Essay on Class and Race in Faulkner's The Mansion

Essay on Class and Race in Faulkner's The Mansion

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Class and Race in Faulkner's The Mansion


In The Mansion, the last of William Faulker's Snopes Trilogy, Flem Snopes is killed by his daughter Linda and his cousin Mink because he betrayed family and clan ties. Flem used his wife Eula for his success and finally drove her to suicide. He also took advantage of his daughter' s love for him and tried to deprive her of her property. When Mink, detained on a charge of killing Jack Houston, desperately needed Flem's help, the cousin didn't even appear. They took revenge on him for his betrayal. The story, though, as Cleanth Brooks pointed out (Brooks 227-28), can also be read as of a class struggle: a capitalist Flem is killed by a communist Linda and a poor white, a member of the exploited, Mink. First, I try to reinforce the reading by scrutinizing Mink's murder of Houston, which occurred thirty-eight years before that of Flem. The details strongly suggest that there were striking similarities between them--in fact, the latter repeated the former.1

In the Houston case, a five-dollar bill was stolen to buy buckshot shells to kill Houston, in the Flem case it was a ten-dollar bill to buy a pistol to kill Flem. Thirty-eight years before Mink spent a night in Jefferson Station, now, in the Flem case, it took place in Memphis Station. In both cases the first shell didn't go off, and the second one killed the target.2 Mink spent thirty-seven and a half days building fences before he killed Houston, and thirty-eight years in the Parchman penitentiary before he killed Flem. Mink himself remembered the Houston killing when he was afraid the pistol to kill Flem might misfire (687). A railroad track before Jefferson reminded him of thirty-eight years before (693). At the critical m...


... middle of paper ...


... William. The Mansion in William Faulkner: Novels 1957-1962. New York: Library of America, 1999, pp. 327-721.

Gregory, Eileen. "The Temerity to Revolt: Mink Snopes and the Dispossessed in the Mansion." Mississippi Quarterly, 29 (Summer 1976), 401-421.

Howell, Elmo. "Mink Snopes and Faulkner's Moral Conclusions." South Atlantic Quarterly, 67 (Winter 1968), 13-22.

Towner, Theresa M. Faulkner on the Color Line: The Later Novels. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000.

Vickery, Olga W. The Novels of William Faulkner: A Critical Interpretation, 2nd ed. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964, pp. 191-208.

Watson, James Gray. The Snopes Dilemma: Faulkner's Trilogy. Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami Press, 1968.

Wittenberg, Judith Bryant. Faulkner: The Transfiguration of Biography. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979.

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