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Reading the ledgers.

VERY SOON AFTER ISAAC MCCASLIN BEGINS ARGUING with his older cousin Cass over his, Isaac's, decision to repudiate his inheritance from his grandfather, Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin, he resorts to the commissary ledgers in which his forebears have recorded the business and personal affairs of the McCaslin family over the course of the plantation's life during the first half or so of the nineteenth century. He has read these ledgers before, of course, and mined them for what he believes are their records of his grandfather's perfidy toward his slaves: acts which have created a part-black branch of the McCaslin family whose history runs parallel with his own. To present Isaac's reconstruction, or memory, of these ledgers, Faulkner formally replicates throughout part 4 of "The Bear" the crude ungrammatical text of the ledgers that Isaac reads. He uses little capitalization and random punctuation (a few commas and full stops are replaced by colons): that is, he gives us a text virtually unmoored from conventional linearity and periodicity. We have no sense that part 4 gives us anything like all of the ledgers, and the entries we do have appear in no necessarily chronological order. As we shall see, Isaac, who goes to the ledgers to make his case about his grandfather, orders the entries and their appearance according to his own needs. Moreover, he takes these illegible, ungrammatical documents as something set "perhaps upon some apocryphal Bench or even Altar or perhaps before the Throne Itself for a last perusal and contemplation and refreshment of the Allknowledgeable." (1) Clearly, these ledgers are for Isaac sacred documents. Just as clearly, as we shall see, they are far from "Allknowledgeable," even perhaps far from readable, since they manifestly present no evidence that proves what Isaac wants to believe, and are indeed far more complex than he wishes to understand.

Isaac intends, of course, to go straight to that portion of the ledgers which he thinks documents his grandfather's incestuous exploitation of his slaves: his impregnation first of Eunice and then of his and Eunice's daughter Tomasina--which pregnancy, Isaac wants the ledgers to say, lead Eunice to commit suicide on Christmas day 1832. That is, Isaac posits his grandfather's incestuous miscegenation as the immediate proximate cause of his own renunciation not just of the land and not even just of slavery, but of the entire history of land ownership--of the very idea of possession, which he believes to be directly connected to the practice of slavery, as concentrated and focused in his grandfather's incest.

He can't go there directly, though. First he turns to the "anomaly calling itself Percival Brownlee" (p. 195) and to Brownlee's unsettling appearance in the family chronicle. The climax of the Brownlee episode comes in the revelation that Brownlee is homosexual and that his homosexuality is the single reason why Isaac's father bought him, the only slave he, Buck, or his brother had ever bought. It is reasonably clear that Isaac doesn't understand the full implications of this fact, or at least that he cannot face them. The whole Brownlee episode appears set aside in a parenthesis, as though merely a subsidiary clause; indeed, Brownlee seems to turn up almost as an afterthought buried within and disrupting Isaac's lengthy, seven-page, one-sentence response to the ledger's putative evidence of the tangled triangulation of L.Q.C., Eunice, and Tomasina. The Brownlee prelude is thus, to say the least, recessive if not completely repressed. Critics over the years have followed Isaac in leaving the subsumed Brownlee all but alone. The Brownlee episode, however, contains material crucial to our understanding of Isaac and therefore of Go Down, Moses. The single page of ledger entries constitutes an extended admission of an incestuous liaison between Isaac's father and his uncle, a liaison drawn onto the page by Buck's homosexual miscegeny with a slave. Isaac's tacit paralleling of L.Q.C.'s and of Buck's miscegeny and incest allows us to re-read the entire episode involving Brownlee and his father with significantly greater understanding. The Brownlee material thus runs counter to the narrative Isaac wants to tell and to deploy in a condemnation of his grandfather: his own father has committed the same sins (as a homosexual) that Isaac condemns his grandfather for committing (as a heterosexual). Since Isaac represses it, his father's acts would appear to be those he finds the more disturbing in his family chronicle.

The Brownlee entries suggest that Buck and Uncle Buddy were lovers, living together as man and surrogate wife. Brownlee enters as a thoroughly exogamous intruder over whom the brothers conduct, in the ledgers, an extended lovers' quarrel. Isaac moves toward his grandfather's perfidy, and toward the ledgers as providing evidence of it, by way of two paragraphs which argue that Buck and Buddy were morally superior to their father. The twins, having qualms about slavery that their father did not share, seem to have done what they could, at that time and in that place, to ameliorate the practices of the institution (a lot more, it turns out, than Isaac does). As soon as their father dies in 1837, the twins remove themselves into a "one-room log cabin which the two of them built themselves and added other rooms to while they lived in it, refusing to allow any slave to touch any timber of it" (p. 193). They put the slaves in the plantation house that their father left incomplete. Each night they conduct the occupants officially and ceremoniously into the front door and lock it, but leave the back door unlocked and unsupervised, so that the McCaslin slaves are free to roam, on the understanding that they will be back in the house by dawn.

Isaac casts this portion of his family history as the first fumbling steps in a divine plan that would eventually lead to his own act of repudiation and, ultimately, apparently, to the eradication of all the residual effects of slavery and the ownership of land. But the narrative of this emancipatory impulse veers towards alternative and darker implications. As he nears the point at which he will introduce the entries from the ledgers, the language anticipates that darkness: the brothers, we learn, seem to have used the "diurnally advancing pages" of the ledgers "to conduct the unavoidable business" (p. 194) of the plantation. Read by Isaac as part of an ongoing conversation between the two, the entries suggest that the twins are "long since past any oral intercourse" (p. 194). Faulkner's locution, speaking quasi-directly to Isaac's thoughts, puns subversively, to admit the tongues of lovers into the speech of brothers. (2)

From "oral intercourse" the paragraph moves directly to the "anomaly calling itself Percival Brownlee" (p. 195), an anomaly in several senses but most immediately in his being the only slave either of the twins had ever bought. The ledger entries, which follow parenthetically, indirectly explain why Isaac's father bought Brownlee and the consequences of the transaction. First, his father records the transaction:
 Percavil Brownly 26yr Old. cleark @ Bookepper. bought from
 N.B.Forest at Cold Water 3 Mar 1856 $265. dolars.

