Literary Criticism


Jody's off-kilter morals soon come into the picture and foreshadow a clash of ideals. Immediately after he makes his speech and is elected mayor, he forbids Janie from speaking to the crowd: "...mah wife don't know nothin' 'bout no speech-makin'. Ah never married her for nothin' lak dat. She's uh woman and her place is in de home" (41). While Jody, appears chauvinistic, he is actually insecure about his public image. He has just made a glorious speech, winning him the office of mayor, and he doesn't want his wife to either outshine him with her skill or embarrass him with her inabilities. He comes up with the best excuse he can, one that his peers will understand: Janie is just a woman. He couldn't tell the audience that she might make a speech better than his. He means no disrespect to her, he acts only out of lameness.

Jody continuously insults Janie to make himself feel better. But, when she fights back, he is devastated. She insults his appearance by saying, "Ah'm uh woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. Dat's uh whole lot more'n you kin say. You big-bellies round here and put out a lot of brag, but 'tain't nothin' to it but yo' big voice" (75). Janie destroys his home, the only thing he has to be proud of. He has built up a facade of a happily married – and attractive – man. When the town sees them fight for real, and him get arrested, he is "robbed... of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which [is] terrible" (75). The reader now pities Jody. He has been publicly humiliated and robbed of his manhood. Jody dies soon after, but not before the author portrays him in a sympathetic light. "[Jody] got too weak to look after things and took to his bed... But Jody was never to get on women again..." (79). And, when looking over his death bed, "The half-washed bedclothes hurt [Janie's] pride for Jody. He had always been so clean" (81). Dehumanized, emasculated and pitiful, Jody Starks dies of penis failure, but, in death, the reader feels compassion for him, somehow.

Jody Starks, on deed alone, seems sexist, pompous, and gay. But, through Hurston's sympathetic portrayal and deep character development, he is revealed to be genuinely homo as ever.