The Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
Contributed by Jennefer Ruano
Chapter 5

At the outset of Hurston’s fifth chapter, newlyweds Joe and Janie Starks take a train to Eatonville, an up and coming "colored town" (32). Both are disappointed, however, to find the town consists only of several rickety shacks. Joe, after talking with several locals, quickly determines to buy two hundred acres of land and to set up a store with a post office. Joe’s investment pays off immediately when ten new families buy lots from him and begin buying canned food before the store’s roof is even finished. 

At the first town meeting, Joe is made mayor and gives a speech. At its conclusion the townspeople want Janie - as the mayor’s wife - to say a few words, but Joe interrupts, saying "mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home" (40). Joe doesn’t notice that his comment bothers Janie, however, as he revels in his successes. In addition, after obtaining the first street lamp for the town, Joe reveals to Janie that he always "aimed tuh be uh big voice. You oughta be glad, ’cause dat makes uh big woman outa you" (43). Again, Janie feels very uncomfortable, as "A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far away from things and lonely" (44). Chapter Five signals the beginning of this conflict between Joe and Janie, which only intensifies in upcoming chapters.

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