What was Janie Crawford's effect on others in Their Eyes Were Watching God?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Janie Crawford drives women crazy with envy and men crazy with lust. Chapter one shows Janie walking through Eatonville to get to her house, and the way the townspeople respond to her proves the effect she has on most everyone with whom she comes in contact. First, the men notice her aesthetically attractive and tempting physical features along with her long flowing hair and the following:

"They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye" (2).

This means that what they saw walking before them was saved in their brains for later and clearly proves that they were smitten with lust. The women, on the other hand, don't have much good to say about Janie generally, but they are even more judgmental when she doesn't stop to talk with them about where she has been for a year and a half. The women are described as follows:

"The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day" (2).

Janie used to wear the finest dresses when they knew her as Mrs. Starks; but after leaving Joe for Tea Cake, they are surprised to see her in overalls, dirty, and her hair flowing down her back. To these women's remembrance, Joe Starks had forced Janie to wear a wrap around her head in the store because of the effect she had on him and customers like Walter:

"And one night he had caught Walter standing behind Janie and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the loose end of her braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it without Janie knowing what he was doing. . . He felt like rushing forth with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand" (55).  

Here we see that Janie affects Walter to the point of him not being able to resist touching a married woman's hair. Then, she affects her husband to the point that he covets her, feels he owns her, and is even tempted to kill in order to maintain control over her as well as the men who look upon her.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

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