Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Mule Symbol Icon
The image of the mule emerges repeatedly in different contexts throughout the novel, but remains consistent in its figurative meaning as a symbol of victimization and bondage. The image of the mule first appears when Nanny tells Janie that black women are the mules of the earth, meaning that they are the lowest creatures, used by others. It then appears again when Logan Killicks goes to buy a mule for Janie to use when working behind a plow; his forceful attempt to make Janie work makes her feel as though she herself is being treated as an animal. Finally, the mule reappears once again when the townspeople of Eatonville make fun of Matt Bonner's sad looking mule, which Janie pities. When Jody purchases the mule to appease Janie's sense of pity for it, the town regards Jody as a savior, and adopts the freed mule as a kind of emblem. Throughout the novel, the mule symbolizes victimization, a theme that appears throughout the novel in various ways.
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Mule Symbol Timeline in Their Eyes Were Watching God

The timeline below shows where the symbol Mule appears in Their Eyes Were Watching God. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
...security alongside a well-established husband like Logan. Nanny further explains that black women are the mules of the world, and she doesn't want such a low place in society for her... (full context)
Chapter 4
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
One morning, Logan leaves home to go buy a second mule so that Janie and he can both productively plow the fields. While Logan is away... (full context)
Chapter 6
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...fun of a fellow Eatonville resident named Matt Bonner for his sad and tired looking mule. They often accuse him for being a bad owner and responsible for the mule's feeble... (full context)
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Jody overhears Janie, and in order to quell Janie's anxiety about the mule's victimization, Jody purchases the mule from Matt Bonner for a mere five dollars, so that... (full context)
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
When the mule dies, Jody plans a funeral for it, as the mule had become a kind of... (full context)