[Nature]’s de strongest thing dat God ever made, now. Fact is it’s de onliest thing God every made.See Important Quotations Explained
Janie dislikes the business of running the store but loves that people sit on its porch and talk all day telling colorful, exaggerated stories. The men love teasing a man named Matt Bonner about his overworked, underfed, bad-tempered mule. They make jokes about how sorry the mule looks and needle Matt about how careless and cruel he is toward the animal. Despite Janie’s interest in these stories, Jody doesn’t allow her to sit outside, saying that she’s too good to interact with “trashy people.” But most annoying to Janie of all, Jody orders her to wear a head-rag because it makes him jealous to see other men look at her long hair, though he never reveals his motives to Janie.
One day, Matt Bonner’s mule runs away, and some of the townsmen find it outside the store. They irritate the mule for fun, and Janie mutters her disapproval of their cruelty. Unbeknownst to her, Jody is standing nearby and hears her complaint. He buys the mule for five dollars so that the poor beast can rest for once in his life. Everyone considers Jody’s liberation of the mule very noble, comparing it to Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of northern slaves. The animal becomes a source of pride for the town and the subject of even more tall tales. After it dies, Jody convenes a mock funeral, which becomes a festive event for the entire town. But Jody refuses to allow Janie to attend, saying it would be improper for a woman of her status. After the funeral, vultures descend on the animal’s carcass.
At the store, Jody and Janie argue. She accuses him of being no fun and he argues that he is just being responsible. Although she disagrees, she decides to hold her tongue. On the porch, meanwhile, Sam Watson (Pheoby’s husband) and Lige Moss hold a humorous philosophical debate. They argue about whether natural instinct or a learned sense of caution keeps men away from hot stoves. The good-spirited argument gets intense and Jody decides to join it, leaving his delivery boy Hezekiah Potts in charge of the store. The conversation shifts to a discussion of the Sinclair gas station in town but then becomes a playful performance of machismo and flirtation as several of the town’s women parade by. Janie is enjoying the fun when Jody orders her back in the store to wait on one of the women.
When Janie cannot find any pig’s feet for another customer, Jody grows angry and accuses her of incompetence. Instead of fighting back, Janie remains silent. But as time goes on, her resentment builds. She feels the spark go out of their sex life and the spirit of love leave their marriage. One day, seven years after they met, Jody slaps her after a disastrous dinner. Still, Janie doesn’t express her anger; she decides to maintain an exterior of silent respect while keeping her dreams and emotions inside.
But later that day, Janie goes to the store. There, she finds Tony Robbins’s wife begging Jody for a little meat for her family. Jody gives her a small piece and adds the cost to Tony’s account. The men on the porch mutter that they would never allow their wives to embarrass them like that, especially since her husband had spent so much money on her. Janie finally cannot resist speaking up, scolding the men and saying that they don’t know as much about women as they think they do. She points out that it is easy to act big and tough when women and chickens are the only things around to subdue. Jody tells her to be quiet and orders her to fetch him a checkerboard.
Chapter 6 serves two chief functions: it further explores Janie and Jody’s relationship, particularly his need for control, and it examines the strong sense of community in Eatonville, particularly the way language nurtures this sense of community. Both of these issues relate to Janie’s continuing quest to find herself and a sense of meaning and purpose. Initially drawn to Jody because of his ambition, and thinking that she would achieve her dreams through him, Janie learns, in this chapter, that Jody’s power only restricts her. On the other hand, by experiencing the richness of life in Eatonville, in particular the rich folk traditions of conversation, Janie begins to see how she might live the life that she so desires.