Mules and Men Part II, Chapter Four: Summary and Analysis
by Zora Neale Hurston

Start Your Free Trial

Download Mules and Men Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Part II, Chapter Four: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Father Joe Watson (“Frizzly Rooster”): a “two-headed” doctor of great power.

Mary Watson: the wife of the “Frizzly Rooster.”

Mrs. Murchison: a woman who comes to the “Frizzly Rooster” for counsel.

Zora becomes a pupil of Father Joe Watson and his wife Mary. Father Watson, the “Frizzly Rooster,” is proud of his ability to “read people,” or his ability to know a person as soon as he or she walks into a room. While studying, Zora learns that Mary Watson actually fears her husband and would leave him if she could but is afraid of what he might do to her with his powers.

After Zora undergoes her initiation ritual, Father Watson tells her that it is time to counsel clients on her own. Although Zora is afraid of the responsibility and is not sure if she is capable of such a service, Father Watson reassures her and says he will always help her. Zora helps one woman who wants to make sure that a man who shot her husband stays in jail. Then Zora sits in on the counseling of a Mrs. Murchison, a woman who wants Father Watson to help her get rid of the women who came to her house with her husband.

During her apprenticeship with Father Watson, Zora participates in more horrific and exotic rituals. There is one ritual during which, in order to obtain a hoodoo ingredient, Black Cat Bone, she must capture a black cat at night, boil it alive, and taste the bones until one of them is bitter. Throughout the ordeal, she suffers hallucinations and cannot offer any explanation for them. After this torment, she confesses that “many times I have thought and felt, but I always have to say the same thing. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

As the chapters in this section of Mules and Men progress, Zora has endured strange rituals and fearsome ordeals. The doctors that have been featured in this section have become progressively more powerful and less benevolent. This chapter is very unnerving and definitely changes the entire tone of Mules and Men. While Chapter Three provided a conflict for the skeptical reader by proposing that hoodoo is an actual working craft without offering any evidence other than the narrator’s recording of events, this chapter provides actual physical evidence that the materials involved in hoodoo are supernatural and are to be feared.

While it could be argued that the previous doctors could be proven to be charlatans, the Frizzly Rooster defies such dismissal. Hurston mentions early in the chapter that Father Watson “begged to be challenged,” showing that if his powers were not actual, at the very least Father Watson had supreme confidence in his own abilities. His powers are also not questioned by his own wife, who both fears him and wants to be free of him.

The previous chapter offers the first textual evidence that hoodoo legitimately affects the lives of others. The rituals that Zora endures and performs in this chapter reinforce the idea of the legitimacy of hoodoo and have the additional effect of horrifying the reader. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ritual involving the Black Cat Bone. While earlier rituals...

(The entire section is 829 words.)