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Didier Daeninckx

Joe Starks—Joe is a smooth-talking, ambitious political type. He romances Janie away from her matter-of-fact life with Logan Killicks on the farm. He transforms the deadbeat town of Eatonville into a more proper establishment—a place with a store and a mayor and committees and land for houses and families. He is domineering—and yet, oddly enough, he and Janie never have any children. Their love, in other words, does not produce fruit; therefore, one suspects that it is not really love that unites them.

In fact, Joe Starks is just another version of Logan Killicks, only packaged a little differently. Whereas Logan’s ambition centered on the farm, Joe’s centers on the town. Whereas Janie might have resigned herself to life with Logan, now she resigns herself to life with Joe. But there is little happiness to be found for Janie in her marriage to Joe. Joe treats her with contempt, is often impatient with her, insensitive, rude, scolding, and abusive. He grows corpulent and loses his suavity and good looks. She, on the other hand, retains most of her youthfulness. But, then, she has a youthful spirit—eternally young—whereas Joe has a worldly spirit, doomed to die. Joe, therefore, may be viewed as the antithesis of Tea Cake, who is the personification of Janie’s dream of love. Tea Cake is the man that Janie first thought Joe was going to be.

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