It takes Buck barely two days to discover, or admit, not only that Brownlee is no Bookepper but that he can't even read--a fact he is likely to have known from the beginning, since slaves were typically forbidden to learn to read, much less to undertake accounts. Given the common prohibition on slave literacy, Buck would thus seem to be lying about his reasons for purchasing Brownlee:
 5 mar 1856 No bookepper any way Cant read. Can write his Name
 but I already put that down My self Says he can Plough but dont look
 like it to Me. sent to Feild to day Mar 5 1856

His second entry in two days indicates his somewhat desperate need both to retain Brownlee and to find something for him to do, at least for his brother's eyes:
 6 Mar 1856 Cant plough either Says he aims to be a Precher so may
 be he can lead live stock to Crick to Drink

The next entry, over two weeks later, is written by Buddy, who may have been somewhat puzzled at his brother's purchase but gives no hint that he has any idea why Buck bought any slave, much less Brownlee. His entry is concise:

Mar 23th 1856 Cant do that either Except one at a Time Get shut of him

Buck responds the next day:

24 Mar 1856 Who in hell would buy him

Buddy waits nearly a month before replying to his brother's almost certainly rhetorical question, and his response is markedly less concise:
 19th of Apr 1856 Nobody You put yourself out of Market at Cold
 Water two months ago I never said sell him Free him

The increasing lapse of time between these entries raises serious questions about the twins' relationship. Do they speak to each other except in these journals? Is there no oral communication of any sort? What, then, are their days like? If they have been lovers, do they continue silently to occupy the same bed? (3) Has Brownlee already come between them, separating them as lovers, and rendering them at least temporarily past "any oral intercourse"?

In the ledger, at least, Buck maintains that his concerns are economic, his purchase an investment in labor:

22 Apr 1856 I'll get it out of him

The phrase has its ambiguities. Mark Tushnett, a historian of slave law, characterizes slavery as a set of "total relations" because the master was responsible for the whole life of the slave. Market relations were deemed "partial" because the employer paid only for the working part of the employee's day. (4) But the products of slavery (by 1856), whether cotton, sugar, or tobacco, linked its pre-modern labor processes to the processes of capital. (5) Caught between accumulative regimes, or between premodern and modern systems, the slave (even Brownlee) was both a dependent child (Sambo) and a recorded price, from which measurable profit had to be taken. Buck's phrase, "I'll get it out of him," hinges on a shifting impersonal pronoun, and catches Brownlee and Buck between economic systems. "It" might refer to a secret, such as a father recovers from a child, or a lover from a partner (the premodern stuff of paternal presumption, empowered by expectation of dependency). On the other hand, "it" is more likely to be a quantity of labor time, debited against a sum prepaid. If Buck bought Brownlee solely for sexual purposes, and Brownlee works as the equivalent of a whore, "it," modernized, refers to a sexual practice extracted at fixed price (defrayed against the original $265) from the body of one whose task has been taken most intimately to exemplify modernity's translation of a human into a commodity. (6) Buck's vocal inflection is not discernible from his inscription, but the phrasing leaves him pivoting. He may be wryly admitting a covert determination to recoup sexual pleasure: in which case, given the twins' prior intimacy, he may be bidding for Buddy's tolerance. Alternatively, he may just be desperate to keep Buddy from bringing the crisis to a head. To assume this is to assume that Buddy doesn't completely understand what is going on, though his continued ignorance seems unlikely, given the isolated proximity of their lives and the rupture of the intimacies in which they have been living.

Nearly two months later Buddy responds sardonically:

June 13th 1856 How $1 per yr 265$ 265 yrs Wholl sign his Free paper

Buddy's interesting computation may simply mean that Brownlee is so worthless as laboring property that he couldn't live long enough to amortize his own market value: at Buddy's valuation of one dollar a year, nobody now living would be alive to free him after he had bought himself.

But Buck keeps Brownlee. Four months later, Buck records perhaps the most curious of the entries:
 1 Oct 1856 Mule josephine Broke Leg @ shot Wrong stall wrong
 niger wrong everything $100. dolars

Mules do not generally break legs in stalls: if Josephine had broken hers out in the field, she would have been shot where she lay. With little room in a stall for stock to fall, we may conclude that she damaged herself kicking at something or somebody. We therefore propose the following: wherever Buck now sleeps, whether with Buddy or alone, in another room, it is doubtful that he brings Brownlee anywhere near Buddy, so that in all likelihood he and Brownlee hold their trysts in the barn, at night, in the dark. On the evening prior to this entry, Brownlee goes into Josephine's stall and begins to "diddle" her, or at least tries to do so; the mule kicks out at Brownlee, misses, and breaks her leg on the wall. Assuming that Buck was waiting in another stall for Brownlee, he reacted rapidly to Josephine's distress. Seeing the mule crippled, he shoots her in the stall immediately. Hence sex in the "Wrong stall." By virtue of this complication, Brownlee finally proves himself even to Buck to be too problematic to keep--not only incompetent as either house or field slave, not only homosexual but also, perhaps, given to bestial practices: he is thus the "wrong niger," maybe even the wrong homosexual Negro. (7) Buck thus frees Brownlee but tries to charge the loss to the plantation:

2 Oct 1856 Freed Debit McCaslin @ McCaslin $265. dolars

Buddy hauls him up short, however, by insisting that the financial costs of the episode belong solely to Buck. But on the following day, noticing that Brownlee won't leave the plantation, he seems to soften, and, in an appeal to Father, perhaps bids for reconciliation with his twin:
 Oct 3th Debit Theophilus McCaslin Niger 265$ Mule 100$ 365$
 He hasnt gone yet Father should be here

