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"Whut Ah don’t lak ‘bout de man is, he talks tuh unlettered folks wid books in his jaws," Hicks complained. "Showin’ off his learnin’." (5.140)
Again, Joe makes other men feel inadequate by pointing out their lack of an education while flaunting his own. It’s almost like Joe isn’t earning his pride, he’s just knocking others down so that he appears to be the biggest man.
[after the mule’s funeral]: Joe returned to the store full of pleasure and good humor but he didn’t want Janie to notice it because he saw that she was sullen and he resented that. She had no right to be, the way he thought things out. She wasn’t even appreciative of his efforts and she had plenty cause to be. Here he was just pouring honor all over her; building a high chair for her to sit in and overlook the world and she here pouting over it! Not that he wanted anybody else, but just too many women would be glad to be in her place. He ought to box her jaws! (6.89)
In his high position, Joe reads everything in terms of his pride. He takes Janie’s sullenness not as a wound to her own dignity but as an insult to his pride. He is completely blind to the fact that she is human and wants to participate in all the fun on the porch.
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.