Their Eyes Were Watching God
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Anyhow a free mule in town was something new to talk about. The town talked it for three days and said that’s just what they would have done if they had been rich men like Joe Starks. Starks piled fodder under the big tree near the porch and the mule was usually around the store like the other citizens. Nearly everybody took the habit of fetching along a handful of fodder to throw on the pile. He almost got fat and they took a great pride in him. New lies sprung up about his free-mule doings. How he pushed open Lindsay’s kitchen door and slept in the place one night and fought until they made coffee for his breakfast; how he stuck his head in the Pearsons’ window for Rev. Pearson and handed him a plate; he ran Mrs. Tully off of the croquet ground for having such an ugly shape; he ran and caught up with Becky Anderson on the way to Maitland so as to keep his head out of the sun under her umbrella; he got tired of listening to Redmond’s long-winded prayer, and went inside the Baptist church and broke up the meeting. He did everything but let himself be bridled and visit Matt Bonner. (6.62)
Eatonville’s imaginations – fired up by the thought of a liberated mule being similar to a black freedman – make up all kinds of stories and rumors to entertain themselves. They find enjoyment and distraction in stories and conjure up a little fantasy world for themselves.
[Joe]: "But it’s awful tuh see so many people don’t want nothin’ but uh full belly and uh place tuh lay down and sleep afterwards. It makes me sad sometimes and then agin it makes me mad. They say things sometimes that tickles me nearly tuh death, but Ah won’t laugh jus tuh dis-incourage ‘em." Janie took the easy way away from a fuss. She didn’t change her mind but she agreed with her mouth. Her heart said, "Even so, but you don’t have to cry about it." (6.94)
Communication clearly isn’t always honest. Joe claims not to laugh when the locals say stupid things, but he sure laughed at a lot of the mule stories, so he’s just plain lying. Similarly, what Janie communicates with her "mouth" is different from what she feels in her heart. Neither of them are truthful with each other, which really doesn’t help their marriage.
But sometimes Sam Watson and Lige Moss forced a belly laugh out of Joe himself with their eternal arguments. It never ended because there was no end to reach. It was a contest in hyperbole and carried on for no other reason. (6.95)
Here, Hurston comes straight out and admits that Sam and Lige argue pointlessly for no other reason than to show off. Their arguments are "a contest in hyperbole," each man aiming to outdo the other in this contest of exaggerated words. It seems like in many cases in the novel, language is used as a form of harmless entertainment.