Jody’s character is opposite that of Tea Cake. He is cruel, conceited, and uninterested in Janie as a person. But his cruelty is not a result of any specific animosity toward Janie; rather, it is a reflection of the values that he holds and the way that he understands his relationship to the world. Jody depends on the exertion of power for his sense of himself; he is only happy and secure when he feels that he holds power over those around him. In Janie’s words, he needs to “have [his] way all [his] life, trample and mash down and then die ruther than tuh let [him]self heah ’bout it.” He needs to feel like a “big voice,” a force of “irresistible maleness” before whom the whole world bows.
In order to maintain this illusion of irresistible power, Jody tries to dominate everyone and everything around him. His entire existence is based on purchasing, building, bullying, and political planning. He marries Janie not because he loves her as a person but because he views her as an object that will serve a useful purpose in his schemes. She is young, beautiful, and stately, and thus fits his ideal of what a mayor’s wife should be. Jody is obsessed with notions of power, and Janie remains unfulfilled by their relationship because these notions require her to be a mute, static object and prevent her from growing. He forces her to tie her hair up because its phallic quality threatens his male dominance and because its feminine beauty makes him worry that he will lose her. Janie ultimately rebels against Jody’s suppression of her, and by toppling his secure sense of his own power, she destroys his will to live.