into male territory – or so they assume. Everyone assumes that women cannot do what men do and thus they laugh "at the expense of women."