Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
"Maybe he [Joe] make her [Janie] do it [tie up her hair]. Maybe he skeered de rest of us mens might touch it round dat store." (5.144)
One of the gossiping townsfolk accidentally hits on the exact reason Joe is making Janie bind her hair up: he is jealous of other men touching Janie’s beautiful locks. However, the fact that the citizens do not recognize this immediately as the truth shows that they think highly of Joe; they consider him too secure in his own assets to fear anything from the other men.
This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly. But Jody was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It didn’t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store. And one night he had caught Walter standing behind and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the loose end of her braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it without Janie knowing what he was doing. Joe was at the back of the store and Walter didn’t see him. He felt like rushing forth with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand. That night he ordered Janie to tie up her hair around the store. That was all. She was there in the store for him to look at, not those others. (6.31)
Joe’s jealousy becomes apparent here. He only makes Janie wear the head-rag because he has concrete evidence to confirm his fears; Walter has already felt up Janie’s hair without her knowledge. Joe’s concept of Janie as an object – his object – is so strong that the sight of another man enjoying any part of Janie immediately stirs violent thoughts in his mind. Clearly he doesn’t realize that Janie is a human and won’t be stolen away from him, she’d have to give herself to another man, which she’s showing no signs of doing.
So he didn’t come that night and she laid in bed and pretended to think scornfully of him. "Bet he’s hangin’ round some jook or ‘nother. Glad Ah treated him cold. Whut do Ah want wid some trashy nigger out de streets? Bet he’s livin’ wid some woman or ‘nother and takin’ me for uh fool. Glad Ah caught mahself in time." She tried to console herself that way. (11.69)
Janie knows what it feels to be jealous for the first time. Because she has established a strong, positive connection with Tea Cake, she feels betrayed when he doesn’t immediately come visit her again. To soothe her spurned heart, Janie pushes her anger onto Tea Cake, writing him off as unfaithful and a "trashy nigger." This last phrase is reminiscent of Nanny’s reaction to Johnny Taylor; without being conscious of it, Janie is slowly letting her bitterness transform her into the narrow-minded woman that Nanny was.