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

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Part I, Chapter Six Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Tookie Allen: a pretty young woman who catches the eye of the swamp workers.

Big Sweet and Lucy: two women who join Zora’s group on a fishing trip.

The storytelling session is interrupted when Tookie Allen, who is wearing a new dress, walks by the group of men. Although a couple of men comment on her appearance, the focus of the conversation quickly returns to storytelling. Finally, the straw-boss appears and the men go inside the mill. The mill-boss tells the men that there isn’t any work for them, so they may as well go home. The men are happy to receive a day off but are annoyed that their bosses waited so long to tell them they weren’t needed. When Mrs. Allen sees the men returning, she asks Jim to do some work around the house, but the men decide to celebrate their day off by going fishing. Jim, Cliffert, and Larkins White go to the lake and are joined by Zora and two other women, Big Sweet and Lucy.

As they travel through the forest, they launch into another storytelling session. Most of these stories revolve around the animals that they encounter during their hike to the lake. The last story of the chapter focuses on Br’er Rabbit, the protagonist of the story “How the Gator Got Black.”

The power that the company has over its workers is once more evident when the workers are made to go over to the lumber mill just in case there is work to be done, and dismissed when the mill- boss does not have any work. Black Baby complains about this because he could have been home already if he had known there was not any work. Jim Allen, however, points out that if he had gone inside, as Jim had suggested, Black Baby would have found out for himself. Jim Allen then says, “Y’all think Ah’m an ole Fogey. Young coon for running but old coon for cunning,” meaning that older people are disrespected due to their lack of physical strength and speed but are often wiser than younger men. Jim Allen’s constant battle for respect from the younger workers is a subplot which will continue throughout the narrative.

The theme of folktales reflecting life continues in this chapter. Now that the workers have been grudgingly given a day off, the tales about John and Old Massa no longer continue. The folktales’ focus on animals and nature is rather...

(The entire section is 619 words.)