McCaslin family

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William Faulkner (1897—1962) American novelist

Intruder in the Dust




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Characters in the fiction of Faulkner, an old Jefferson (Mississippi) family figuring most prominently in the stories in Go Down, Moses, particularly “The Bear,” in Intruder in the Dust, and in The Reivers, although frequently mentioned elsewhere. The McCaslin family perhaps embodies more clearly than any other single genealogy Faulkner's concern with the historical and moral implications of relations between the black and white races. A son of Lancaster McCaslin, Lucius Quintus Carothers (“old Carothers”) McCaslin comes to Mississippi in 1813, buys land from the Chickasaw, and builds a plantation house near what is to become Jefferson. He legitimately fathers twin sons, Theophilus and Amodeus, and a daughter, Mary, but also takes a black mistress, his slave Eunice, and sires her daughter Tomasina (Tomey). This daughter dies while herself bearing him a son, Terrel (called Turl or Tomey's Turl), a relationship that leads Eunice to drown herself in despair upon learning of her daughter's incestuous pregnancy. In time Turl marries Tennie Beauchamp, a slave girl, and founds the black Beauchamp family. Theophilus (Uncle Buck) and Amodeus (Uncle Buddy), morally opposed to slavery, free the McCaslin blacks. Buck, long a confirmed bachelor, marries Sophonisba Beauchamp, sister of a neighboring plantation owner, and they have a child, Isaac (later Uncle Ike) McCaslin, who, born in 1867 and orphaned early (see The Bear), learns woodcraft and respect for nature from Sam Fathers, the Negro-Chickasaw bought long ago from Ikkemotubbe by old Carothers. When he falls heir to the family estate, Isaac renounces the inheritance on grounds which he debates with McCaslin (Cass) Edmonds, the grandson of Mary McCaslin, who eventually inherits the lands. Having learned that old Carothers left legacies to his illegitimate grandchildren, Isaac tries to deliver the money to Tennie and Turl's surviving children, James Thucydides (Tennie's Jim), Sophonisba (Fonisba), and Lucas Beauchamp. Lucas wins in a showdown with Zachary (Zack) Edmonds, Cass's son and the new owner of the estate, over the return of Lucas's wife Mollie from the main house, where she has nursed Zack's son Carothers (Roth) Edmonds. Later Lucas again is victorious, this time against a false murder charge. Lucas remains on the place and is the oldest descendant of old Carothers when Roth inherits the lands. Roth has an illegitimate son by a girl who, unbeknownst to him, is a granddaughter of Tennie's Jim, thus echoing his great-great-great-grandfather's original incest. When she appears with the child, Roth asks Isaac, now an old man, to send her away, and Isaac, in anger and despair at McCaslin behavior, laments, “No wonder the ruined woods don't cry for retribution! The people who destroyed it [the land] will accomplish its revenge.”

Subjects: Literature.

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