Pheoby Watson is Janie’s best friend, and the person Janie narrates her story to. Unlike the other townspeople of Eatonville, who out of jealousy read the worst interpretations into Janie’s return, Pheoby approaches Janie with a sympathetic ear and open heart. This distinction has held true for Pheoby throughout her friendship with Janie. When Janie and Tea Cake first court, the townspeople question Janie’s behavior, but Pheoby goes to talk to Janie because she’s worried about her friend. It’s this genuine care for Janie that makes Pheoby the ideal listener. As Pheoby observes, “an envious heart makes a treacherous ear.” That is, an audience who approaches a story already jealous of the teller will come away with a version of the story twisted into its worst shape.

Because Pheoby approaches Janie with a generous ear, she is able to live vicariously through Janie’s story. Therefore, at the end, when Pheoby says that she wants to go fishing with her husband, it’s clear that Janie’s romantic adventures have encouraged Pheoby to add more passion into her own life. While the townspeople may stay static with bitterness, Pheoby’s sympathy allows her to treat Janie’s experiences as inspiration.