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

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Part II, Chapter Two: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Luke Turner: a famous and notorious hoodoo doctor in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

After spending four months in New Orleans, Zora meets with several people who all have minor knowledge in the field of hoodoo, since all of them claim some sort of connection with a Marie Leveau. Zora hears so many different contradictory stories of Leveau that she travels to the French Quarter to find out more about her. In her travels, she meets with Luke Turner, a hoodoo doctor who claims to be a nephew of Marie Leveau.

Zora has already undergone five initiation rituals before meeting Turner but is refused when she asks to become Turner’s pupil. After many more meetings and persistent offers, Turner agrees to teach her. Zora asks him about Marie Leveau and Turner responds with a long tale about the type of woman she was and her various travails. After consulting the Spirit, it is decided that Zora will become his pupil.

Turner insists that Zora show her worthiness by undergoing a ritual. Zora lies naked on a bed of snakeskin for 69 hours before being called forth by Turner and given a ceremonial crown of power. Zora studies under Turner for four months during which time she learns all of Marie Leveau’s and Luke Turner’s rituals, some of which she describes. Although Turner offers to take her on as a partner and leave her his temple when he dies, Zora refuses, saying, “It has been a great sorrow to me that I could not say yes.”

This material represents a dramatic departure from the relatively tame material in the previous chapter. Once again, we can see how Hurston deceptively draws the reader into more complex and subtle explorations of the material by presenting increasingly complex situations as the chapter progresses.

One aspect of hoodoo that Hurston expands upon here is how the ritual is an important part of this mythology. Zora has already mentioned that she had undergone five separate rituals before asking Turner to make her his pupil. The elements of the ritual, the reader may conclude, are vital to the sanctity of hoodoo, and the initiation ritual has additional significance because its purpose is to make the neophyte aware of the powers and subtleties of hoodoo. As Zora undergoes the initiation ritual, so does the reader. Zora mentions that while each initiation ritual has its own details, the general structure of the initiation ritual remains constant. The importance of the ritual is the belief that in order to receive the power granted to Luke Turner, the initiate must endure some suffering in order to prove his or her worthiness. The details are themselves meaningless, like “a college diploma without the four years’ work.”

During this chapter, the reader learns more about the most famous practitioners of the...

(The entire section is 720 words.)