The Mansion

mansionThe Mansion
by William Faulkner
1959 / 498 pages
rating 9+ / classic American

The Mansion starts up at the scene where Mink Snopes shoots Isaac Houston over a cow.  This is back-story from maybe half-way through The Town but where The Town leaves Mink with a life sentence,  The Mansion picks up and continues that story as well as the tales of Linda Snopes (who, in the The Town,  left for Greenwich Village)  and her older suitor Gavin Stevens, a local boy who became a Harvard educated lawyer.  Other stories continued are those of Montgomery Ward who owned the (porn) photography shop,  Gavin Stevens in love with Eula V. Snopes, deceased mother of Linda,  and of course, Flem Snopes.

Flem Snopes,  about whom the trilogy is basically concerned,  is now a rich and powerful banker seeking respectability.  His has been the poor white trash route to the top and at this point Flem has to prove he’s not a Snopes except in name.

So while in The Hamlet and The Town Flem gets rich and powerful and then richer and more powerful,  in The Mansion he  wants to gain respectability. But really,  what he ought to do is work on saving his life because he has enemies now.

That’s what this novel is about, but getting to that central plot line takes some time as those who have read much of Faulkner’s work will understand.  The basic plots of the first two novels in the trilogy are revisited in The Mansion,  but I’m not sure a new reader could really grasp them. I think they’re for refreshing the minds of those who read the books a couple years or more prior.  There is a bit of new material added to the old stories and the point of view is changed.  In The Mansion the point of view might be first- or third-person,  whichever works for that chapter.

And then the new stories begin,  Linda returns home deaf after marriage, war and widowhood to a new sense of public responsibility and tries to set up a school for black children among other things.

The story, the characters and the geographical setting are all fictitious,  but the mental, emotional, political, economic, moral and ethical setting is certainly not.  This is not a pretty picture of the early to mid-20th century South what with the Silver Shirts (p. (p. 333) and other matters – like the rampant corruption and scandal brought in by the emergence of the formerly poor,  but newly powerful Southern whites.

The characters are all well drawn, fleshed out and rounded – maybe too many of them but that’s the way Faulkner is.   The narrative is non-linear going back to explain how things got to be the way you read them two or three chapters prior they’re sprawling and probably shady,  growing like the roots on a big old Southern oak tree.  This can be confusing but fascinating.

The story of Vladimir Kyrilytch Ratliff, a Russian-American (in the 1920s-1950s)   is interesting interesting to me.  Attitudes about communism and war are explored.  And of course Huey Long ,  the populist “share-the-wealth” governor/senator from Louisiana is mentioned –

 

 NOTES and a couple photos –  links, etc.  >>>> 

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