As Chapter 1 opens, Janie Crawford returns to her home town after "burying the dead." The people of the town have come out onto their porches after having worked all day "for the man":
These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things.
During the day, the residents of Eatonville have been mere "mules" who have worked jobs of drudgery, without thought or word. However, once the sun begins to set and they are on their porches in their own domain over which they have a voice and some control, the residents speculate as storytellers about Janie as she passes them. As storytellers, they remember "the envy they had stored up" and they notice that she still looks young and attractive. For a while, no one speaks, but Lulu Moss drawls, "She sits high, but she looks low." Phoeby Watson speaks in defense of her friend, and rushes over to Janie's house where they reunite and unburdens her heart to her friend in self-revelation, another kind of storytelling.