Class and Race in Faulkner's The Mansion Essay

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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
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Hit's all right he thought Hit'll go this time.... (702-3)

What was the motive, then, of the Houston killing, which we seem to be strongly asked to refer to when we examine the Flem case? The direct cause was trouble over Mink's cow, but behind it there was a wide gulf between the rich and the poor, a class difference between the landed class and poor whites, which may have made Mink angry enough to kill Houston. He saw Houston as "a durn surly sullen son of a bitch that didn't even know he was lucky: rich, not only rich enough to afford a wife to whine and nag and steal his pockets ragged of every dollar he made, but rich enough to do without a wife if he wanted: rich enough to be able to hire a woman to cook his victuals instead of having to marry her. Rich enough to hire another nigger to get up in his stead on the cold mornings and go out in the wet and damp to feed not only the beef cattle which he sold at the top fat prices because he could afford to hold them till then, but that blooded stallion too..." (340).

Each afternoon ... he would walk up the muddy road ... to watch Houston's pedigreed beef herd, his own sorry animal among them, move, not even hurrying, toward and into the barn which was warmer and tighter against the weather than the cabin he lived in, to be fed by the hired Negro who wore warmer clothing than any he and his family possessed, cursing into the steamy vapor of his own breathing,

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