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Hurston's criticism of Joe is that he seeks power through the same measures as slave-era whites did. He attains power by taking power away from others. He treats Janie badly, quieting her voice in order to make his voice heard more loudly. Between the Sears Roebuck street lamp, his big house which is literally white, and the golden spittoons, Joe's imitation of white people is farcical. Joe needs to carefully control his environment to validate his identity and self-esteem.