Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Connected Stories

Go Down, Moses
Go Down, Moses 

"…he had not stopped, he had only paused, quitting the knoll which was no abode of the dead because there was no death, not Lion and not Sam: not held fast in earth but free in earth and not in earth but of earth, myriad yet undiffused of every myriad part, leaf and twig and particle, air and sun and rain and dew and night, acorn oak and leaf and acorn again, dark and dawn and dark and dawn again in their immutable progression and, being myriad, one: and Old Ben too, Old Ben too…."    -   William Faulkner

Go Down, Moses marks the end of William Faulkner's period of greatest creativity. In this novel built out of interconnected stories he addresses themes that connect with and overlap those in other of his works of this period, particularly The Hamlet. The idea of time - past, present and future - is connected throughout the novel by blood; the bloodlines of the family.

"to the boy those old times would cease to be old times and would become a part of the boy's present, not only as if they had happened yesterday but as if they were still happening," (p. 165)

The blood of the fathers, their 'curse', becomes one of the themes in the first three stories: "Was", "The Fire and the Hearth", and "Pantaloon in Black".

"Then one day the old curse of his fathers, the old haughty ancestral pride based not on any value but on an accident of geography, stemmed not from courage and honor but from wrong and shame, descended to him." (p. 107)

The relations between the races and the nature of the family in these stories are also important for Faulkner. The hearth suggests connections with the Anglo-Irish culture from which the McCaslins originated. After all the McCaslin's heritage is one of tension and guilt bred into them like DNA in their genes. The initiation of the young into this culture is presented in "The Old People" when Ike becomes a man, and is repeated in "The Bear" (this last story has resonance all the way back to The Odyssey of Homer in which Odysseus undergoes a not dissimilar experience). There is also the theme of man versus nature through the contrast of the natural man with the social man of civilization. I also sensed a resonance with the Rousseau-like view of the world in the emphasis on getting away from civilization in The Bear. This can also be read in the tradition of Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Ultimately, we see in Go Down, Moses Faulkner's mythic world of Yoknapatawpha County once more with its people, their land, and their ghosts. How they relate to our world today is up to the reader to decide.

A Goodreads update review

No comments: