Mules and Men Part I, Chapter Nine: Summary and Analysis
by Zora Neale Hurston

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Part I, Chapter Nine: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
The Quarters-Boss: the white man who is in charge of the personnel down in the swamps.

At the jook joint, Big Sweet gets into a big card game and impresses everyone with her risky bets. She ends up winning a big pot and gives her money to Zora. Zora, however, is nervous because she has heard rumors that trouble was going to start at the party and Big Sweet may be in danger.

When Lucy is seen talking to Ella Wall, Big Sweet realizes that Lucy is telling Ella that Big Sweet had threatened Ella and Joe Willard during the fishing trip. Zora is scared because she knows that Lucy is already jealous of her. Ella starts yelling insults at Big Sweet in order to provoke her. Big Sweet tells Zora to leave if there is any trouble, but since Zora considers Big Sweet a friend she decides to stay and fight, even though “...[her] only weapons were [her] teeth and toenails.”

Finally, Ella tells Lucy to go to Joe Willard and tell him to come to the jook joint. This is too much for Big Sweet and she jumps up, brandishes her knife, and tells Lucy to stay where she is. The Quarters-Boss enters and quickly breaks up the fight by throwing Ella out of the joint. Although everyone is impressed by Big Sweet’s courage, Zora is afraid that something will happen to Big Sweet. Zora is then attacked by Lucy at the next pay-night party, but is saved by Big Sweet, who pledges to always stick by Zora and defend her. Despite the danger, Zora is glad that she went to the parties since she learned many new songs and stories.

The fight between Big Sweet and Ella is one of the few events which gives this collection of stories the feel of a more traditional narrative. Zora is also attacked, but, strangely enough, the attack on her by Lucy is understressed. The reader might not immediately notice how much danger Zora is actually in, although Zora admitted she cannot fight and Lucy had a knife and definitely meant to do her some harm. Even though she is the protagonist of her own story, she deliberately underplays her own importance and defers to the collection and presentation of folklore.

While the Lucy/Zora conflict is barely touched upon in Mules and Men ,...

(The entire section is 589 words.)