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In her poetic opening of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston writes that
...women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget.
When Janie Crawford returns to her hometown, reminding the residents resting on their porches of the "envy they had stored up from other times," they watch the bedraggled Janie who wears men's overalls, and they "swallowed with relish." For, now they have the opportunity to berate her in her defeat and in their envious delight of at last feeling more righteous and powerful than she.
First of all, the women take the opportunity to disparage her personal appearance and her lack of manners for not stopping to speak to them. However, her one friend, Phoeby, sharply corrects the others,
The worst thing Ah ever knowed her to do was taking a few years offa her age and dat ain't never harmed nobody. Y'all makes me tired. De way you talkin' you'd think de folks in dis town didn't do nothin' in de bed 'cept praise de Lawd.
In their envy the women remember Janie's beauty and sensual attractiveness that probably has more than once caught the eye of their men. They recall, too, that years ago she was independent enough to strike out on her own from her old husband and find Joe Starks, a prosperous man. Most of all, they remember her startling beauty that yet is not diminished; seeing her yet beautiful hair and her still girlish figure their "envious heart[s] make...teacherous ear[s]." And, what they do not know about Janie and her younger man also makes them cruel since their own lives are so monotonous with mere "[M]ules and other brutes occup[ying] their skins" most of their days."
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