“Janie soon began to feel the impact of awe and envy against her sensibilities. The wife of the Mayor was not just another woman as she had supposed. She slept with authority and so she was part of it in the town mind. She couldn’t get but so close to most of them in spirit.”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006, page 46.
In this text, it shows how much Janie does not understand about the social contexts of being a woman seen as part of authority and is starting to realize what the effects of that are among other people in the town. By stating that she thought of a Mayor’s wife as any other woman, this means that Janie must not have been close to any higher up people or have been around people who would know or talk about any higher up or upper class people, or even those of authority. Or perhaps, because she was raised around white families and children, she was able to be around only other higher class people, without being exposed to the other classes of people very often, so she would only be exposed to the relationships, talks, and judgement of those that she was raised around, and most likely, she was never seen as above any of those people because of her race, but rather she would be seen as an equal in her case, especially because she said that she did not feel any different than the white children. However, now that she is living among those of her own race and is the wife of Joe, who has proclaimed himself as this new town’s mayor, Janie is seeing for the first time the effects of being treated as higher than those around her. So, perhaps within Janie’s social context where she grew up in a tight circle of people and feeling like she was equal with everybody, either because she was never exposed to those of higher authority or because she was only around and apart of higher class people, is why she never expected the wife of a mayor to be treated differently than any other woman. She is now living with different people in a different place than she was always used to, so I feel that it would be understandable that Janie would not feel as close to them in spirit already, but with her being introduced into the town as the wife of a man who tries to take authority over the town right away, who also doesn’t allow her to make big speeches, I feel that this is also what is making it harder for Janie to socially connect with any of the other women in town.