[W]hen he heard all about ’em makin’ a town all outa colored folks, he knowed dat was de place he wanted to be. He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de sayso where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin’ dis place dat colored folks was buildin’ theirselves. Dat was right too. De man dat built things oughta boss it.
Jody explains to Janie that he is heading south to find the new all-Black town that is being built. His belief that those who build a place ought to rule the place reflects his belief in the need for some people to be in authority over others. Jody makes it clear that he is both ambitious to be a leader and confident that he will be.
“Leave the s’posin’ and everything else to me. Ah’ll be down dis road uh little after sunup tomorrow mornin’ to wait for you. You come go wid me. Den all de rest of yo’ natural life you kin live lak you oughta.”
Here, Jody tries to convince Janie to leave Logan Killicks to be with him. He sees her as too good for her current situation and thus a better match for himself. Of course, he does not actually know Janie, so he is basing this belief on her appearance. His saying “Leave the s’posin’ to me” should be a warning to Janie that he does not want to hear her thoughts.
“Ain’t got no Mayor! Well, who tells y’all what to do?”
Jody’s reaction to learning that the brand-new town of Eatonville has no mayor is completely emblematic of his attitude towards power: Someone needs to have power and use that power to get others to do things, or things won’t get done. Jody quickly convinces the townspeople that he should be the mayor.
There was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town. It was not because of physical fear. He was no fist fighter. His bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he was more literate than the rest. Something else made men give way before him. He had a bow-down command in his face, and every step he took made the thing more tangible.
Here, the narrator describes Jody’s inexplicable aura of command. Jody’s confidence in his own ability and right to lead easily convinces others to make him mayor. With that power, he induces the townspeople to work hard to build Eatonville up into a successful community. Many people in the town resent Jody’s power, but nobody challenges it.
Janie loved the conversation and sometimes she thought up good stories on the mule, but Joe had forbidden her to indulge. He didn’t want her talking after such trashy people. “You’se Mrs. Mayor Sparks, Janie. I god, Ah can’t see what uh woman uh yo’ stability would want tuh be treasurin’ all that gum-grease from folks dat don’t even own de house dey sleep in….”
Jody’s words reveal that he does not want his wife mixing with the regular townspeople by contributing to the chatter on the store’s front porch. He explains that as his wife, Janie should consider herself above the other people of the town, the people he looks down on even as they look to him as their leader.
Her hair was NOT going to show in the store, It didn’t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store…. She was there in the store for
himto look at, not those others. But he never said things like that. It just wasn’t in him.
Jody, or Joe as he is referred to here, forbids Janie from wearing her hair down in public, because he knows the other men stare at it. Jody’s pride, however, prevents him from explaining why he sets such a rule. If he explained himself, Janie might see him as a normal man with human failings—which Jody would never want. Jody also is unconcerned with how his dictate makes Janie feel: His word is law.
She wasn’t even appreciative of his effort and she had plenty cause to be. Here he was just pouring honor all over her; building a high chair for her to sit in and overlook the world and she here pouting over it! Not that he wanted anybody else, but just too many women would be glad to be in her place. He ought to box her jaws!
Here, we get a glimpse of Jody’s inner thoughts and feelings as they pertain to Janie. He realizes that Janie is not totally satisfied by being Mrs. Mayor Sparks, and he can’t understand why not. In Jody’s view, Janie’s ability to be apart from others and respected is a privilege. But Janie feels restricted by her position and by Jody’s strict expectations of her behavior. The couple’s priorities and personalities are mismatched.
“Ah wish mah people would get mo’ business in ‘em and not spend so much time on foolishness…. [I]t’s awful tuh see so many people don’t want nothin’ but uh full belly and us place tuh lay down and sleep afterwards. It makes me sad sometimes and then agin it makes me mad. They say things sometimes that tickles me nearly tuh death, but Ah won’t laugh just tuh disincourage ‘em.”
Jody describes his neighbors and fellow townspeople, whom he thinks of as his people because he is their mayor. As someone with boundless ambition to better himself and his position, Jody does not relate to or respect people who do not share that ambition. Even when he finds the people’s talk entertaining, Jody chooses not to show how he feels because he doesn’t want to encourage their frivolity.
[H]is vanity fled like a flood. Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible…. But Janie had done worse, she had cast down his empty armor before men and they had laughed, would keep on laughing. When he paraded his possessions hereafter, they would not consider the two together. They’d look with envy at the things and pity the man that owned them.
After years of silently tolerating Jody’s verbal abuse, which has become worse as Jody has become ill, Janie finally snaps and calls into question Jody’s manhood—in front of a large group at the store. The narrator reveals the effect Janie’s words have on Jody. Realizing what she has said and that others heard, Jody immediately sees the implications: Nobody in town will respect him the same way anymore.