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\Studyworld\ Studyworld Studynotes \ Their Eyes Were Watching God:
Chapter 5

They rode the train the next day, and Joe bought her all the nicest things; he also talked about all the plans he had for the town once they got there. Janie was very proud of who he was and how he acted.

They got to the town - Eatonville - early in the afternoon and Joe tells her he wants to walk and look around the town. It wasn't a very big place, and the few houses there were "shame-faced." Even Janie is disappointed. They see some locals sitting under a tree and Joe asks one man where the mayor of the town is. Instead of answering his question, the man asks where Joe is from and if Joe and his "daughter" are going to be joining them in the new town. Joe clarifies that Janie is his wife, and repeats his question about the mayor. The man, Coker, tells him there isn't one yet. Joe is surprised, and asks how they manage without one. Coker responds that since they're all grown, they didn't seem to need one. Joe asks about temporary lodging for himself and Janie, and they walk away.

The two men, Coker and Hicks, comment on how self-important Joe seems, but they're both jealous of him because he has such a beautiful, young wife, and they joke about how good they are with women. They get up to see where the two strangers have gone.

Joe is on the porch of the boarding house talking to a small group of men. He asks the name of the town and the extent of its boundaries. When he's told it's only fifty acres, he says he's going to see Cap'n Eaton, the man who gave the first piece of land for the town. He tells them he's going to buy more land to add to the town. This seems ridiculous to all the men on the porch. Joe walks off abruptly.

Hicks ducks back into the house to try to talk to Janie, but she's not responsive to his advances, so he leaves. Later, Coker teases him about it, and Hicks downplays it, pretending he didn't think she is that attractive. Coker responds, "You oughta know you can't take no 'oman lak dat from no man lak him. A man dat ups and buys two hundred acres uh land at once whack and pays cash for it." And, in fact, that's what Joe had done; he'd also called a meeting the next morning, informing everyone he planned to open a store and get permission from the government to open a post office. Hicks is irritated and intimidated by all this, but he tries not to let Coker see; instead, he says he doesn't believe Joe can accomplish anything.

Again they walk back over to see what Joe is up to. He is asking questions about the nearest saw mill, because he wants to buy lumber to build a town store. The men talk about it and agree it would be nice to have a local store, so they didn't have to go all the way to the next town for flour and other necessities.

The next day, Jody's first load of lumber is delivered, and the first town meeting happens right where the truck leaves it. Jody enlists all the able-bodied men in town to begin building the store and chopping out roads. Joe's role in this effort is to drive around and tell people about the town, and to try to convince them to come and live there.

Jody makes back the money he's spent on the land very quickly, from new families who move to Eatonville and buy lots from him. The store is operational before it has a roof. The day it is completed, there is to be a big town gathering there. Jody tells Janie to dress up and stand in the store all evening. He wants to make sure she is dressed differently, and more expensively, than all the other women in town. At the store that night, Jody serves lemonade, crackers and cheese. One man rises to make a speech, to welcome Jody and Janie officially to the town and thank them for what they'd done. Quickly the men of the town begin to argue about what the speech should include. Finally Joe gives a speech of thanks, in which he promises to do all he can for the town. Tony Taylor, the man who attempted the first speech, immediately nominates Joe for mayor. The other men quickly agree and then one man asks for "a few words of encouragement" from Janie. Joe quickly steps in and says Janie doesn't know anything about speeches, and that her place is in the home.

Janie smiles along with everyone else, but she is angry. She doesn't know if she had even wanted to make a speech, but Joe didn't even give her the chance. Joe didn't seem to be thinking at all of what she wanted. For example, Joe constantly goes around talking up the new town and the store, and leaves Janie to do the business of the store. She complains, but Joe tells her he has bigger things to worry about - such as he'd like to buy a streetlight for the town, which he does the very next day, with his own money.

At first, there is some opposition to the light and whether or not the town actually needs it. But once it arrives, the whole town takes pride in it. In fact, the official "lamplighting" turns into an occasion for much ceremony and celebration. People come from all around the county to see it. The whole town prepares an elaborate barbecue to feed everyone. The night of the lighting arrives, and Joe gives a solemn speech: "De first street lamp in uh colored town. Life yo' eyes and gaze on it. And when Ah touch de match tuh dat lampwick let de light penetrate inside of yuh, and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine." A minister gives a blessing, and the people of the town break spontaneously into a hymn.

Later that night, Jody asks Janie how she likes being the mayor's wife. Janie says she doesn't always like it, because they can't be natural with each other; Joe is always off acting important. He tells her this is only the beginning, as he aims to be a "big voice." He tells her she should appreciate this, since it also makes a big woman out of her. Janie is far from reassured with this statement - instead, she feels lonelier than ever.

Soon she is confirmed in this fear. She can never be just another woman, and it makes it hard to get to know people. Because Joe places her on a pedestal, that is also the way the rest of the town sees her. Joe is certainly not a violent man, but something about his attitude cows the town. His house, for example, is big and white and has two stories. The rest of the town looks like "servants' quarters surrounding the 'big house.'" He sits at a big desk and chomps on cigars all the time; he buys gold-looking vases as spittoons for both him and Janie. The town does respect and admire him, but as time goes on, they talk more and are more critical of him. One time Joe caught Henry Pitts with a wagon load of his ribbon cane; he took the cane away and made Henry leave town. There were arguments among the men whether this had been too harsh. Sam Watson agrees with Joe: people should have to work for what they want. But Sim Jones thinks Joe is too "exact" with folks, and criticizes him for always telling people what to do and of liking the sound of his own voice. Sam Watson begins to agree - he doesn't like the way Joe shows off that he's educated, and makes others feel small. They wonder what Janie sees in him, because he's so critical when she makes little mistakes in the store. They also notice he requires her to tie her long, straight, beautiful hair up in a rag when she works. At the end, the narrator notes that the town, though critical, continued to bow down to Joe, because he was all the things they said he was, and "then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down."

Browse all Studyworld Studynotes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20


 

 



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