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Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

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What do Joe “Jody” Starks and Janie discover upon their arrival in Eatonville?

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It's fair to say that Eatonville is a crushing disappointment for both Joe and Janie when they first arrive. It looks to all the world like the proverbial one-horse town—however, even the sole remaining horse has long since passed away.

The town is way too small to suit Joe and Janie's needs; there's no post office, no general store—not even a mayor. But when life gives you lemons, you turn them into lemonade, and Joe takes these particularly bitter circumstances and transforms them into something completely different. He immediately sets out to revitalize Eatonville by establishing a post office and a general store, which the local townsfolk naturally think is a good idea. The next thing you know, Joe puts himself forward as a candidate for mayor and becomes a major play in local politics.

Unfortunately, this puts a strain on his marriage with Janie, who feels isolated from the other women in town by virtue of her status as the mayor's wife.

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When they first arrive in Eatonville Joe and Janie are disappointed by what they see. What is supposed to be a rather nice part of Florida is made up of what the author calls "a dozen shame-faced houses scattered in the sands and palmetto roots," leading Joe to state "'taint nothing but a raw place in da woods." Joe insists that they go to see the mayor.

However, the first people he asks tells them that the town doesn't have a mayor yet. Joe is shocked, saying no wonder the place is such a mess, but takes the men's advice and rents out a house just up the road. Here Joe finds out that the town, which people refer to as Maitland as well as Eatonville, consists of only 50 acres of land. Joe soon begins work on a grocery store to improve the town's image.

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