Their Eyes Were Watching God
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"Freein’ dat mule makes uh mighty big man outa you. [...] Abraham Lincoln, he had de whole United States tuh rule so he freed de Negroes. You got uh town so you freed uh mule. You have tuh have power tuh free things and dat makes you lak uh king uh something."
"Uh woman and uh knife—no kind of uh knife, don’t b’long tuhgether." There was some more good-natured laughter at the expense of women.
"Jes lak uh lil girl wid her Easter dress on. Even nice!" He locked the door and shook it to be sure and handed her the key. "Come on now, Ah’ll see yuh inside yo’ door and git on down de Dixie.
Joe’s altruistic act, as pretentious as it was, of freeing a mule from a life of hard labor is akin – in Janie’s mind – to Lincoln emancipating the black slaves. It shows a degree of generosity rarely found in powerful men.
"He set it up and began to show her and she found herself glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play. Somebody thought it natural for her to play. That was even nice. She looked him over and got little thrills from one of his good points."
Weapons of any kind are usually considered a product of a masculine realm, and Janie’s clumsiness with the knife is caused by a female venturing into male territory—or so they assume. Everyone assumes that women cannot do what men do and thus they laugh "at the expense of women."
" On the outside, Janie participates in the funeral and the requisite mourning period. But, on the inside, she rejoices. She is finally free of the heavily restricted life that Joe forced her into. She celebrates by burning the headrags that Joe forced her to wear."
Tea Cake tries to treat men and women equally, he still unconsciously considers women weaker than men; he assumes they require men to escort them back home safely. He calls Janie a "lil girl wid her Easter dress on," somewhat diminishing her image and seriousness. Though chivalric, Tea Cake’s language and offer to walk Janie home might be read as sexist.
"The years took all the fight out of Janie's face. For a while she thought it was gone from her soul. No matter what Jody did, she said nothing. She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels"
Because Tea Cake treats men and women relatively equally—thinking they both have the right and intelligence to play the same games—Janie finds herself attracted to him. His unconventional thinking makes him even more attractive to Janie, who finds herself admiring his physical assets.
Because Joe Starks treated her like a pet of his, Janie was very excited to finally be free. In fact, she spends some time considering her future. She realizes that it is time for her to embark on her journey to the "horizon," a journey where she hopes to meet people rather than just gather "things" as she has been doing so far in her life. Janie is enjoying her freedom.
After being with Joe for eleven years, Janie learns to stop fighting. Some days she considers running away from Joe just as she ran away from Logan years ago. But Janie fears that she is too old to run away. Janie realizes that Joe has become very old, and that he has become more abusive to her than ever before. He constantly criticizes her for being old and ugly, hoping that by pointing out her flaws.
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