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As time goes on, Janie feels more and more alone. Joe is a commanding presence in the town, and she is his esteemed wife. As a result, the townsfolk remain distant from her, and she is lonely. Then Joe builds a big white house; inside he has a brass spittoon and a fancy desk, just like a white man. He even buys Janie a small, fancy spittoon, decorated with flowers. The townspeople see this display of wealth and wonder about Joe. Although he is respected, he makes them feel that they are missing something. He is often the topic of discussion when the townsfolk gather on the porch of his store. They discuss whether Joe should have run a man out of town for stealing cane. Some think that he did the right thing; others argue he had no right. They all agree that he addresses everyone as if he is the boss. Even if they are grateful for his hard work for the town, they do not like to be talked to that way. They also note that he makes Janie tie up her hair around the store and yells at her when she makes mistakes. They judge that "he's uh man dat changes everything, but nothin' don't change him." They both like and dislike Joe Starks. Janie spends her days at the store. She likes to see the people on the porch and listen to their stories, especially the tales of Matt Bonner's poor mule. As soon as the porch-sitters see Matt coming, they are ready for him. They tease him about his skinny-ol' mule, saying things like the women are going to use the mule's ribs for a wash-board. Matt gets angry and stammers, claiming that he feeds the mule very well and that the animal is just too stubborn to show it. They tell more stories, and Janie wants to join in. Even though Joe laughs and talks with them, he has forbidden her to be amongst the porch-sitters, for she is too highly placed to engage in such low rubbish.
Sometimes Janie gets frustrated in the store. She hates it when people interrupt her, asking for things at the wrong time. Sometimes doing the math makes her head ache. She also dislikes it when Joe fusses at her. Neither does she like it that he makes her keep her hair covered. She does not think hair rags are sensible, but her husband is worried about her attracting men. One time he nearly took a knife to a man who dared to touch her hair.
In spite of his stern manner, Joe can be human, as seen in the case of Matt's mule. Matt, a known tightwad, is always looking for his runaway animal. The townspeople tease him about the mule, saying it has more sense than he does; Matt just claims that the mule is mean. One day, Janie watches as the porch-sitters corner the mule in the street in front of the store and poke and harass the animal. Under her breath, she swears at people who have "fun" torturing poor beasts. Even though Joe laughs at the antics in the street, he listens to the words of his wife. He buys the poor animal in order to give it a rest and sets it free to wander the town. The porch-sitters are impressed at Joe's kindness and happy to have something new to talk about. Janie even makes a speech about how much she admires Joe for doing such a good deed.
One day Sam, a know-it-all, and Lige are on the porch arguing over whether caution or nature keeps a man from burning himself on a hot stove. Joe and the porch-sitters are egging them on with more topics to argue. Suddenly, everyone on the porch is distracted by three women strutting down the street. The men go crazy, flirting and competing for the girls' attention. When Daisy Blunt approaches in her white dress, Charlie Jones declares that angels have been let out of heaven. The single men compete, telling Daisy just how far they would go to win her favor; they would buy her a train, clean out the Atlantic Ocean, or step out of an airplane to prove their undying love for her. Janie is watching the antics of the men and enjoying herself. When Joe notices her, he orders her inside to help Mrs. Bogle. Then one of the porch-sitters comes inside to buy Daisy a pickled pigs foot. Janie cannot find the barrel of pigs feet, nor the order slip. Joe blames Janie for poor bookkeeping and for being a stupid w oman. Janie knows that such scenes are ruining her marriage.