Why does Joe tell Janie that she needs to stop playing croquet in Their Eyes Were Watching God?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 6 of Hurston's novel, the relationship between Joe Starks and his wife Janie has greatly deteriorated. Joe continues to demand Janie's submission, but she has numbed herself to him.

She was saving up feeling for some man she had never seen. She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them.

Then, in Chapter 7, Janie notices that Joe looks old; he cannot sit down in a chair, but must throw himself down. When he notices that Janie has observed the changes in him, Joe begins to talk about Janie's age. For instance, he tells her to take a shawl when she goes outside because she is "no young pullet no mo'." Further, he tells Jane she should come off the croquet court, saying it is a game for young people and she will be stiff in the morning and unable to get out of bed:

One day he called her off the croquet ground. "Dat's somethin' for de young folks, Janie, you out dere jumpin' round and won't be able tuh git out de bed tuhmorrer."

But, Hurston writes, "If he thought to deceive her, he was wrong."  Janie realizes that Joe's days are numbered. Later, when he again insults her, she retorts that he is not young, either, and she insults his manhood, a remark that causes Joe to slap her.



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