Chapter 4: Summary and Analysis
Last Updated on April 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 597
Six months into the marriage, Logan stops doting on Janie and starts telling her she’s spoiled and should do more work around the house, like chopping wood and getting feed ready for the mules. When he leaves one day to see a man about a mule, a well-dressed man drives by. Janie is taken with his stylish clothes and his romantic overtures, and the two start meeting in secret. His name is Joe Starks, and he will be her second husband. They run away together at the end of this chapter.
When Joe Starks tells Janie, “A pretty doll-baby lak you is made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo’self,” this foreshadows later chapters when he says just the opposite and tells her she is not supposed to sit on the porch and talk with the men.
Clothes. In general, Janie isn’t a terribly superficial person, but she does respond to beauty and cleanliness in all things, and that extends to clothes. Janie’s legitimate disgust with Joe’s unwashed feet, ratty clothes, and general uncleanliness is counterbalanced by her attraction to Joe Starks’s new clothes, fine horse, and great ambitions. Though she feels no real sexual connection with Joe (“he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees”), she decides to leave with him because he may be able to provide her with a cleaner and prettier life—and, of course, nice clothes.
Water. Once again, water is used to develop the relationship Janie has with a man (in this case, with Joe Starks). Unlike Logan, who doesn’t accept her offering of water to wash his feet, Joe gladly takes some water to drink. What’s more, he pumps water for her afterward, and this parallel is meant to indicate to the reader that the two are a better match than Janie and Logan.
Hurston personifies the sun when she says it was “threatening the world with red daggers.”
One example of a simile from this chapter is “the morning road air was like a new dress.”
Janie’s Hair. Janie’s long black hair is a source of some fascination for men, including her husband, Logan. He used to love touching her hair, but at the beginning of this chapter he loses interest in it. Later on in the novel, Janie’s second husband, Joe, will have the same initial reaction to her hair, though he will force her to cover it so that other men won’t be able to see it.
Hope. Janie hasn't been hopeful since the beginning of chapter 2, when she was first learning about the birds and the bees and discovering her own sexuality. That hope of finding love was squashed in chapter 3 when she couldn’t bring herself to love Logan, but late in this chapter, with the arrival of Joe Starks, Janie begins to feel a spark of hope, if not for a great romance than for a better life. Unfortunately, this will not work out well for her.
Race. When Janie first talks to Joe, he mentions that there’s an all-Black community forming in Florida (he is from Georgia). This self-segregated community is meant to foster togetherness and feelings of fellowship among Black people, as well as to protect them from the racism exhibited by their white oppressors and bosses. There were several such communities in the South at the time, and Hurston’s interest in this phenomenon affords readers a secondhand glance at an interesting and sociologically unique community.