In Their Eyes Were Watching God, what do men see when Janie walks by and what do they do with this knowledge?
In Chapter One, when the protagonist comes back to town after the flood and all that went with that, this is what the men think as they look at her as she walks down the street: “"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? …What dat ole forty year ole 'oman doin' wid her hair swingin' down her back lak some young gal? …why she don't stay in her class?" Yes, they do desire her, but they also resent her for the power she exudes. The passage continues: “They scrambled a noisy "good evenin'" and left their mouths setting open and their ears full of hope….The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt." Yes, they do indeed desire her, and their desire terrifies them.
The men watch her walk by, ogling her body, taking in her lustrous skin and hair, and just dream. In the first chapter, it is mentioned that men watch their dreams from some distance, but women go after them. It is true in the instance of Janie walking through town, returning after Cake's death. The men just watch and fantasize,saving the memory to relive after she is out of sight, but it is Phoebe who gets up to find out what happened.