When Jody and Janie arrive to the new Florida town called Eatonville, they are surprised to find that it consists of just a dozen decrepit houses and nothing else. Jody confidently introduces himself to two town residents – Lee Coker and Amos Hicks – and requests to see the town mayor. After learning that the town has no mayor, Jody continues to talk to the two men and other town citizens sitting on a nearby porch. During their conversation, Jody and Janie find out that the town is comprised of only 50 acres. In response to this new knowledge, Jody ostentatiously purchases – in cash – an extra two hundred acres from Captain Eaton, a principal donor of the town's already existent fifty acres. Meanwhile, Hicks flirts with Janie, though she is unresponsive; Coker then makes fun of Hicks for his futile attempt to seduce Janie away from her rich and powerful husband.
Unfulfilled by her marriage with Logan – even in terms of material advancement – Janie's new situation with the proud and powerful Jody smacks of the possibility for an improved life. Yet Jody's purchase of the land from Captain Eaton underscores Jody's constant need to give those around him performances of his power and control. This foreshadows both the fact that Jody's desire for public control outstrips his desire to focus on his wife and marriage, and the s fact that his desire for total power over Eatonville also translates into a desire for total power over his wife Janie, who he otherwise does not pay much attention to at all.
Jody continues to make a name for himself in the town by announcing his plan to establish a store and post-office, and requests a town meeting. Even though a townsperson named Tony Taylor has already been named the assembly leader, Jody usurps his power and controls the entire meeting. Jody enlists Coker and Taylor as carpenters for the store, while making the remaining townspeople prepare the roads for construction and urge new residents to move to the town.
It becomes clear here that Jody's inflated sense of pride and ambition, which initially attracted Janie to him, is in fact a pathological desire to control the world around him, as exemplified by his usurpation of the town meeting and subsequent take-over of various aspects of the town in his role as mayor. Even though Jody declares his gestures are ones that will improve the community, he sets in motion a series of actions that ultimately will alienate the townspeople and cause them to resent his controlling behavior.
Jody makes back the money he spent buying the 200 acres by selling land to newly-arrived townspeople and through his now opened store. In response to all of these gestures, the townspeople collectively name Jody the town mayor. At the store, Taylor invites Janie to give a speech as the mayor's new wife, though Jody prohibits her from speaking and explains that wives are in no position to make speeches. Janie does not protest but is nonetheless disturbed by Jody's behavior.
Jody's refusal to allow Janie to speak in front of the townspeople is one of the first instances where we see the negative effects of Jody's ambitious, powerful side on his relationship with Janie. In particular, Jody seeks power over Janie by trying to silence her, to stifle her voice. Janie's reluctant decision not to react to Jody, and her discomfort with that decision, marks the first stage of her eventual recognition that it is important to her to be able to express her self, to have a voice.
In his new role as mayor, Jody declares that the town needs a street lamp. As such, he purchases the lamp and proceeds to call a town meeting in order to discuss the lamp and specifically to vote whether or not it should be installed. Jody organizes a ceremonial celebration for the lighting of the new lamp. Janie expresses a vague sense of dissatisfaction to Jody regarding his recent unavailability toward her – how he has been constantly occupied with his projects to build and fix things in the town. Jody provides her no consolation, but instead repeats that he has "aimed tuh be uh big voice."
Though it is not made explicit in the text itself, Jody's desire to bring a streetlight to Eatonville symbolizes his desire to play God. That is, God brings light to humankind in Genesis, and, similarly, Jody wants to bring light to the townspeople of Eatonville in order to situate himself as the most important man in town. His desire to have a symbolically "big voice" further emphasizes his attempt to stifle Janie's voice, to give her no voice. Jody sees power as something you can only have at someone else's expense.
In the coming weeks, Janie is aware of the simultaneous feelings of admiration and jealousy that the townspeople feel toward her and Jody. In particular, Janie senses envy in the townspeople's perception of their house – unlike the others in town, it has two stories and multiple porches, making the other houses in town appear as "servants" quarters surrounding the "big house."
Janie is able to be perceptive about the townspeople's feelings of jealousy toward her and Jody and their resentment about Jody's pride in particular, as she too is a victim of Jody's tendency to subjugate others. Their home is merely a concrete symbol of Jody's desire to recreate feelings of servitude among those in his population, in order to make himself feel important and secure, even if he creates a situation reminiscent of slavery with its "big house" and surrounding cabins.
Because Janie is kept silent by her husband, the townspeople can only speculate about why and how she might be able to be married to Jody, who has become known increasingly throughout town as unpleasantly domineering. In particular, they note the beauty of Janie's long hair, and Jody's controlling rule that she must tie it up in a rag while she is at work at his store. Despite the town's general awareness of Jody's overbearing sense of his own authority over them, the townspeople, like Janie, do not choose to put up a fight against him.
Janie's hair is a symbol of her fertility and sexuality, and also refers back to her identity as a mixed-race woman. Jody's need for Janie to cover up these parts of herself once again reveals his pathological need to have control – here, specifically, control over his wife's sexuality and unique sense of identity. The silence of the townspeople, in a position of servitude to Jody parallels that of Janie, implicitly emphasizing the intensity of Janie's silence as the bearer of the greatest amount of Jody's abuse.