Black vs. White and New vs. Old in Go Down, Moses Essay

Black vs. White and New vs. Old in Go Down, Moses Essay

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Black vs. White and New vs. Old in Go Down, Moses       


In the novel Go Down, Moses, William Faulkner examines the relationship between blacks and whites in the South. His attempt to trace the evolution of the roles and mentalities of whites and blacks from the emancipation to the 1940s focuses on several key transitional figures. In "The Fire and the Hearth," Lucas Beauchamp specifically represents two extremes of pride: in the old people, who were proud of their land and their traditions; and in the new generation, whose pride forced them to break away from the traditions of the South. Lucas' background uniquely shapes him for this role. He represents the general sentiments of both blacks and whites because of his mixed heritage, and he represents the old and the new through his simultaneous pride in and rebellion against his blood relation to Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin. The new generation, both whites and blacks, rebelled against the respect older Southerners held for the land and tradition, although each rebelled for different reasons.

As a sharecropper on Zack Edmonds' farm, Lucas displays his pride in his connection to Carothers McCaslin in a subtle, often unspoken manner. Yet this pride always exists parallel to his defensive pride in the black blood mixed with that white blood. Lucas credits the blood of Carothers in him as the source of the courage he needed to confront, and attempt to shoot, Zack Edmonds. But at the same time, the action that that courage initiated was an act of rebellion against what Lucas perceived as white oppression of his rights:

Then, not rising yet, he took the cartridge from his pocket and looked at it again, musing--the live cartridge, not even stained, not corroded, the...


... middle of paper ...


..., as they were no longer relevant to their world.

All in all, Lucas Beauchamp's mixed heritage leads to opposing extremes of pride. Faulkner uses this duality to represent both blacks and whites in their transition from the old to the new generation. Lucas lives in the time after the emancipation, yet he has strong ties to the old traditions of the South because of the connections he has to Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin. Lucas' character thus represents the new, the old, the black, and the white. It covers the broad spectrum of mentalities of the South in the period which Faulkner treated in Go Down, Moses. Faulkner created a complex, viable character in Lucas to reveal the complexity and intertwining of all the different aspects of the South: racial and generational.

Works Cited:

Faulkner, William. Go Down Moses. New York: The Modern Library, 1995.

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