Last Updated on April 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 343
One day Janie wakes up and realizes that she is thirty-five. Eleven years have passed since the last chapter, and she has grown weary of her life, tired of her time spent working in the store. Whenever she performs a menial task or kowtows to Joe, she imagines herself sitting...
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One day Janie wakes up and realizes that she is thirty-five. Eleven years have passed since the last chapter, and she has grown weary of her life, tired of her time spent working in the store. Whenever she performs a menial task or kowtows to Joe, she imagines herself sitting under a tree with wind in her hair, like she did when she was a girl. She isn’t the only one growing old, though. Joe, who was older than her when they married, looks half-dead already, and when he criticizes her for her looking old, she tells him that when he pulls down his pants he looks “lak de change uh life.” For this, he smacks her; but he still takes her words to heart.
Trees. In chapter 2, Janie was depicted as a young girl sitting under a blossoming pear tree, flowering into a young woman. In this chapter, she can only dream of being that carefree young girl whose only wish is to find love. This clears her mind and allows her to reclaim some of her old identity, giving her the strength to stand up to Joe.
Age. Time moves very rapidly in this novel, and Janie goes from being in her mid-twenties to her mid-thirties in the course of a chapter. True to his sexist nature, Joe criticizes Janie for her age and her fading beauty, reinforcing the double standard that women can’t be sexual beings after they reach a certain age, even though men can. Of course, Janie’s beauty isn’t fading, and she will enter into her most romantic and erotic relationship shortly after Joe dies.
Gender. Unsurprisingly given the time period, women are almost constantly discriminated against in this novel and are judged more for their physical characteristics than their personality. Joe makes this abundantly clear when he calls Janie old and fat, as if her body is the only piece of her that matters. In a satisfying turn, Janie talks back to him, reclaiming some of her power as a woman.