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[Janie]: "Maybe he ain’t nothin’," she cautioned herself, "but he is something in my mouth. He’s got tuh be else Ah ain’t got nothin’ tuh live for. Ah’ll lie and say he is. If Ah don’t, life won’t be nothin’ but uh store and uh house." (7.3)
Janie deludes herself into thinking that Joe still deserves her love because the alternative would mean being trapped in nothing but "uh store and uh house." Janie cannot imagine a life of such confinement, utterly stripped of meaning and purpose. In reality, Janie’s life is confined to a store, house, and a loveless marriage.
[Janie to Pheoby]: "Naw, Pheoby, Tea Cake ain’t draggin’ me off nowhere Ah don’t want tuh go. Ah always did want tuh git round uh whole heap, but Jody wouldn’t ‘low me tuh. When Ah wasn’t in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid folded hands and sit dere. And Ah’d sit dere wid de walls creepin’ up on me and squeezin’ all de life outa me. Pheoby, dese educated women got uh heap of things to sit down and consider. Somebody done tole ‘em what to set down for. Nobody ain’t told poor me, so sittin’ still worries me. Ah wants tuh utilize mahself all over." (12.16)
Janie admits her desire to get up and get around, to move. Joe, however, didn’t want his woman to be too worldly and thus kept her confined and immobile in the store. Janie loves Tea Cake because he is not threatened by her mobility and her desire to "utilize [her]self all over."
[Janie]: "She was borned in slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, didn’t sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So sittin’ on porches lak de white madam look lak uh might fine thing tuh her. Dat’s whut she wanted for me – don’t keer whut it cost. Git up on uh high chair and sit dere. She didn’t have time tuh think whut tuh do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin’. De object wuz tuh git dere. So Ah got up on de high stool lak she told me, but Pheoby, Ah done nearly languished tuh death up dere." (12.32)
Janie’s and Nanny’s differing outlooks on life and women’s freedom stem from their backgrounds. For Nanny who’s early life was spent in slavery, idleness is freedom. For Janie, on the other hand, feels trapped doing nothing but sitting up on high and looking pretty.