Friday, February 20, 2009

Characters and Characterization: Joe Starks

Just when it seemed as if Janie was settled in her marriage to Mr. Killicks, Joe Starks came into the story, bringing with him a whirlwind of change. Janie was sick of her boring role as the unappreciated wife of Mr. Killicks. When she met Joe, he was sweet to her. He promised to love her and give her the lifestyle she deserved. He told her, "You ain't never knowed what it was like to be treated lak a lady and Ah wants to be de one tuh show yuh." In convincing Janie to leave her husband, Joe showed his unusual ability to influence others. He told Janie, that "he meant to buy in big. It had always been his wish and desire to be a big voice and he had to live nearly thirty years to find a chance." This statement made it clear that Joe wanted to have his voice heard. It wasn't until Joe arrived in Eatonville, that his true characteristics showed through.
Joe took Eatonville by storm, turning it from a lot with a few shabby houses, into a town with a general store and roads. Joe took immediate charge of the town, ordering the inhabitants around like it was his job. However, despite his bossiness, his determination got things done. He was they ray of hope that the struggling black community needed. "There was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town. It was not because of physical fear. He was no fist fighter. His bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he was more literate than the rest. Something else made men give way before him. He had a bow down command in his face, and every step he took made the thing more tangible." This unidentified trait allowed Joe to gain control of the entire town as a newcommer, unopposed. However, this same trait also began to push away Janie, " A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far away from things and lonely." Joe is so determined to fulfill his duty as Mayor, that he has begun to drift away from the promises he made to Janie before she married him. He is so focused on bringing about change, that he has forgotten the feelings of those around him. Not only has Joe forgotten about Janie's feelings, he has also forgotten the feelings of his citizens. "The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe's positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him. They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because they bowed down to him." It seems to me, that Joe has let his desires for change and to have his voice heard, go too far. Joe's actions have turned from simply good intentions, into a need for power and prominance. Hopefully he will realize what is happening before it is too late. However, judging by the way in which all of the males in this novel share the belief that they are above everybody else, I do not think that Joe will deflate his increasingly large ego.

1 comment:

  1. Kirsten, your post is well written and comprehensive. However I am curious of your opinion on if Joe is a positive or negative influence in the community. His ego may be large, and as you said, he may have forgotten the feelings of the people, but does that make him a poor leader? Overall, his contributions in the town's infrastructure and policies were considered extremely beneficial. Also, he did put his town's needs before his own. When he moved in, he decided to wait on building his own home and to build the general store first.

    In addition, is there a way for a politician to cater to all the needs of the citizens in his district? Can they effectively perform their job if they have to worry about the emotions of the people they govern and represent first? The duty of a leader is to perform the tasks they deem most necessary and beneficial for their district. In that case, does it matter how the citizens feel?