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Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song. (1.5)
The long-lived "envy" that these gossipers on the porch have for Janie quickly translates into "burning statements…[and]…killing tools" all made from words. Their jealousy makes them aggressive and vindictive. Hurston describes the gossipers’ cruel words as "walking without masters," which makes it seem that everyone is throwing out criticisms, but would never claim them or take responsibility for what they say. Jealousy is something you show behind the victim’s back when you don’t have to be the master of your words or face repercussions.
[The porch]: "What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? – Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? – Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? – What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal? – Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid? – Thought she was going to marry? – Where he left her? – What he done wid all her money? – Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs – Why she don’t stay in her class? –" (1.6)
The gossipers’ comments make it plain that they envy Janie’s good looks that allow her to dress in overalls and let her hair loose and still look attractive. Instead of making Janie look bad, their envy makes them look like a pack of insecure women.
"She ain’t even worth talkin’ after," Lulu Moss drawled through her nose. "She sits high, but she looks low. Dat’s what Ah say ‘bout dese ole women runnin’ after young boys." (1.12)
Lulu, one of the women jealous of Janie, arms herself with hurtful words. She speaks hypocritically, claiming Janie "ain’t even worth talking after," when that is exactly what she is doing – talking about Janie.