The appeal to their father, dead now nearly twenty years, dominates the final entries concerning Brownlee. Buck:

3 Oct 1856 Son of a bitch wont leave What would father done.

Buddy, nearly a month later:

29th of Oct 1856 Renamed him


31 Oct 1856 Renamed him what

Finally, Buddy, nearly two months later:

Chrstms 1856 Spintrius

The ongoing presence or invocation of their father in these entries and the length of time between them raise a number of troubling questions. First, to get father's help in this situation would seem to require them to admit their sexual preference to him, unless he already knew of it. If he did, how did his knowledge of it affect his relationship with his sons? Is Buddy's appeal here like Quentin Compson's invention of a father's voice to which he might confess incest and thereby articulate his divided sense of that act as both sin and value? Whatever Buddy's case for L.Q.C.'s fantasmic presence here, given the twins' difficult circumstance re: Brownlee, the word of the father looks like a comforting if two-edged fantasy.

We are left with the question of why Brownlee won't leave. Buck's one aberration into buying a slave does not seem to permit him to sell one; or is his apparent willingness to get rid of Brownlee merely a ruse? If so, we may take it that none of Brownlee's complications--from illiteracy to mule-diddling--render him unattractive as a lover. Finally, why does Buddy wait nearly two months to reply, and do so on Christmas day?

The entry "Spintrius" derives from "spintrae," Latin for "perverts." (8) Buddy uses the name in the name of his father. One could identify his long-pondered choice as the decision of a jilted lover, who, assuming the role of punitive paternity, inscribes in the ledger an abbreviated synonym for "the threat of castration" in "the Name of the Father." Such a reading ignores the date: "Spintrius" is a Christmas gift, presented by a brother to a twin who has been a lover. Since Buddy is playing a game with a name, we may be justified in pursuing the deep logic of his name game. "Spintrius," in the absence of glossaries, is a name wried from easy referentiality: as such, at least for a time it stands empty and open for speculative reference along lines suggested by the sonorities of its phonemic mutations. (9) "Spinster," "sphinx," and "sphincter" lie residually emergent in its failure properly to name. "Spinster" because Buddy, fearing Brownlee as a rival, sees in his presence his own decline into the loneliness of an old maid. "Sphinx" because on the evidence of the ledger, Brownlee has at least tried to unite with a beast, though mule not lion. "Sphincter" because "Brownlee" is already anally colored; we can hear his name as the adverb "brownly," though to do so is to risk neglecting "lee," which may be understood either cloacally as "lees" ("dregs" or "refuse") or nautically (as in "lee shore" or place of safety or refuge). Since Buddy, at some level, attaches Buck to Brownlee when he writes "Spintrius," he may hear any or all of these emergences as they arise from the linked names, activated by his inscription. He may even recall that "buck" refers to the copulation of animals, most typically but not exclusively rabbits. Since Buck is probably as puzzled as we are by Buddy's choice of name, we may assume either that he too plays the phonemic permutations towards their promiscuities or that he turns away. He makes no subsequent entry on the page. In the latter case, Buddy effectively gives the gift to himself, rendering "Spintrius" autoerotic and by inference capable of interfering with his own sense of himself.

Buddy's name, Amodeus ("I love God"), is Latin; Buck's name, Theophilus ("Beloved of God" or more literally, "God loves he") is Greek. Indeed, the classical naming of the twins suggests that the loves of one are inextricable from the loves of the other: to translate, Amodeus loves what Theophilus is loved by, and, on the evidence of the ledgers, God (whether "Deus" or "Theo") runs a distinct second to Spintrius as the object of Buck's affections. The triangulation formed by the trinity of classical names creates a riddle: "Amodeus" and "Theophilus" constitute an imperfect chiasmus: (10) as a clause "Amo deus" inverts and repeats" Theo philus," but where "theo" and "deus" exactly complement one another, "amo" and "philus" do not. In an exact chiasmus Amodeus ('I love God') requires "God loves me" (Theophilus) but "Theophilus," literally translated, means "God loves he." That Buddy's love fails to find its inverse reflection in Buck's name displaces their incest, even as "me" turns into "he." The names deciphered beg the question who is the "he" whom Buck loves in the place of "me?" Spintrius fits. Yet the name Spintrius does not appear in the ledgers until Christmas day, a date of inscription which turns Buddy's choice into a particularly subversive gift: after all, he delivers a Spintrius where one named for God might be expected to deliver a Christ. Does Buddy intimate that he and his twins' sexuality, triangulated through Spintrius-Brownlee's body, might just serve to subvert the Almighty Father?

This is the end of the ledger's account of Brownlee, but not of Isaac's. Brownlee again interrupts the story that Isaac wants to tell, of his grandfather's sins, as Isaac moves his narration through the Civil War and Reconstruction, toward the issue of L.Q.C.'s descendants. It seems clear that before Isaac can discuss his grandfather's sexuality, his father's sexuality intrudes.

At some point Brownlee does leave the McCaslin plantation, though the ledgers do not suggest how or why. He must have departed some time before 1862, since in that year, "during the boy's father's absence," Buddy discovers that Brownlee has been back on the plantation for at least a month. That he does not know this immediately raises questions about how closely Buddy oversees the plantation. Brownlee has become the preacher he had told Buck he was called to be and is "conducting impromptu revival meetings among negroes, preaching and leading the singing also in his high sweet true soprano voice." He then just as suddenly disappears "on foot and at top speed" barely ahead of a "body of raiding Federal horse" (p. 216) which he at least fears may be after him for reasons we can never know. He materializes one more time, after the War, in 1866, "in the entourage of a travelling Army paymaster, the two of them passing through Jefferson in a surrey at the exact moment when the boy's father ... also happened to be crossing the Square." Brownlee and the paymaster give the impression of being on an "illicit holiday like a man on an excursion during his wife's absence with his wife's personal maid," a suggestion, surely, that the town--or Buck, at any rate--takes them to be lovers. Seeing Buck, Brownlee gives him "one defiant female glance" and then "[breaks] again, [leaps] from the surrey and disappear[s] this time for good" (pp. 216-217). Twenty years later, McCaslin hears that he is "an old man now and quite fat, as the well-to-do proprietor of a select New Orleans brothel," presumably a brothel catering to diverse tastes (p. 217).

