Provincialism, duplicity, and veneration: William Faulkner's Snopes family.

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Brown, Kenneth
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Middle Tennessee State University
Although since his death in 1962, William Faulkner has received an enormous amount of critical attention most of these studies deal with what critics call his major works. However, inadequate critical focus is given to the Snopeses and Faulkner's Snopes trilogy. This is unfortunate since the Snopes family represents a significant segment of the Yoknapatawpha society. The development of the Snopes family spans a major portion of Faulkner's literary career, and thus their depiction is certainly not, as many critics suggest, an example of Faulkner's failing literary powers. Since first publication of the Snopes material, critics have tended either to ignore the Snopeses, to take a harsh view of them, or to dismiss them as rehashed Southwest humor.
A close reading of the Snopes material, especially the trilogy, shows that the Snopeses fill a central place in Faulkner's literary universe. With his depictions of the Snopeses, Faulkner is writing up to his full ability, and his characterizations go far beyond old Southwest humor. As always, Faulkner is much too complex to write mere local color.
Chapter 1 of this study examines how most critics dismiss the Snopeses as Faulkner's revision of antebellum humor and how they see the trilogy as inferior novels about a family of grotesque buffoons. Chapter 2 explores the characteristics of antebellum humor through some of the better known examples and authors. Chapter 3 examines various members of the Snopes family and how Faulkner uses them. Chapters 4 and 5 examine how Faulkner complicates Flem Snopes by tracing Flem's rise to power and his subsequent quest for veneration. Through the chronicle, Faulkner gives Flem his multi-dimensionality. The concluding chapter explores the ways in which Faulkner allows the reader to view Flem as a man of his times and therefore to see him in a more compassionate light.