Spunk

by

Zora Neale Hurston

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Elijah Mosley Character Analysis

Elijah works at the sawmill with Spunk Banks and admires him greatly for his strength and gumption. Frequenting the general store after work, Elijah enjoys gossiping and telling stories to the men there, who often take Elijah’s word as gospel. A large portion of the story is narrated through Elijah’s direct speech and, although the village men trust him, he is ultimately an unreliable narrator. As the ringleader of the men folk, for example, Elijah plays a crucial part in Joe Kanty’s murder. He shames, taunts and emasculates Joe in front of the men, who then join in, provoking and angering Joe to follow the lovers into the woods, where he is promptly shot and killed. Although Elijah assures the men that “Spunk wouldn’t shoot no unarmed man,” this turns out to be false. Elijah’s irresponsible storytelling has real, moral consequences. He is positioned as a foil to Walter Thomas, who takes a gentler and more compassionate approach to storytelling and to Joe’s situation in general.

Elijah Mosley Quotes in Spunk

The Spunk quotes below are all either spoken by Elijah Mosley or refer to Elijah Mosley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Spunk published in 1996.
Spunk Quotes

“He rides that log down at saw-mill jus' like he struts round wid another man's wife—jus' don't give a kitty.”

Related Characters: Elijah Mosley (speaker), Spunk Banks
Related Symbols: The Circle Saw
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

“’Tain’t cause Joe’s timid at all […] If Joe was a passel of wile cats Spunk would tackle the job just the same.”

Related Characters: Elijah Mosley (speaker), Spunk Banks, Joe Kanty, Walter Thomas
Related Symbols: The Bobcat
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

“Call her and see if she'll come. A woman knows her boss an' she answers when he calls.”

Related Characters: Elijah Mosley (speaker), Spunk Banks, Joe Kanty, Lena Kanty
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

“…a big black bob-cat, black all over, you hear me, black, walked round and round that house and howled like forty, an' when Spunk got his gun […] he says it stood right still an' looked him in the eye, […] He says it was Joe done sneaked back from Hell!”

Related Characters: Elijah Mosley (speaker), Spunk Banks, Joe Kanty
Related Symbols: The Bobcat
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

“The fust thing he said wuz, ‘He pushed me, 'Lige—the dirty hound pushed me in the back!”—He was spittin' blood at ev'ry breath.”

Related Characters: Elijah Mosley (speaker), Spunk Banks, Joe Kanty
Related Symbols: The Circle Saw
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Spunk LitChart as a printable PDF.
Spunk PDF

Elijah Mosley Character Timeline in Spunk

The timeline below shows where the character Elijah Mosley appears in Spunk. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Spunk
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
...village with Lena, Joe Kanty’s wife, on his arm. Spunk’s bold parade elicits admiration from Elijah, who praises Spunk for being so confident and self-assured. Elijah emphasizes Spunk’s strength and courage... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Moments later, Lena’s husband, Joe, arrives and orders a drink. Elijah immediately begins taunting Joe by asking after Lena. Walter tries to get Elijah to stop,... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Joe is visibly upset and humiliated by Elijah’s cruel teasing—“One could actually see the pain he was suffering”—and declares to the “men lounging... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...“boisterously” as they watch Joe “shamble woodward” in search of Spunk and Lena. Walter warns Elijah that he and the other men have sent Joe to his death, declaring that “Spunk... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Elijah ignores Walter’s warning, assuring the men that Joe is calling their “bluff.” He thinks that... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Elijah then tells a story about how Joe had meekly confronted Lena and Spunk the week... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Women and Misogyny Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Elijah reports how Lena was “disgusted” by her husband when he begged for her to come... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
...“crumple[d] and limp” body. His hand is “still clutching his razor.” The men look at Elijah “accusingly,” and later talk about “locking [Spunk] up” for his crime, but it’s just empty... (full context)
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
...arrests Spunk, but after a short trial, Spunk walks free. Some time later, Walter and Elijah discuss how Spunk and Lena have moved in together and are about to get married.... (full context)
Power and Masculinity Theme Icon
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
According to Elijah, on Spunk’s first night in the house with Lena, he was startled when a massive... (full context)
Legal Justice vs. Moral Justice Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...the men discuss Spunk once more, but there is “no laughter. No badinage this time.” Elijah and Walter somberly discuss Spunk’s death as they walk slowly towards Lena’s house for the... (full context)