These concluding episodes, though resisting interpretation, at the very least raise further questions about Buck's liaison with Brownlee. Why does Brownlee "break" again, leap from the surrey and run? Is he so afraid of Buck that he does not believe the paymaster can defend him? Or, to the contrary, is he also escaping the paymaster? "Again" might suggest how he left the McCaslin plantation originally, "breaking" and fleeing under the threat of some kind of violence made by Buck or by Buddy? That he should resurface twice in relation to military bodies indicates that Brownlee has been pursuing an itinerant career as a camp follower: if so, Buck's attempts to make Brownlee yield a price appear to have paid off. As a whore to the Union troops, and eventually to a Northern "paymaster," Brownlee has achieved the autonomy by which one carries in one's person that labor which one may freely contract on the open market. No longer bound as slave or tenant, he reappears in motion, and is free to "break" and run whenever he wishes. The next logical step is that he should manage the sexual work of others, hence his final destination and profession in New Orleans. (11)

The Brownlee episode of the ledgers complete, Faulkner closes its intrusion into the larger narrative toward which Isaac moves by an anomalously placed close-parenthesis at the left margin (p. 196). The resultant visual effect is curious:
 the second:
 Chrstms 1856 Spintrius
 ) took substance and even a sort of shadowy life

What follows the hung parenthesis resumes the sentence that the open parenthesis had interrupted two pages earlier. But any attempt to convey that resumption by simply quoting across the parenthesis (omitting the parenthetical material) runs into difficulty, since the parenthesis about Brownlee occurs during yet another parenthetical intervention whose beginning is marked not by a parenthesis but by a dash (p. 194): Isaac, remembering his reading of the ledgers, visualizes how "one by one the slaves which Carothers McCaslin had inherited and purchased--" (p. 194). The dash (12) signals Brownlee's intrusion. Instead of the slave names which Isaac intends to enumerate, he must yet again deal with his father's male lover; Faulkner cites the details of the Brownlee ledger materials (number of pages, period covered, calligraphy), only to set them within an open-parenthesis, whose closure hangs at an awkward distance from the name "Spintrius." The strained punctuation leads back to the beginning of the sentence which, sans dash, would read: "as one by one the slaves ... took substance and even a sort of shadowy life...." Isaac, reading the very particular "substance" and "shadow" of the ledgers, is confident that he has recovered "not only the general and condoned injustice and its slow amortization, but the specific tragedy which had not been condoned and could never be amortized" (p. 196). The "specific tragedy," of course, is his grandfather's incestuous miscegenation. But the "specific" "substance" and detailed "shadows" from which Isaac recovers his grandfather's faults are inseparable from a sustained and problematical syntactical effort to occlude the Brownlee page. Faulkner's punctuation encrypts what he secretes, in both senses of both terms: a parenthesis closed at the start of a line, after a line space and across a shift from italic to roman type, looks unlikely to retain what it seeks to contain. The ")" not only does not shut down the cryptic name "Spintrius"; in fact it begs to disclose it. Thus placed syntactically, the Brownlee episode hangs loose and free, amorphous and yet hovering potently, disturbing, the repressed but inescapable epicenter of Isaac's narrative. (13)


The portion of the ledgers which Isaac was presumably looking for in the first place begins with his father's recording of his own father's, L.Q.C.'s, death:
 Father dide Lucuis Quintus Carothers McCaslin. Callina 1772 Missippy
 1837. Dide and burid 27 June 1837 (p. 196)

and continues with three other entries covering the slaves brought from Carolina:
 Roskus. rased by Granfather in Callina Dont know how old. Freed 27
 June 1837 Dont want to leave. Dide and Burid 12 Jan 1841

 Fibby Roskus Wife, bought by granfather in Callina says Fifty Freed
 27 June 1837 Don't want to leave. Dide and burd 1 Aug 1849

 Thucydus Roskus @ Fibby Son born in Callina 1779. Refused 10acre
 peace fathers Will 28 Jun 1837 Refused Cash offer $200. dollars
 from A. @ T. McCaslin 28 Jun 1837 Wants to stay and work it out
 (pp. 196-197)

We may assume that these entries, like the rest, have been made over a period of years, updated whenever something worthy of recording occurs. But, since Isaac is our source for the source, we cannot know the extent to which he elides or rearranges materials, the chronological relations of those entries he chooses to note, or the degree to which, like any historian, he weights and orders "facts" to make a convincing narrative. His knowledge of the documentation is not, however, to be doubted. He apparently began looking at the ledgers "even after nine and ten and eleven," but not reading them until much later--at some point between his eleventh and sixteenth year (p. 198). Even so, his primer-simple preferred entries, seemingly little more than a record of deaths and burials, provide interesting and significant information. Through L.Q.C.'s father, they establish a family background in Carolina, from which state slave-owning families often sent sons and extra slaves to farm in Mississippi on land bought cheaply. Though there is no suggestion of it here, from the settled perspective of Carolina, frontier Mississippi was often viewed as a place of exile, an apt destination for unruly sons---for escape, too, from unruly parents. (14)

Significantly, none of the members of the Carolina slave family wants to leave the McCaslin plantation after L.Q.C. dies, a fact which may merely reflect the poverty of choices confronting freed slaves. With few places of safety for them, staying may represent a default option; it might also, however, indicate some esteem or even affection for L.Q.C. and/or his inheritors. What is really curious about the final entry is L.Q.C.'s legacy to Thucydus of ten acres of land, which Thucydus, for some reason, refuses and, further, refuses the twins' offer of $200 in its place, preferring instead to "stay and work it out." Perhaps he merely wants to stay with Roskus and Fibby, his parents. But why does L.Q.C. leave ten acres to him and not to his parents?

