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Times and scenes like that put Janie to thinking about the inside state of her marriage. (6.183)
This statement implies that Janie usually pushes her negative thoughts about Joe aside. It is only when Joe insults her intelligence or limits her freedom in any other way that Janie’s memories are triggered and she thinks about how differently her marriage has gone from the way she envisioned it.
Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered. But looking at it she saw that it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams. Just some thing she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over. In a way she turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further. She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. (6.186)
The first time Joe beats Janie, her ideal and illusion of him is shattered. Janie realizes for the first time that her past with Joe has been very different that she previously thought. She realizes that his goodness was all an illusion to her, that Joe in reality "never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams" but "just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over." This harkens back to the first page of the novel (1.2) in which the narrator states that women create a version of their own past separate from reality in order to enforce the idea that their life is in line with their dreams. Here, Janie has just realized that her life and her dreams have not been at all aligned.
Most of the day she was at the store, but at night she was there in the big house and sometimes it creaked and cried all night under the weight of lonesomeness. Then she’d lie awake in bed asking lonesomeness some questions. She asked if she wanted to leave and go back where she had come from and try to find her mother. Maybe tend her grandmother’s grave…She hated her grandmother and had hidden it from herself all these years under a cloak of pity. She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people; it was important to all the world that she should find them and they find her. But she had been whipped like a cur dog, and run off down a back road after things. It was all according to the way you see things. Some people could look at a mud-puddle and see an ocean with ships. But Nanny belonged to that other kind that loved to deal in scraps. Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon – for not matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you – and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her. She hated the old woman who had twisted her so in the name of love. (9.4)
After Joe’s death, Janie’s memories of Nanny suddenly hit her with a new force and she interprets them radically differently. Her memories, tinged with the bitterness of her oppressive marriage to Joe, now seem desecrated. Nanny is no longer the loving grandmother who wanted only good for her child, but a woman who valued only material objects and subjected her granddaughter to horrors simply to obtain such trivial wealth. Thus, life experience can change the way one parses her memories.