Summary: Chapter 3
As Janie prepares for her marriage to Logan, she understands that she doesn’t love him but assumes that after marriage, love will come naturally, as Nanny has been telling her. The wedding is a big, festive affair, but two months later, Janie visits Nanny to ask for advice; she fears that she will never love Logan. Nanny berates Janie for not appreciating Logan’s wealth and status. She sends Janie on her way, again telling her that, in time, she will develop feelings for Logan. After Janie leaves, Nanny prays to God to care for Janie, saying that she, Nanny, has done the best that she could. A month later, she dies. A year passes, and Janie still feels no love for Logan and becomes even more disillusioned.
Summary: Chapter 4
Logan pampers Janie less and tries to get her to perform manual labor, claiming that she is spoiled. One day, he leaves to buy a second mule so that Janie can help him work in the fields. While Logan is getting the mule, Janie spies a good-looking, sharply dressed stranger ambling down the road. She catches his eye and flirts a while with him; his name is Joe Starks, a smooth-tongued, stylish man with grand ambitions. He tells her that he is from Georgia, that he has saved up a lot of money, and that he has come down to Florida to move to a new town that is being built and run by Black people. He lingers around the town for a while and every day he and Janie meet secretly. He dazzles her with his big dreams, and Janie’s hopes for love come alive again. He asks her to call him “Jody,” a nickname that she has created for him. Finally, after about two weeks of clandestine flirtation, he says that he wants her to leave Logan and marry him.
That night, Janie and Logan fight. He again calls her spoiled and she mentions the possibility of running off. Feeling threatened, Logan responds desperately by insulting and belittling Janie. The next morning, they argue more. Logan orders her to help with the farm work; Janie says that he expects her to worship him but that she never will. Logan then breaks down, cursing her and sobbing. Afterward, Janie leaves to meet Jody at an agreed-upon time and place. They marry at the first opportunity and set out for the new town.
Analysis: Chapters 3–4
The conversation between Janie and Nanny in Chapter 3 neatly demonstrates the difference between their respective worldviews. For Nanny, relationships are a matter of pragmatism: Logan Killicks makes a good husband because he is well-off, honest, and hard-working. In a harsh world, he offers shelter and physical security. As Janie later realizes, in Chapter 12, it makes sense that a former slave like Nanny would have such a perspective. Her life has been one of poverty and hardship, with any hope of material advancement dashed by the color of her skin. Logan Killicks, a successful farmer who owns his own land, represents an ideal that she could only dream of when she was Janie’s age.
But Janie clearly wants something more. She is searching for a deeper kind of fulfillment, one that offers both physical passion and emotional connection. Both the physical and emotional are important to Janie and inseparable from her idea of love. When explaining why she doesn’t love Logan, she first mentions how ugly she thinks he is. She then mentions how he doesn’t speak beautifully to her. She feels no connection to him—neither physical, nor emotional, nor intellectual.
Jody, on the other hand, seems to offer something more: he “spoke for far horizon.” Throughout the book, the horizon is an important symbol. It represents imagination and limitless possibility, the type of life that Janie wants as opposed to the one that she has. It also represents the boundary of the natural world, the border of God’s kingdom: “Janie knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up. It was wonderful to see it take form with the sun and emerge from the gray dust of its making.” What lies beyond the horizon remains unclear; Janie doesn’t know what to expect of Jody and the new life that he offers her. In fact, she is only certain of what he doesn’t offer: “he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees. . . .” These are the figures of Janie’s youthful romantic desires; she is willing to abandon or compromise these desires in exchange for the possibility of change.
Jody exudes possibility and freedom because he, unlike Logan, who is solid and dependable but dull and mule-like, bursts with ambition and power. Power, particularly the type of power expressed by Jody, is a crucial theme throughout the book. He talks about the future, travel, and conquest; to Janie, these ideas seem like ways to reach the far horizon. For the remainder of his time in the book, Jody Starks stands as a symbol of masculine aggression and power; he attempts to purchase, control, and dominate the world around him. As we later see, Jody’s manner of interacting with the world fails to translate into secure happiness and fulfillment for Janie. At this point, though, she is dazzled by the power Jody offers and believes that it can grant her a better life.