Since L.Q.C. is only seven years older than Thucydus, he cannot be his father, now indulging in his will a cheaper version of the pay-off which Isaac believes he makes to his child by Tomasina. If what is commonly assumed about L.Q.C.'s relations with Eunice is true, the money might be a payoff to Roskus and Fibby for some earlier grievous violation of that family. Since Isaac will encounter a further ledger entry referring to "Fathers will" (p. 199) and relating to L.Q.C.'s bequest to Turl (Tomasina's child), it is just possible that L.Q.C.'s legacy to Thucydus (declared the son of Roskus and Fibby) represents a payment made against the sins of his father. (15) Perhaps, too, it's simpler than that: perhaps he was doing what Joel Williamson says white men of property "in and after the 1830s" did with "amazing frequency": they "recognized their mulatto children as beneficiaries in their wills." (16) We have no record of why or when L.Q.C. left Carolina. We do know that he was born there (1772), seven years before Roskus (1779). We also know that he brought Roskus and Fibby with him, as a slave couple, to Mississippi, where, on his death, they were freed, whether by him or his sons the ledgers do not say. By implication, either the twins, as their father's executors, act on his will or, freed from his authority, they release three slaves. Either way, Buck and Buddy become managers of free rather than bound labor. Perhaps L.Q.C. left Carolina on discovering his father's "shadow family." (17) Taking them with him into exile, he seeks in his will to manumit the slave couple that his father had abused, and to provide for the slave child (his half brother), born to Fibby and fathered by his own (L.Q.C.'s) father. If this is the case, and there is much hypothesis here, the L.Q.C. who emerges looks, in his attitude toward slavery, more like his manumitting sons and his repudiating grandson, and less like Isaac's L.Q.C. But our excursus into Carolina still leaves us with troubling questions. Why didn't L.Q.C. give the land to Roskus and Fibby rather than to Thucydus? And what does Thucydus want to "work out"? According to the next entry, he accepts the $200 on November 3, 1841, not quite a year after Roskus dies, and sets himself up as a blacksmith in Jefferson, where he in turn dies thirteen years later.

Isaac apparently wonders about this too. He raises his eyes from the ledgers and as he reads the relevant entries Thucydus comes to life for him as a slave who, offered $200 gratis, responds with $200 worth of labor, in order to translate an unacceptable gift into a wage--which sum he can then take, using it to purchase a blacksmith's shop. Isaac's brief meditation on Thucydus intervenes between directly recorded ledger entries, though it is prompted by five pages of commissary accounting, presumably under Thucydus's name, featuring wages credited against goods debited--a
 slowly yet steadily mounting sum of balance (and it would seem to
 the boy that he could actually see the black man, the slave whom
 his white owner had forever manumitted by the very act from which
 the black man could never be free so long as memory lasted, entering
 the commissary, asking permission perhaps of the white man's son to
 see the ledger-page which he could not even read (p. 197)

The open parenthesis marks the point at which indirect summation of ledger material gives way to Isaac's imaginative recreation, the trigger for transition being "the very act" whose substance we can only surmise. What the ledgers have not yet been made to reveal is that Thucydus is Eunice's husband. If we are to believe what Isaac tells us, "the very act" is, at the very least, L.Q.C.'s miscegeny with Thucydus's wife. Therefore, in Isaac's reckoning, Thucydus will accept the terms of L.Q.C.'s will only if he can recast those terms through his own independent labor. Isaac "sees" him checking on the details of a labor contract because contracted labor, with its supposition that contracting parties do so "freely" on an "equal" footing, was ever a bourgeois fantasy for disguising the real facts of power. (18) That Thucydus's contract is for a cash wage (albeit deferred) enhances his bid for freedom. Money, abstract and metamorphic, reinforces contracts in its assault on the materiality of the actual human relations out of which it arises. Thucydus could have given lessons to Frederick Douglass: indeed, perhaps Faulkner names his unlettered but heroic self-inventor for the Greek historian Thucydides because by using his own $200 to buy a blacksmith's shop in Jefferson, out of which he works for thirteen years, Thucydus in his smithy does create an independent black history. We do not get that history, but we do get enough evidence to surmise it. Isaac, of course, will have none of it, believing that Thucydus "could never be free." Faulkner extends Isaac's version of Thucydus's lack of liberty, noting that it would last "as long as memory lasted." But free indirect discourse, the authorial mode at this point, permits a critical distance from the voice or consciousness which it detachedly mimes. (19) Our version of Isaac's version of the ledgers, as they relate to Eunice's husband, at the very least raises a critical question: in whose "memory" is Thucydus forever bound? We would add that each feature of our recreated Thucydus fits the surmisable facts equally whether his acts are motivated by a desire to free himself from the will of a grandfather (L.Q.C.'s father), a half brother (L.Q.C.), or a half brother who slept with his wife (L.Q.C.).

Isaac breaks from his reverie over the account pages to observe "the double pen-stroke closing the final entry" (p. 197):
 3 Nov 1841 By Cash to Thucydus McCaslin $200. dolars Set Up
 blaksmith in J. Dec 1841 Dide and burid in J. 17 feb 1854

 Eunice Bought by Father in New Orleans 1807 $650. dolars. Marrid
 to Thucydus 1809 Drownd in Crick Cristmas Day 1832

Faulkner doesn't supply the double pen-stroke, however, and it remains open whether Isaac refers to the closing balance on Thucydus's $200 or to Thucydus's life. If, as a mere possibility, the "double pen-stroke" applies to the "final entry" on the life (i.e., to "Dide and burid in J. 17 feb 1854"), the stroke's absence from the transcribed ledger foregrounds the issue of why the entry concerning Eunice's death should appear, out of all chronological sequence, so close to the record of her husband's death. We do not, of course, have any idea what the ledgers themselves look like, whether these two entries appear so juxtaposed there, or whether perhaps each person is allotted a whole page or merely space on a page. Perhaps wives shared pages with their husbands, although the lack of a legal status for slave marriage renders this option slightly less likely. In any case, Isaac's starkly a-chronological juxtaposition of these two entries no doubt reveals how closely Thucydus's death and Eunice's, more than two decades earlier, are related in his thinking about his grandfather's slaves.

