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Essentially, the townspeople want to know where Janie has been and how she came to be back in Eatonville. They are a nosey bunch, used to knowing the goings-on with everyone in the town. Since Janie left Eatonville amid a bit of a scandal, they can't wait to find out what has brought her back home. Seeing her "made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times." They wonder aloud:
What she doin coming back here in dem overhalls? Can't she find no dress to put on?--Where's dat blue satin dress she left here in?--Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her?--What dat ole forty year ole 'oman doin' wid her hair swingin' down her back lak some young gal?--Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid?--Thought she was going to marry?--Where he left her?--What he done wid all her money?
Can't you just hear the envy in their tone? They, who have never ventured far outside their community and always done basically all that was expected of them? Without revealing too much of what you will find out later in the novel, I can tell you that Janie was married to the mayor of the town. When he died, she took up with a much younger man and caused quite a scandal, to the point that she and he left the town together, Janie taking with her the money her late husband had accumulated and leaving the town essentially without a leader-figure.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do. Post any further questions you might have as you read!
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