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Free Study Guide-Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston-Free
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Chapters 5 - 6

Summary

Joe buys Janie a few trinkets on the train the next day, but he focuses his real energy on the town where they are headed. He is convinced that he will be needed there. Janie has to admit that he carries himself like someone important. When they arrive in the new settlement, both Joe and Janie notice that the town does not really amount to much. They spy two men lounging under a tree. Joe tells them that he wants to meet the mayor; the men explain that they have not really seen a need to have one. Joe, sensing a lazy attitude, promises to whip the town into shape.

Joe rents a house, and Janie tries to settle in. Joe goes out to learn more about the town. He finds out that a white man, Cap'n Eaton, gave fifty acres to a group of Negroes to form Eatonville. Joe thinks that fifty acres is not enough for a town and proposes to see Cap'n Eaton and buy some more land. The townsfolk cannot believe his audacity. They follow Joe in order to see if he is bluffing. Joe is true to his word. He buys up two hundred acres of land. He also plans to open a post office. One of the townsfolk scoffs at Joe, saying that a black man does not need a post office. His friend reminds him that colored folks keep each other down with such attitudes. .

Soon Joe is talking about opening a store and building a house. The people are amazed and wonder if he is being truthful. Lumber starts arriving the next day, and Joe divides people into work crews. He also finds citizens to buy up plots of land and build their own homes. Janie is shocked to see the amount of money and energy that her husband spends and the progress that he makes. She begins to fondly call him Joe.


When the store is finished, Joe throws an opening party. He has Janie dress up finer than all the other women. During the party, no one is buying much, so Joe starts handing out crackers, cheese, and lemonade. One of the men makes a clumsy speech about how fine a man Joe Starks is; he also praises Janie as a fine gal. Joe himself makes a speech, telling a few more of his plans for the town. The group elects him mayor on the spot. They ask Janie to make a speech. Joe answers by saying that his wife has a place in the home, not making speeches. Janie is not too pleased about him refusing her a chance to talk. He, however, is oblivious of Janie's feelings. He is too busy making plans. He wants her to run the store, which she does not really want to do.

Joe orders a streetlight. When it comes in, he displays it for a week on the store's porch before making a big ceremony out of its installation and lighting. To celebrate the streetlight, the townsfolk cook up a big feast. At the lighting ceremony, Joe makes a speech about how the people need light both on the streets and inside themselves. Brother Davis also speaks, and the townspeople sing. That night in bed, Joe wants to know how Janie likes being Mrs. Mayor. Janie says that she feels unnatural around him. He is always too busy for her; she just wants all the fuss to slow down. Joe is shocked and tells her the work is just beginning. He thinks she should like that fact that he is a big voice in the town, for it makes her big too. Janie suddenly feels a wave of cold, fear, and loneliness come over her.

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