The handwriting up to this point has been his father's. On Eunice's drowning, as a point of record, Isaac recognizes Buddy's hand; he notes the change in script as a gender change, recalling through Cass how Buddy has always taken the female role in the McCaslin household: he is "the cook and housekeeper ... sitting all day long in the rocking chair from which he cooked the food, before the kitchen fire on which he cooked it" (p. 197). We have no indication of when Buck recorded Eunice's drowning, but Buddy waits over six months to correct Buck's entry. Does the lengthy delay indicate some rift in the household? If, as it appears, Buck, as supervisor of the commissary, customarily makes such entries, Buddy's intervention gains in significance. His entry is typically abbreviated. The absence of the question mark pitches the phrase between interrogation (of Buck) and assertion, accusatory and directed at Eunice ("Drownd herself" [our emphasis]). Is he, then, protecting his father by cleansing the historical record, as it were?
 June 21th 1833 Drownd herself

Buck, merely two days later, seems irate, perhaps defensive:
 23 Jun 1833 Who in hell ever heard of a niger drownding him self
 (p. 197)

Buddy responds, again abruptly but again after a lengthy wait of nearly two months, by simply reasserting what he either knows or believes:
 Aug 13th 1833 Drownd herself (p. 198)

For Isaac, this and the following two entries comprise the heart of the ledger's chronicle, from which he extrapolates McCaslin family history.
 Tomasina called Tomy Daughter of Thucydus @ Eunice Born 1810 dide
 in Child bed June 1833 and Burd. Yr stars fell

 Turl Son of Thucydus @ Eunice Tomy born Jun 1833 yr stars fell
 Fathers will (pp. 198-199)

The last two entries, recording Tomy's death in childbed and Turl's birth, are as problematic as the others. These events may carry astrological significance for their recorder, who appears to connect them to the meteor shower of November 12, 1833 (Taylor, p. 156), though we can only speculate as to what that significance might be. Nor do we know whether the entries were made in June, on or after November 12, or partially on both dates. Is the meteor shower merely an annalistic record, or is the writer magnifying earthly by heavenly incident? The position of the phrase "Fathers will" suggests that it was added on or after the rest of the entry--that is, on November 12 or later; either way, the juxtaposition at least implies that the writer makes a causal connection between "will" and the astral phenomenon. The word "will" is a split signifier that refers to a legal document and to a willed act. Either way, the star showers augur divine judgment, perhaps to Isaac (and almost certainly to the writer of the entry) as he looks to find evidence of his grandfather's sin. Perhaps he believes that L.Q.C., ca. 1833, aware of the extent of his willful error and taking Heaven's point, adds to his will a clause giving a thousand dollars to the newborn Turl. This, at any rate, is what Isaac believes later, when he describes the entry as a "pale sentence or paragraph scrawled in cringing fear of death by a weak and trembling hand as a last desperate sop flung backward at retribution" (p. 223). The money is thus a sign of repentance, or at least a stay against judgment. But the question remains, whose repentance? Isaac interprets in his own way: but who wrote these two entries?

These entries, and especially the cryptic "Fathers will," cast a complicating light over Isaac's whole purpose with regard to the ledgers. The text resumes, after the entry: "and nothing more," an elocutionary punctuation whose form and purpose echo the phrase "and that was all" (p. 200) which follows Isaac's vision of Eunice's drowning. But what follows "and nothing more" is a list of things that aren't in the ledger, a piece of accounting such as might but does not fill the page: "no tedious recording filling this page of wages day by day and food and clothing charged ..." (p. 199). These non-entries, in effect a filibuster put in place after "Fathers will," contradict the terminal punctuation of "nothing more" with a hypothetical something that serves to distract from the unstable referentiality of the entry's begged questions, whose "father" and which "will"? Isaac compounds the distraction by adding to the list of Turl's costs (which is not there) further ledger volumes by another hand (also not there) "which McCaslin kept," offered as evidence of what is omitted (Turl's obituary); McCaslin, it seems, "did not include obituaries" in his records. Our point is that Isaac constructs a false document from missing documents immediately after "Fathers will" and before returning to that phrase five lines later, where he construes the phrase to refer simply and singly to the legal document by which Carothers leaves $1000 to Turl--son of his incestuous union, Isaac thinks, with his half-black daughter. It is thus, according to Isaac's ethical accountancy, a payoff "cheaper than saying My son to a nigger" (p. 199).

But if we leave out Isaac's record of what is not in the record, understanding his false document to be, like his parenthesis around Brownlee, an act of occlusion, we recover the following:
 and nothing more ...: just Fathers will and he had seen that too:
 old Carothers' bold cramped hand far less legible than his sons'
 even and not much better in spelling, who while capitalising almost
 every noun and verb, made no effort to punctuate or construct
 whatever, just as he made no effort either to explain or obfuscate
 the thousand-dollar legacy to the son of an unmarried slave-girl, to
 be paid only at the child's coming-of-age.... (p. 199)

What Isaac recognizes but immediately, in effect, denies, is that these final two entries are made in his grandfather's "bold cramped hand," and that consequently "Fathers will" refers not to L.Q.C. but to, and only to, L.Q.C.'s father. The phrase "he had seen that too" implies a comparison involving the presence of two documents or entries: indeed, the comparator ("too") plays on duality, creating as it suppresses Isaac's troubled recognition of what he is doing. Isaac draws on his recollection of another and absent entry ("Fathers will" [p. 197]), in quite another hand (his father's [p. 196]), in order (as in a palimpsest) to slide one page under another. From two versions of the phrase "Fathers will," he takes the wrong one: the one, in Buck's hand, that best suits his case--a case that must now be seen to rest on Isaac's heavily disguised abuse of the ledger's records. The implications of this information are considerable.

