Their Eyes Were Watching God: Novel Summary: Chapter 5

At the outset of Hurstons 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. Joes investment pays off immediately when ten new families buy lots from him and begin buying canned food before the stores 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 mayors wife – to say a few words, but Joe interrupts, saying “mah wife dont know nothin bout no speech-makin. Ah never married her for nothin lak dat. Shes uh woman and her place is in de home” (40). Joe doesnt 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.