It seems the depiction of class in Hurston’s novel is more complicated than merely being a depiction of status. There is rather an intersection of class and status linked to race and color, which is seen in the exchanges that Janie has with Mrs. Turner. For Mrs. Turner, it seems that class is decidedly linked with race as the narrator tells us that Mrs. Turner can “forgive” Janie for wearing overalls “like the other women who worked in the field” because of Janie’s “coffee and cream complexion and her luxurious hair” (140). Mrs. Turner even goes on to say that “…dey outghta make us uh class tuh ourselves,” referring to light-skinned blacks (142).

Of course though, everything that Mrs. Turner says is refuted by what happens earlier in the novel. Even if whites were to make light-skinned blacks a “class tuh [them]selves,” would it matter? The people of Eatonville create a social hierarchy even away from a controlling white hegemony.

The people of Eatonville consider Janie to be high class, and this is seen at the very beginning of the novel when Janie walks back into town and the townfolks are gossiping about her: “–why she don’t stay in her class?–” (2). While the town’s view of Janie as being of a higher class has slightly to do with her appearance, it is her money that makes her high class, which is seen in Janie’s gold spittoon: “It was bad enough for white people, but when one of your own color could be so different it put you on a wonder” (48). This is hints at the contrast between Gatsby and Janie: while Gatsby, no matter how much money, could never be part of the upper echelon, Janie and Jody could buy their social status in Eatonville, just as earlier Killicks is considered someone of higher social standing because he owns land.

Jody, who was just like the people in Eatonville except for having money and because of money having power, considers the townsfolk “trashy people” (54), and doesn’t want Janie to interact with them. Although this attitude arises from both class and patriarchy, as Jody believes that a woman’s place is in the home. Jody conveys this view a number of times. He uses not only class but his position as the bread-winning-man to control Janie and discourage her from not getting involved in what the “trashy people” do (for example when Jody and the town bury the mule 60).

Class is wielded throughout the novel against Janie as a way for her to get out of her position as a woman (her grandmother’s way of living: marrying out of poverty). It is only through money, marrying into money, that she can be classy, and she can easily compromise her class by making “mistakes.” Pheoby warns Janie that running around with Tea Cakes is somehow compromising her class: “He don’t know you’se useter uh more high time crowd than dat, You always did class off” (112).

I think this raises an interesting question about what “class” means. If someone has class, can he/she lose that class? Tom Buchannan is considered by society as someone of high class even though he is a womanizer and brute while someone like Tea Cakes can never be considered of a high class even if he buys into it, or can he? JOdy is able to buy his way into the upper crust in Eatonville, but is this because Eatonville is a new town just for blacks? How then is class defined? It almost seems to be something one is born with (the nature vs. nurture exchange between the men on the porch).

For instance, Janie is considered by everyone to have some air of class about her even though she enjoys doing things that are not considered fit for her station, such as gossiping and joking on the porch with the men. This is further seen when Tea Cakes tells Janie that he didn’t invite her to the party he threw with her money because he was afraid she “…might get all mad and quit” him for associating with the non “muckty mucks” people. (124).

In the end, Janie is back in Eatonville with everyone gossiping about her, and it doesn’t matter to Janie. I htink this illustrates Janie’s realization that class is just a social construct, so it doesn’t matter if the townsfolk gossip about her and about what happened.

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