, Research Paper
?Spotted Horses? and ?Mule in the Yard? are two short stories by William Faulkner that deal with comedic animal chases. Although both provide entertaining examples of Faulkner?s work in very similar settings, on the scale of literary value, ?Spotted Horses? rises above ?Mule in the Yard? in depth and insight. This superiority is result of both it?s narrative style and character development, which causes ?Spotted Horses? to produce an overall more powerful effect than ?Mule in the Yard?.
The most notable and important difference between the two stories is the contrasting narrative style. In ?Spotted Horses?, the story is told in first person point of view by a narrator who observes the major events of the story but is involved in only a minor fashion. His narration provides the audience with a look at the town and it?s inhabitants through the eyes of someone living in the county of Mississippi. This adds a realistic dimension to the image of the story. It is also through this narrative style that Faulkner weaves humor into ?Spotted Horses?. The narrator shows the story in a comic light simply through his words right from the introductory paragraph. For example, the audience is introduced immediately with a casual ?Yes, sir. Flem Snopes has filled that whole country full of spotted horses. You can hear folks running them all day and night, whooping and hollering, and the horses running back and forth across those little wooden bridges ever now and then kind of like thunder.? (349) In contrast, ?Mule in the Yard? is told in the objective viewpoint. With this type of information, the reader can only observe what is seen and heard. Therefore, it follows that the reader must infer everything about the characters and their motivations from only their actions and dialogue. Faulkner weaves humor into the story through the distinct dialogue and ironic situations that occur in ?Mule in the Yard?. For example, in the opening scene, Mrs. Hait and old Het are chasing a mule out of their yard. If the reader imagines the scene that Faulkner writes about with ??old Het?waving a shopping bag. [Yelling] ?Hoo!? [As] Mrs. Hait whirled. Again she skidded savagely on the greasy planks as she and the mule rushed parallel with one another?? (364), there is definitely humor within it. Yet, the humor is not as effective as it is in ?Spotted Horses? where it is a part of the entire tone of the story, not only in the situations but also with the interior involvement of the narrator and his interaction with the characters.
Because the narrator in ?Spotted Horses? is experiencing the scene where the action is taking place, the reader receives a richer understanding of the characters. It is almost as if the reader might know the characters personally. Importantly, ?Spotted Horses? deals with several more characters than ?Mule in the Yard?, which only has three significant characters. These characters are defined only by their actions through the objective narration. Mrs. Hait is described as an independent woman who wears ?a calico wrapper and a sweater coat, and a man?s felt hat which they knew had belonged to her ten years? dead husband? (364) and brand new high mans shoes with buttons and ?toes like tulip bulbs.? (364) The audience can only infer that she does not fear the mule based on her several confrontations with him as well as the way in which she refers to it as ?Them sons of bitches?. (364) The author can not tell the audience why she wears what she does or why she has such a motivation to get rid of the mule besides that he is a nuisance, and there is not enough development in the story to infer definitely what Faulkner intends. This is also seen in the character of old Het, who is described as a tall gangly old black woman personified by a stereotypical southern black dialect. This is seen as she addresses Mr. Snopes in town one day. She says to him, ?Miz Mannie gimme dis to give you, I wuz just on de way to de sto whar you stay at.? (370) The audience is left very little to draw upon concerning the characters and their motivations and overall purpose in the story. As a result, the few characters in ?Mule in the Yard? are significantly lesser personages than those that exist in ?Spotted Horses?.
This different character development can be seen in examination of the character that the two stories have in common, I.O. Snopes. In ?Mule in the Yard?, the objective narrator shows us I.O. Snopes by describing him as ?a squat, pasty man perennially tieless and with a stained, harried expression? (365) who buys unruly mules from Memphis and brings them to the town where Mrs. Hait and old Het live, where they constantly get loose. While this description serves it?s purpose of description and a small development of I.O. Snopes, the version through the eyes of the narrator in ?Spotted Horses? is witness to a more subtle but more realistic I.O. Snopes. In ?Spotted Horses?, the narrator places Snopes in Varner?s with his back against the wall, his hair parted, in conversation with his cousin and a few other townsmen. The narrator continues the story as ?I.O. cackled, like a hen, slapping his legs with both hands. ?You boys might just as well quit trying to get ahead of Flem.? He said.? (361) Direct observation of I.O. Snopes reveals a broader type of character than does the one detailed in ?Mule in the Yard?. The development is particularly effective in ?Spotted Horses? because there are a great many characters for a short story, and through their characteristic role in the scheme of the narrator, certain characters become individuals more than others. This is because the reader views the story through the mind of someone who presumably is familiar with the situation and personages in the story, and the characters seem to be more realizable in certain memorable actions which define them in a subtle way. One example is Henry Armstid; a domineering selfish man who has no respect or regard it seems for his wife who he constantly tells to ??Git on back to that wagon like I told you.?? (352) He becomes more than a mere name. This is also true for Mrs. Littlejohn. She begins as a small observer of the events but becomes a major stabilizer as she takes a stand against a wild horse with a washboard, cares for the injured Mr. Armstid, comforts Mrs. Armstid, and then gives Mrs. Armstid advice on how to get her money back. The narrator of ?Spotted Horses? brings an attitude of ?regularness? to the story because he tends to look upon these characters as regular folks, yet finds the humor as well as the tragic within them. This is more than ?Mule in the Yard? can accomplish with its more simplistic basis.
Both ?Spotted Horses? and ?Mule in the Yard? are very entertaining stories by William Faulkner. Despite their common theme of animal chase, setting, and character, a more powerful story is found within ?Spotted Horses?. While ?Mule in the Yard? is well written and full of comedy, it does not delve as deeply as ?Spotted Horses? does. ?Spotted Horses? proves broader in scope due to it?s in depth narration style which provides particularly effective humor and development of characters.