Their Eyes Were Watching God
Society and Class Quotes Page 6
How we cite our quotes:
"Dis sittin’ in de rulin’ chair is been hard on Jody," she muttered out loud. She was full of pity for the first time in years. Jody had been hard on her and others, but life had mishandled him too. (8.45)
At Joe’s death, Janie realizes that many of his problems were caused by his position of power in the community and all the expectations that come with that power. Being a member of an upper class, or at least a leader, inflated Joe’s pride and made him too authoritative for his own good – to the point where he didn’t listen to or love his wife anymore. Yes, "life had mishandled Joe," but he also desired the power given to him and was, in turn, corrupted by it.
Joe’s funeral was the finest thing Orange County had ever seen with Negro eyes. The motor hearse, the Cadillac and Buick carriages; Dr. Henderson there in his Lincoln; the hosts from far and wide. Then again the gold and red and purple, the gloat and glamor of the secret orders, each with its insinuations of power and glory undreamed of by the uninitiated. People on farm horses and mules; babies riding astride of brothers’ and sisters’ backs. The Elks band ranked at the church door and playing "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" with such a dominant drum rhythm that it could be stepped off smartly by the long line as it filed inside. The Little Emperor of the cross-roads was leaving Orange County as he had come – with the out-stretched hand of power. (9.1)
Because Joe is considered something of a nobleman, a "little emperor" of Orange County, his funeral is lavish. The powerful come in their "Cadillac and Buick carriages," dressed in "the gold and red and purple, the gloat and glamour of the secret orders." These hints of royalty highlight the townspeople’s high opinion of him and yet his reign is marked by "secret orders" and "insinuations of power" – implying a degree of furtiveness and corruptibility to Joe’s immense power.
When Janie emerged into her mourning white, she had hosts of admirers in and out of town. Everything open and frank. Men of property too among the crowd, but nobody seemed to get any further than the store. She was always too busy to take them to the house to entertain. They were all so respectful and stiff with her, that she might have been the Empress of Japan. They felt that it was not fitting to mention desire to the widow of Joseph Starks. You spoke of honor and respect. And all that they said and did was refracted by her inattention and shot off towards the rimbones of nothing….A Sanford undertaker was pressing his cause through Pheoby, and Janie was listening pleasantly but undisturbed. It might be nice to marry him, at that. No hurry. Such things take time to think about…" (9.16)
After Joe’s death, Janie becomes the object of courtship for many men of the town. However, her status as the late mayor’s wife, renders her seemingly too highborn for the men of Eatonville. They approach her as a delicate object to be honored and spoken to about "honor and respect," never about base "desire." In the high position that Janie occupies, people seem to assume that she no longer has human emotions – like wanting to have a little bit of love or romance in her life.