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Marc Levy

Chapter 6

Janie appreciates the talk on the porch: it is a sociable time. She would enjoy the storefront porch even more, however, if she did not have to work there. Her husband Joe does not want her engaging in such idle conversation, especially since he is a dignitary (the town mayor) and she his wife. One of the favorite topics of the porch sitters is a man named Matt Bonner and his mule. Matt is somewhat idiotic and the porch sitters have a good time at his expense.

When one day the men in the town begin abusing a mule, Janie shows that she is not pleased. Joe purchases the mule from the men and declares it as the town pet. From that day till its death it lives in the yard outside the store front, completely free. It is an ironic action. To please Janie, Joe frees the mule—but he will not free Janie.

In the privacy of their own home, Joe strikes Janie when she displeases him and verbally berates her. In public, he puts on a show of charm and affability. Janie tries to resign herself to reality—but is still compelled to “thrust herself” into conversation. In response, Joe tells her that she is becoming too “moufy”—and remark that further pushes her down.

Chapter 7

Years go by, and Janie begins to feel like a rut in the road. Her life feels oppressed. She thinks of the open road and dreams of leaving. At thirty-five, however, she is no longer a young girl. It is clear, though, that she does not want to be subject to Joe. She goes through the motions with indifference—as though she were watching herself from a distance, or from the shade of the trees.

One day Joe berates in front of everyone in the store, and she finally fights back. She openly mocks his manhood, and he hits her with all his might and drives her from the store.

In this chapter, Janie stands up for herself and reveals a woman full of life and fight and vigor. What starts out as a joke—a customer’s criticizing of her cutting short a plug of tobacco—becomes a serious showdown between herself and Joe, a showdown that has long been coming. Janie makes up for all the insults Joe has flung at her over the years (to draw attention away from his own deterioration) by causing the whole town to pity the man they had once envied.

Chapter 8

Joe sleeps in a separate room in the house. Janie observes him and how baggy he has become. Joe lets a crooked doctor see him and tell him that he’s been poisoned. Janie knows that Joe does not believe the doctor, but she thinks that he allows it to be said simply to hurt Janie. Joe does not allow Janie to cook for him anymore. After the incident in the store, he tries to put on an act—as though she were to blame for his lack of virility.

But it turns out that Joe is indeed really sick. His kidneys have stopped working. Janie’s thoughts turn toward death. She reflects that she will have it out with Jody. So one morning she goes in to tell him he is going to die and that he has lived with her for twenty years but only knows about half of her. The other half he pushed out so that he could squeeze in—and she has resented it.

She states that she never ran off with him just so that she could later on bow down to his every whim. As she accuses him, he yells for her to get out. Suddenly, the strife becomes too much and he dies. Janie straightens herself and removes her head rag, which Joe always made her wear. Then she views her reflection in the mirror. She observes that there is still “glory” in her features. Finally, she calls the townspeople to tell them of the death of Joe.

Chapter 9

Joe is buried and the funeral is a grand event. The whole of Orange County seems to pay its respects to the “Little Emperor” that was Joe. Janie is undisturbed the death: while she is there in attendance, her thoughts are back to springtime and dreams.

That night she burns all her head rags and the next day shows of her hair in one long braid that falls “well below her waist.” She continues, however, to mind the store. She is content to no more be someone’s slave.

She reflects on her Nanny and the way Nanny pinched the horizon into nothingness—all for the sake of security. Janie wants, rather, to fly into the horizon in pursuit of dreams. Hatred for her grandmother rises in her. Janie despised the way people let their love go.

Many men from all over come now to see Janie and ask how she is. She laughs at them because she sees through their intentions. Janie wears black and keeps the potential suitors at bay. Meanwhile, she talks freely and laughs in the store. Still, she feels as though she were still Joe’s clerk in the store.

Finally, she dons white and confesses to Pheoby that she is not mourning for Joe, but relishing her freedom. Pheoby tries to hush her for fear that people might say she did not miss her husband. Janie says that she does not care what people think. Her period of mourning is over and will not last longer than grief.

In this chapter, Janie appears to spread and try her wings for the first time in a long time. It is as though she has been released from a prison. She is more at her ease, and is comfortable. She sees no hurry to be married again, although many men desire her. She wants to enjoy her liberty.

Chapter 10

On a day when everyone is at a ballgame, Janie is about to lock up the store when a stranger walks in to buy cigarettes. He is good-humored and he and Janie enjoy a slightly witty banter together. He admits that he would be at the game but came to the wrong place because he thought it was here. Now that there is no one around to catch a ride with, he proposes that they play a game of checkers.

Janie does not know how to play but she is delighted that someone would think it natural for her to play a game. They play but Janie accuses him of cheating and the board is upset. Both laugh. The stranger buys her a cold drink and introduces himself as Vergible Woods, better known as Tea Cake. He is a comical fellow and the two have a very easy way together, as they had known one another all their lives.

Tea Cake walks her through the dark to her door, and then like a gentleman departs for the long walk back. Janie sits on the porch and watches the moon. The sense of a new life—or, rather, of a ship having come in to dock with a dream come true—is in the air.

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