Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In the first sentence of Eight Mules from Monterey, Patricia Beatty promises mules, a wild mountain man, and gunslinging moonshiners. All three do provide problems for the Ashmores as they endeavor to take library books to Big Tree Junction, in the Santa Lucia Mountains, forty miles south of Monterey. In this historical adventure story, the young characters Fayette and Eubie emulate their late father’s thirst for excitement (he was a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War). It is ironic that while visitors from all over the world flock to the Monterey peninsula to see the historic buildings and enjoy the beauty of the coast, Fayette and Eubie Ashmore find life there boring and ordinary. In addition, Fayette has another reason for wanting to go on the trip with her mother: She wants to impress the rich Hillman sisters, who brag about their grandmother on Nob Hill in San Francisco. This adolescent desire for acceptance is her main motivation, but Fayette is also concerned about the stability of her family’s living situation. When her mother reveals that Edward Herbert has proposed marriage, Fayette sees the trip as a way of possibly getting her mother a job and avoiding the acquisition of a stepfather.

The story is told from Fayette’s perspective, and her initial impression of Denver Murfree and his mule team is negative. He thinks that she is a boy, and Fayette had imagined her arrival at Big Tree Junction on a pure...

(The entire section is 459 words.)