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
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.