What precipitates Janie's estrangement from Joe in "Their Eyes Are Watching God"? Why had he commented on her aging?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Joe begins to comment on Janie's aging to take attention away from the fact that he is deteriorating himself.  He knows he has become an old man, but cannot accept that his days of physical glory are over.  Although their relationship has been floundering for a long time, the incident that precipitates their ultimate estrangement is described in Chapter 7.  Janie is resigned to Joe's meanness and has learned to respond to his gibes with silence, but when she makes a mistake in the store and he insults her in front of customers, she cannot keep from humiliating him in turn.  When the onlookers laugh at him as a result of what Janie has said, Joe reacts with rage and strikes Janie, kicking her out of the store.

Joe moves out of the room he shares with Janie after this incident, and they live like strangers in their house.  Soon, Joe becomes ill and takes to his bed.  He gladly receives anyone who will come to visit him, but will not talk to Janie.  Joe refuses conventional medical care and, turning instead to a medicine man, announces that Janie has cursed him, causing his illness.  Janie, who has tried to reestablish communication with Joe, determines to talk to him one last time and forces her way into his presence.  With characteristic honesty, she tells Joe what everyone knows but he cannot accept - that he is going to die.  When he does expire, Janie feels pity for him that she hasn't felt in years (Chapter 8). 

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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