Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Janie appreciates the talk on the porch: it is a sociable time. She would enjoy the storefront porch even more, however, if she did not have to work there. Her husband Joe does not want her engaging in such idle conversation, especially since he is a dignitary (the town mayor) and she his wife. One of the favorite topics of the porch sitters is a man named Matt Bonner and his mule. Matt is somewhat idiotic and the porch sitters have a good time at his expense.
When one day the men in the town begin abusing a mule, Janie shows that she is not pleased. Joe purchases the mule from the men and declares it as the town pet. From that day till its death it lives in the yard outside the store front, completely free. It is an ironic action. To please Janie, Joe frees the mule—but he will not free Janie.
In the privacy of their own home, Joe strikes Janie when she displeases him and verbally berates her. In public, he puts on a show of charm and affability. Janie tries to resign herself to reality—but is still compelled to “thrust herself” into conversation. In response, Joe tells her that she is becoming too “moufy”—and remark that further pushes her down.
Years go by, and Janie begins to feel like a rut in the road. Her life feels oppressed. She thinks of the open road and dreams of leaving. At thirty-five, however, she is no longer a young girl. It is clear, though, that she does not want to be subject to Joe. She goes through the motions with indifference—as though she were watching herself from a distance, or from the shade of the trees.
One day Joe berates in front of everyone in the store, and she finally fights back. She openly mocks his manhood, and he hits her with all his might and drives her from the store.
In this chapter, Janie stands up for herself and reveals a woman full of life and fight and vigor. What starts out as a joke—a customer’s...Sign up to continue reading Chapter 6-Chapter 10 >