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

Start Your Free Trial

Download Mules and Men Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Part I, Chapter Ten: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Mack C. Ford: an excellent storyteller living in Mulberry.

Good Bread: a heavy-set woman with a temper who tries to break up the storytelling session.

Zora travels around Polk County and stops at various phosphate towns such as Mulberry, Pierce, and Lakeland. She starts up another storytelling contest and meets Mack Ford, an expert storyteller. He tells her why the porpoise’s tail is crooked, why the dog and the cat are enemies, and why people say “unh hunh.” One of his jokes, however, offends Good Bread, who brandishes a knife and threatens to cut him. Although Zora is scared, the other townspeople tell Good Bread to go away, and Zora leaves without any harm being done.

After a while Zora receives a letter from Big Sweet telling her to return to Loughton because Cliffert Ulmer is getting married to Thelma. After the wedding, Zora plans to go out to a party at the mill, but Big Sweet warns her to keep an eye out for Lucy, who might try to attack her.

As the party is ending, Zora is blocked from the exit by Lucy, who is carrying a knife. As Big Sweet runs to protect Zora, she is attacked by Crip, another worker. Joe Willard runs into the fight to help Big Sweet while Jim Presley and Slim get Zora out of the building. They tell Zora that it is going to be a horrible fight and some people are going to get hurt, so it would be better for her to leave right away. They help Zora throw her suitcases in the car, and she returns to Crescent City.

This final chapter is filled with more ill will than perhaps the rest of the entire folktale section and culminates in a violent fight, which leaves the fates of some of the characters in limbo. The
escalation toward violence in this final chapter is a marked departure from the languid pace and humorous feel of earlier chapters. It now seems that every discussion between two characters has the potential to erupt into violence.

The first part of the chapter is another folktale collection, as Mack Ford proves himself to be a first-rate storyteller. However, the stories and general good mood of the narrative are spoiled by Good Bread’s threats. Although the threats themselves seem to be meaningless and she soon goes away, Hurston has a terrible feeling of dread as she waits for Good Bread to act. This dread was never seen in previous arguments...

(The entire section is 638 words.)