To return to the original script, L.Q.C. seems, in his double and linked entries, to be meditating on what has been done to Tomey. We do not know exactly who did what to whom, though all reconstructions hinge upon the primary force of Tomasina's death in childbirth and Eunice's death by drowning. We should reiterate that since L.Q.C. is writing, "Father" in "Fathers will" is without question the Carolina patriarch; "will" remains ambivalent, possibly referring to a sum of money considered by L.Q.C. to be due by inheritance to the infant Turl, as a descendant of his father's sexual abuse of Fibby. L.Q.C. could, however, mean that "Fathers will" does not provide for Tuff and that he recognizes this as a shortcoming of both meanings of "will"; in this case, he may take it as his inherited responsibility to remember Turl. By the same token, he may mean that "Fathers will" does in fact remember and provide for Turl; in this case, "Fathers will," as document and impulse, provides a model by which he, L.Q.C., can provide for his own miscegenated offspring, Turl. In any case, "will" refers to the force of L.Q.C.'s father's willful acts in Carolina and it recasts the son as both repudiator of his father and as following his father's example. So read, "will" encrypts a variable in which L.Q.C. tacitly acknowledges that he fathered Turl on Tomasina. We point as evidence to L.Q.C.'s occlusive identification of Turl's parents: in effect, the entry comes preciously close to recording that Turl is the "Son of" his grandfather (Thucydus) and his grandmother (Eunice), or even that Turl is the son of "Thucydus" and "Eunice's Tomy"--a doubleheaded monster created by an absent possessive and the contraction of "Tomasina" to "Tomy." Properly understood, of course, "Thucydus@Eunice Tomy "names Tomasina as the daughter of Thucydus and Eunice but does not name Turl's father. L.Q.C. here omits his own paternity in Turl, perhaps because he is troubled by his replication of his father's act, which act took him out of Carolina in the first place. We would add the proviso that this is a single option which renders "will" cavernous in its encryption, and that as an option it in no way makes a case for L.Q.C. as also the father of Tomasina by Eunice. Furthermore, these records do not necessarily convict L.Q.C. of miscegenation with Tomey. By invoking "Fathers will" at the birth of Thucydus's grandson Turl, L.Q.C. may simply be reminding himself that the McCaslin family owes Thucydus and his descendants whatever L.Q.C.'s father had left him in his will. On such grounds the whiteness of the black McCaslins would be understood to derive solely from L.Q.C.'s father, and not at all from L.Q.C. This reading lacks comprehensiveness in that it offers no traceable account of the absence of Turl's father's name. But the ledgers are chronicles, not registers.

Isaac, of course, will countenance none of the variables, since old Carothers is his villain of choice. The passage following the entry under discussion here continues:
 ... to be paid only at the child's coming-of-age, bearing the
 consequence of the act of which there was still no definite
 incontrovertible proof that he acknowledged, not out of his own
 substance but penalising his sons with it, charging them a cash
 forfeit on the accident of their own paternity; not even a bribe
 for silence toward his own fame since his fame would suffer only
 after he was no longer present to defend it, flinging almost
 contemptuously, as he might a castoff hat or pair of shoes, the
 thousand dollars which could have had no more reality to him under
 those conditions than it would have to the negro, the slave who
 would not even see it until he came of age, twenty-one years too
 late to begin to learn what money was. (p. 199)

In this passage Isaac fools himself into thinking that these two ledger entries are in his father's, Buck's, handwriting, so that he can believe that "Fathers will" refers to L.Q.C.'s will. Properly attributed to L.Q.C., though, the phrase, with its recollection of a culpable Carolina patriarch, entirely problematizes Isaac's account of Eunice's reasons for suicide. Only by occluding his grandfather's calligraphy can Isaac return to Christmas day, 1832, and the frozen creek confident that he knows why Eunice died and why he (Isaac) must repudiate. Isaac's moral authority, then, rests on a crucial and critically missed act of deliberate misattribution (for one hand read and recognized he reads another). The malattribution, done in a flicker of false documents (p. 199), allows him to assume an ethical high ground founded on a construction of L.Q.C. that amounts to character assassination. Now we may read the actual, rather than the falsified, entries in the ledger.

From Eunice's drowning, of which all he knows is contained in his father's and uncle's four brief entries on the subject, and in those entries in his grandfather's hand, which he misrecognizes (p. 198), concerning related matters on "the next succeeding page" (p. 198), Isaac begins to make his case against his grandfather. For reasons that should now be apparent, he accepts Buddy's flat statement that Eunice's death is a suicide rather than his father's vehement disagreement, accepting that Buddy knows something his father doesn't know or isn't willing to admit. Buck, by contrast, argues that it is against "niger" nature to commit suicide, but the novel's thematics of suicide compellingly demonstrates how wrong he is.

