In a crucial scene in Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston, 1937), Janie mocks Joe's age and illness, ending with:
“Naw, Ah ain't no young gal no mo' but den Ah ain't no old woman neither. Ah reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah'm uh woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. Dat's uh whole lot more'n you kin say. You big-bellies round here and put out a lot of brag, but 'tain't nothin' to it but yo' big voice' Humph! Talkin' 'bout me lookin' old! When you pull down yo' britches, you look lak de change uh life.”
Then Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled like a flood.
I understand that this is dialect for “When you pull down your britches, you look like the change of life.” I understand that Janie is mocking Joe's penis specifically and manhood generally. I think “change uh life” refers to menopause. But I can't connect these together. I gather that Janie is implying that Joe is impotent, but I don't quite understand how.
- What does it mean to look like the change of life?
- What does it mean for a man to look like it?
- “Joe Starks realized all the meanings” suggests that there are multiple layers of meaning; what are they?
I am not looking for deep interpretation, just the meaning of this specific phrase in this context. It is a turning point in the novel and I want to make sure I understand it fully.