Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Joe Starks vs. Townsfolk

So I know alot of people have talked about Joe Starks and his actions as mayor of Eatonville. Something I found interesting was the obvious difference in the town between Joe and the other men. Joe marches in, commands their attention and orders them around like he owns the place, when in reality, he has no given right to. To these men, the more you have, the more powerful you are. They recognized that Joe had the resources available to expand and make their town better, and therefore, they bowed down to him. The townsmen do not want to give in, but they don't see another way around it. Sam Weston says, "You kin feel the switch in his hand when he's talkin' to yuh" (49). This is a clear reference to slavery, and how Joe Starks acts like an overseer to the townsfolk. He doesn't physically hurt them in any way, but his voice and actions demand their cooperation and respect, whether they want to give it or not.

For this reason, the men feel inferior and unable to truly stand up against Joe. When Joe takes away Henry Pitt's wagonful of ribbon cane, the men hold different opinions on the issue. Sim Jones immediately proclaimed that, "it's uh sin and uh shame runnin' dat po' man way from here lak dat" (48). Sim Jones, clearly in dissension with Joe, recognizes that Starks was ruling with an iron fist, and that the common townsperson can't hide from it. In his opinion, a man should be able to keep his crop and be rpoud of it, instead of having it swept out from underneath him before he knows what had happened. Sam Weston, in a conversation with Sim Jones, says that you might as well, "give the devil his due" (49). Sam Weston believes that Joe Starks naturally resides over them, regardless of whether they want him to or not, and they might as well accept it. He thinks that you should work within the conditions you are given and be happy with that. Either way, Sim Jones still believes in equality of the people in the town, and that nobody should be so high and mighty above the rest. He says, " Colored folks oughtn't tuh be so hard on one another" (48). In his opinion, everyone in Eatonville should treat others as they want to be treated.

In reality, the town is stuck in a vicious circle with Joe Starks right in the middle.

"They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things,
and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down
to him" (50)

Basically, Joe Starks was who he was because the residents of Eatonville allowed him to be that way. Had they hindered him in the beginning, then they wouldn't be in such a mess. Because of their own actions, they have become subservient members of society. They continue to suffer, not so silently, because to them, this is how things are, and once things get a certain way, you can't change them back.

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