Mules and Men

Topics: Narrative, Zora Neale Hurston, African American Pages: 4 (1623 words) Published: May 8, 2005
"Mules and Men"
Zora Neale Hurston

Beneath the lies a hidden history of unorganized, everyday conflict waged by African-American working people. Once we explore in greater detail those daily conflicts and the social and cultural spaces where ordinary people felt free to articulate their opposition and power in African-American "folk" communities. Folklore's function as an everyday form of resistance in the Jim Crow South. Zora Hurston, narrative frame is far more supple than has previously been acknowledged. She gave the title Mules and Men a depiction of comparison of African Americans in the South(niggers) to mules. The mule is a work horse that is not used for speed, but known for eats weak minds and strong back. Hurston brings a clear view of the strong minds that enable this culture to thrive.

How does Hurston experience and transcribe the of everyday resistance if she herself as an outsider? Hurston encounters resistance from the workers on the job when she first arrives.(15) In these early scenes at the lumber camp, her narrative style is present as a clumsy "I" who can't quite fit in. She drives a fancy car, she wears expensive clothing, and the workers suspect that she is a detective. She explains what she had to do to become part of the "inner circle": "I had first to convince the 'job' that I was not an enemy in the person of the law; and, second, I had to prove that I was their kind" (65). As she gains their trust, her narrative persona shifts more easily between first- and third-person. Finally, when she follows the men on the job, her narrative practically disappears. Instead, she situates her tales in relation to conditions in the camp. Hurston learns to overcome resistance by fitting in, and her studied invisibility enables her to display folklore's power as a discourse of nonconformity.

The major event leading to her acceptance in the camp is her contribution to a group performance of "John Henry," a track-laying ballad. The ballad...
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