What conflict does the conversation between Pheoby's husband and Lige Moss center around? How is it significant to the developing theme of the novel?This is in chapter 6

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The conflict centers on the varying opinions of what--if anything--should be done about Matt Bonner's mule. The mule is the subject that allows the town to do a great deal of teasing of Matt Bonner and most of that teasing seems to occur on the front porch of Joe's store. Eventually, the teasing becomes too much for Janie and she mutters to herself how wrong it is to treat the mule in this manner. Unknown to Janie, Joe hears her quiet comments and springs into action. To put an end to the teasing, Joe buys the mule from Matt Bonner and announces to everyone that he did so to let the mule rest. It is Janie who steps onto the porch and speaks--something she was not allowed to do--about how grand and noble of a gesture this is and then compares Joe's freeing of the mule to Abraham Lincoln's freeing of the slaves.

In this scene, we see Janie "finding her voice" and speaking up and talking on the porch of the store, just like the men. This catches most of the town off-guard and one townsperson even says:

"Yo' wife is uh born orator, Starks. Us never knowed dat befo'. She put jus' de right words tuh our thoughts."

The theme of finding one's voices is synonymous here with finding one's identity. This scene in Chapter 6 sets up the contrasting scene in Chapter 7, the next time she "speaks" on the porch. Here, Janie glorifies Joe as a "big man;" in Chapter 7 she completely emasculates him.

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