Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God Joe Starks Quotes
[Joe]: "…Ah’m goin’ see de man. You cannot have no town without some land to build it on. Y’all ain’t got enough here to cuss a cat on without gittin’ yo’ mouf full of hair."
"He ain’t got no mo’ land tuh give away. Yuh needs plenty money if yuh wants any mo’."
"Ah specks to pay him."
The idea was funny to them and they wanted to laugh. They tried hard to hold it in, but enough incredulous laughter burst out of their eyes and leaked from the corners of their mouths to inform anyone of their thoughts. So Joe walked off abruptly. Most of them went along to show him the way and to be there when his bluff was called. (5.44-47)
Joe’s sense of pride almost requires humbling others around him. His sense of pride demands that he go purchase more land, but he also insults the men of Eatonville with his "cuss a cat" comment.
[Joe to Janie]: "I god, Ah don’t see how come yuh can’t [run the store]. ‘Tain’t nothin’ atall tuh hinder yuh if yuh got uh thimble full uh sense. You got tuh. Ah got too much else on mah hands as Mayor. Dis town needs some light right now." (5.111)
Joe’s pride at being mayor blinds him to Janie’s needs. This is the beginning of the end for their marriage.
Maybe, he [Joe] had seen it [his old age] long before Janie did, and had been fearing for her to see. Because he began to talk about her age all the time, as if he didn’t want her to stay young while he grew old. It was always "You oughta throw somethin’ over yo’ shoulders befo’ you go outside. You ain’t no young pullet no mo’. You’se uh old hen now."…If he thought to deceive her, he was wrong. For the first time she could see a man’s head naked of its skull. Saw the cunning thoughts race in and out through the caves and promontories of his mind long before they darted out of the tunnel of his mouth. She saw he was hurting inside so she let it pass without talking.
It got to be terrible in the store. The more his back ached and his muscle dissolved into fat and the fat melted off his bones, the more fractious he became with Janie. Especially in the store. The more people in there the more ridicule he poured over her body to point attention away from his own. (7.8-9)
Joe’s pride in his manhood will not allow him to acknowledge his old age, especially not publicly. Instead, fear for his pride forces him to drag Janie down. Again we see Joe’s standard pattern of trying to build himself up by tearing others down.