If Joe Starks has one outstanding trait, it is confidence. From the moment he meets Janie until his death nearly 20 years later, he never doubts his ability to accomplish his goals. He can persuade people to believe in his dreams, accept his management, and give him loyalty. Although the porch sitters grumble behind his back about his high-pressure ways, they have to concede his skill in creating their town, Eatonville.
Physically, Joe is not especially overpowering. He is probably a man of average size and dark complexion, one who puts weight on as he nears middle age. He characteristically smokes a cigar. No other man in this novel smokes; the cigar is Joe's signature, the indication that he is the manager and mayor — different from the farmers and laborers of the town.
Joe is a dreamer of very pragmatic dreams, if such a contradiction can be presented. He brings money, charisma, and a young bride to a developing town. No one else has thought about adding acreage to the town, but Joe goes boldly off to the white landowner and comes back with the deed to 200 acres.
Having thus attracted attention, Joe calls a meeting and gets himself elected mayor. The next step is the construction of a crossroads store and the establishment of a U.S. government post office. Joe's extraordinary self-confidence leads to control, a manifestation of power. One sure object of his control is Janie. He defines the role he expects her to play, and it is one of subservience. Any idea of consulting her about his enterprises is far from his mind. He finds it easy to belittle her in front of the porch sitters because of her incompetence at doing calculations in the store and post office. Furthermore, Janie is not allowed to join the fun of the game of checkers because Joe has decided that she is not smart enough to play the game.
Joe did not marry Janie for love; he married her for show. Power — control of people, position, property, and even money — rules Joe Starks. For Joe, love is self-love. Janie is a handsome accessory to the glory that surrounds Joe Starks.