Lydia Peele’s “Mule Killers” is an achingly sad story of loss and acceptance. Actually it’s a strange little story told by a narrator, telling the story of his father courting his mother. The storyline runs astride with the tractors essentially putting mules out of work and, so, to death. The text “Mule Killers” is an epic short story. It actually has a multiple point of view, it changes between a first and a third person narrative. This is because the actual first person narrator tells a story in the story.
Mostly it is a first person narrative, but in some sentences the story of the father “takes over” and it becomes a third person narrative. The narrator is omniscient and he is used as a messenger. His purpose is to tell his father’s sad story to the readers. Comments from the narrator appears a few places, for example “It doesn’t matter; I can imagine it”, which just makes us remember that it is the narrator telling about his father and grandfather, and not an unknown narrator. This makes the relations between the narrator and the readers more intimate and makes the narrator reliable.
There is a chronological order throughout the story. Direct speech is used a couple of times, but does not dominate the story. Again it is simply the narrator telling his father’s moving story. Despite the narrators comments, he is quite objective in his storytelling, it doesn’t seem like he hates Eula or any of the characters, and it doesn’t seem like he pity his father that much. The story takes place at the time tractors started to take over the farming and therefore setting mules out of work. The narrator’s grandfather “…
goes to Nashville and buys two International Harvester tractors for eighteen hundred dollars, cash… ” In the United States The International Harvester and Co. constructed their first tractor in the year 1906. The narrator’s father’s story takes place when the father is eighteen years old. He is then deeply in love with Eula Parker, but she doesn’t love him, and she doesn’t seem to pay very much attention to him. This makes him quite despairing, and he ends up with Eula’s friend who we only know as “the pale haired girl”.
The day comes when Orphan, the two men’s favorite and beloved mule, are taken away. The grandfather gets very upset and sad. On top of that, the pale haired girl tells the son about her pregnancy. This shocks him very much, and he doesn’t know how to tell his father. Exhausted and sad the grandfather comes home in the evening, and in a rush his son tells him about the girl. He doesn’t intend to be a father, he wants to marry Eula. He sees his father cry that night, and thinks it must be because of the Orphan.