Often in stories of self-realization and self-love, there is an incident that is often overlooked. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, such is the case. While many people tend to believe that Janie’s relationship with Teacake was the central time when she realized who she was, Her marriage with Joe Starks is often ignored in the big picture. Janie realized what she didn’t want and not to settle and that helped her accept Teacake later on in the book. Jody’s ideals did not mesh with a Janie and caused a lot of conflict.
Throughout their twenty-year marriage, three events symbolized the rift between Jody and Janie; The first was his refusing to allow Janie to speak at the towns opening ceremony, Janie’s public response to Jody’s ridicule of her, and Jody’s rejection of Janie while on his deathbed. After Janie’s complete failure of marriage with Logan Killicks, She was looking for what was missing with their relationship. When Joe came down the road, She saw things being significantly different than what she had with Killicks. Jody stood for things she found fascinating. He spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and chance. ” (29). And although Jody did not represent the Pear tree which symbolized Janie’s ideal complementary man, He was more than what Killicks offered. Unfortunately, Jody was in a lot of ways worse than Killicks was after they were married. There was an overriding theme of Janie’s silence while she was with Joe. Perhaps the biggest example and a preview of things to come was when Jody finished all of the town improvements and as a show of gratitude, the townspeople held an opening ceremony for the new Mr.
And Mrs. Mayor Starks. During the ceremony, Janie was asked to say a few words and offer some encouragement from the crowd. But Jody rushed onto the stage to refuse Janie the opportunity to speak. “Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home” (43). This was one of the first of many times when Janie would be silent and not allowed to speak her mind.
After Jody interrupted the ceremony, Janie was just upset that she didn’t even get the opportunity to speak. “She had never thought of making a speech, and didn’t know if she cared to make one at all. It must have been the way Joe spoke without giving her a chance that kind of took the bloom of things. ” (43). This was the first of many times when Jody would refuse to allow Janie to speak in public. He also banned Janie from participating in the gossip that went on at the stoop. Janie always wanted to at least be able to participate in those, but Jody forbade her.
He considered it lowly and something that a woman of Janie’s stature should be above. “…Ah can’t see what uh woman of your stability would want tuh be treasurin’ all dat gum-grease from folks dat don’t even own de house dey sleep in…They’s jus’ some humans playin’ round de toes of Time” (54). Jody continued to refuse Janie to socialize with the town. After Jody freed the mule and it passed, He didn’t even allow her to go to the draggin-out. Even though the main reason he bought that mule was because of Janie’s reaction to the way they treated the poor animal.
Socially, Jody smothered Janie an did not allow her to participate in any activities outside of the store and that forced Janie to bottle up a lot of emotions and other feelings. Another one of the things Jody did that really hurt Janie was when Joe would constantly ridicule her and the like. Essentially, Joe made remarks about Janie not being able to think for herself as well as other little sarcastic, ignorant comments. And Jody actually believed things like women cant think for themselves. “Dat’s cause you need tellin’…somebody got to think for women and chillins and cows.
I god, they sho don’t think none themselves” (71). Comments like these were extremely common. “They (women) just think they’s thinkin’. When Ah see one thing Ah understands ten. You see ten things and don’t understand one” (71). Janie would fight back though with her mouth but she soon realized this was a war she would never win because Jody would never stop until he got her submission and obedience. Then came the time when He slapped her because the dinner was not prepared properly. In essence Janie’s opinion and views of Joe were crushed that instant.
And as a result, she realized that this was not the man nor the relationship she wanted or needed. And as they grew older, Jody began to ridicule Jody of her age as well. Eventually it all erupted with Janie’s infamous retaliation: “T’ain’t no use in gettin’ all mad, Janie, ‘cause Ah mention you ain’t no young gal no mo’. Nobody in heah ain’t lookin’ for no wife outa yuh. Old as you is. ” “…Ah’m uh woman every inch of me, and I know it. Dat’s uh whole lot more’n you kin say…Talkin’ bout me lookin’ old! When you pull down yo’ britches, you look lak de change uh life” (79).
Janie’s response basically striped Jody of his manhood. He was PUBLICLY embarrassed and humiliated. And obviously this took a serious tool on Jody and as the time went by and he kept that pain and hurt inside. And eventually led to the beginning of his death. Jody’s impending death did not stop the ever-widening gap that was steadily growing between himself and Janie. Jody began associating with people he thought of as liars and nuisances and even had a fake doctor come to help him when he got sick. His confidants became people who looked out for him suddenly and they seemed to begin to stop recognizing Janie as his wife.
Jody kept a lot of information on his health away from her and refused her attempts to admit him to a hospital. He refused to even eat the food Janie prepared for him in order to help him fell better. Soon Joe was so stricken, he couldn’t even get out of bed to care for himself anymore. So she was forced to get a doctor without his consent to officially give them a proper diagnosis. And the doctor informed her that it was too late for Jody and that he is basically going to die. Janie finally decided that she was going to go in and have a good talk with Jody before he passed.
But even then, Jody did not accept what she had to say. She was the one that broke the news of his impending death. And of course, Jody rejected that statement. But Janie had things she had to tell him. A lot of the things that she knew she had to tell him came out and it broke his sprit even more. “…you aint de Jody ah run off down de road wid You’se whuts left after he died…. But you wasn’t satisfied wid me de way Ah was. Mah own mind had tuh be squeezed and crowded out tuh make room for yours in me. Shut up! Ah wish thunder and lightning would kill yuh!
All dis bowin’ down, all dis obedience under yo’ voice-dat ain’t whut Ah rushed off down de road tuh find out about you” (87-88) Jody fought her until his death. And when he died, right there in front of Janie, she was filled with pity for the first time in years. Jody’s big downfall was his accomplishments. Since he was able to do so much, he was very proud of what he was able to accomplish. But Joe did not realize that a Woman does not necessarily need material things and high social status (although those things are nice).
He figured that Janie would just be content to sit and be his little play doll as Janie so nicely put it. But Jody wanted her to do his wishes and when she resented some of the orders he gave her, he got angry because he demanded her unconditional obedience. But unfortunately, Jody passed because he could not accept her independence as a woman. And this was manifested in her not being allowed to speak in public, his constant ridicule of her and his rejection of her while he was on his deathbed.