Sunday, February 22, 2009
The mule is a symbol that is repeated throughout the novel. At the beginning of the novel, Nanny tells Janie that "woman is de mule uh de world." Mules are animals that are bought to do labor. Similarly, throughout the novel Jodie is "bought" by different men. The motif of a mule is repeated to show that women are not treated well. They are treated like animals instead.
The first time a mule appears in the novel is during Janie's marriage to Logan. She marries Logan because she seems to have no other choice, much like a mule has no choice when he is bought. Soon Logan commands that Janie help him do the plowing, and he leaves to by a second mule that she can handle. Logan is degrading towards Janie and treats her like his possession, not like a wife.
The symbol of a mule appears again during Janie's marriage to Joe. During this time a man in town, Matt Bonner, buys a mule that he works to death. Janie protests and so her husband, Joe, buys the mule from Matt. Again, the mule symbolizes Joe's ownership of Janie. Joe is constantly putting down Janie in front of the other men in town. When Janie finally stands up for herself, it causes havoc and ruins her marriage even more than it already was.
The mule is Hurston's way of showing that women should be treated better. They are not animals that can be bought to do labor. I am interested to see what happens with Janie and Tea Cake and see if the mule motif shows up again.