The Mule In The Handmaids

618 Words3 Pages
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, specifically for the black female. 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…show more content…
Throughout the novel, the mule symbolizes victimization, a theme that appears throughout the novel in various ways. Nanny laments in Chapter 2, “So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.” (31) Nanny believes that the black female is as hapless as a mule when it comes to subjugation. This is demonstrated by Janie’s forced marriage to Logan Killicks, a middle-aged farmer. Janie thinks she has no choice but to marry him, much like a mule has no choice about who its owner is. She is then forced to work like a mule by Logan, who desires a partner in the field. The incident of the “town mule”, when Jody “rescues” Matt Bonner’s mule (p 55-62), is more than just a humorous moment in the book. The mule story serves to illustrate the strained relationship between Janie and Joe Starks. More than that, however, the figure of
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