In "The Fire and the Hearth," for example, as Lucas wrestles Zack over Zack's pistol on Zack's bed, he proposes that should he win he will kill himself and thereby kill Zack:
 say I dont even use this first bullet [on you, Zack] at all, say I
 just uses the last one [on myself] and beat you and old Carothers
 both, leave you something to think about now and then when you aint
 too busy to try to think up what to tell old Carothers when you get
 where he's done already gone, tomorrow and the one after that and
 the one after that as long as tomorrow-- (p. 44)

Lucas's speculative and parabolic suicide would kill two planters, since (as Lucas argues) their substance, dependent on his labor, will perish with his death. (20) A misfire prevents Lucas's suicide, but in "Pantaloon in Black," Rider, a sawmill worker rather than a slave, succeeds. Distracted by grief for the death of his young wife, Rider seeks to join her (Mannie), first by engineering an industrial accident which fails to kill him, and then by cutting the throat of a white gambler whose fixed dice have been a matter of common knowledge for some time. The crime is Rider's ticket to Mannie's grave, through lynching as a perverse suicide. Sam Fathers in "The Bear" fails to die when Old Ben dies: Faulkner implies that Boon, with Isaac as witness or accomplice, enables Sam (an ethnic hybrid, socially marked as black) to die soon after his totemic creature dies, if not at his own hand, then by hands that he selects (p. 187). If we count Eunice, then, Go Down, Moses contains four black suicides; one of them incomplete and none of them replicating any of the others; but their number alone contradicts Buck's assertion that "nigers" don't commit suicide.

Isaac agrees with Buddy, as we shall see, for his own reasons. Though Buddy does not say why he considers Eunice's death a suicide, Isaac links the close chronological proximity of Eunice's death to the third month of Tomasina's pregnancy, and creates a narrative connection: Eunice commits suicide, Isaac believes, because she discovers that Tomasina is pregnant with L.Q.C.'s child. Isaac thus makes a further, over-reaching leap to posit that Tomasina is herself L.Q.C.'s child by Eunice, and that therefore his grandfather is guilty on two counts: first of miscegenation and then of miscegenated incest. L.Q.C.'s $1000 legacy to Turl, Tomasina's son, is, to Isaac, sufficient proof that his grandfather is Turl's father. From this sufficiency, Isaac creates a romantic tragedy:
 an old man, old, within five years of his life's end, long a widower
 and, since his sons were not only bachelors but were approaching
 middleage, lonely in the house and doubtless even bored ...; there
 was the girl, husbandless and young, only twenty-three when the
 child was born: perhaps he had sent for her at first out of
 loneliness ... summoned her, bade her mother send her each morning
 to sweep the floors and make the beds and the mother acquiescing
 since that was probably already understood, already planned....

In the next paragraph Isaac turns this May-December liaison into tragedy by identifying the young girl as the old man's daughter:
 The old frail pages seemed to turn of their own accord even while
 he thought His own daughter. His own daughter. No No Not even

Isaac works the romantic tragedy for all its worth: old Carothers violates not just his daughter but innocence itself: he takes advantage of a virgin. He is "Her first lover['s] he thought. Her first" (pp. 199-200).

At this point Isaac seeks corroboration for his supposition by turning back to "that one [page or ledger entry] where the white man [L.Q.C. in 1807] (not even a widower then) ... had gone all the way to New Orleans and bought one [a slave, Eunice]" (p. 200). As Joel Williamson suggests, Isaac may have some reason to be suspicious of L.Q.C.'s visit to New Orleans to buy a slave. New Orleans was well-known for its trade in "fancy girls," which probably "reached its peak" in the 1850s. The price of "fancy girls" there "might be double that of a 'prime' male slave and might reach several thousand dollars." Williamson suggests that it "is no coincidence" that L.Q.C. goes to New Orleans to buy Eunice even in 1807 (Willianson, William Faulkner and Southern History, p. 383), though of course whether it is a "coincidence" or not depends on whether Faulkner himself actually knew this part of slave history; nor, to be sure, is it certain that Eunice is such a "fancy woman." Even if we assume he did, however, the bare factual phrasing of the ledgers does not actually say this, and Isaac's reconstruction of L.Q.C.'s motives and actions remains Isaac's reconstruction. To his imaginative recreation of L.Q.C.'s "daughter," Isaac brings the historical record of her mother (Eunice). At the very moment when Isaac seeks corroborative evidence for his reconstruction, he does not turn back to the relevant ledger entry, the one which records Eunice's purchase and her death by drowning (p. 197). Instead, Faulkner notes that "the pages seemed" to Isaac to "turn of their own accord" (p. 200): that is, at the very moment Isaac constructs L.Q.C. as the villain, he attributes agency to the documentation. The ledger pages thus, for Isaac, constitute a coherent--and thereby true--history, but we recall that when commentators say "History tells us," what they mean, but rarely say, is that they tell history. Persuaded by the force of his idea about Eunice, Isaac visualizes the scene, a scene nobody witnessed. He
 seemed to see her actually walking into the icy creek on that
 Christmas day six months before her daughter's and her lover's ...
 child was born, solitary, inflexible, griefless, ceremonial, in
 formal and succinct repudiation of grief and despair who had already
 had to repudiate belief and hope (p. 200)

Let us say emphatically that the text--whether the ledgers Isaac reads or the prose account of his reading which we read--provides no reliable proof that L.Q.C. has had sex with either Eunice or Tomasina, Isaac's suppositions and accusations notwithstanding. The evidence of L.Q.C.'s links to Eunice is particularly patchy and insecure. The question we are left with, of course, is why Isaac reaches the conclusion he reaches. First, we note again that he has had several years of reading and pondering the ledger accounts; he comes to the ledgers when he is sixteen and knows "what he was going to find before he found it" (p. 198). He reconstructs the family--Roskus, Fibby, and Thucydus--that L.Q.C. brings with him from Carolina, then notes that his grandfather
 had travelled three hundred miles and better to New Orleans in a day
 when men travelled by horseback or steamboat, and bought the girl's
 mother [Eunice] as a wife for and that was all. (p. 200)

The paragraph breaks off sans full stop, to be completed by a separated and corrective termination which will not allow Isaac to complete his unthinkable thought. Faulkner's free indirect discourse at this point mimes the process of Isaac's meditation concisely: he reaches an impasse, momentarily dwells within it, and finally emphatically contains it. As a spatialized iteration of closure, the phrase "and that was all" has about it something of the sprung rhythm of the earlier floating ")" (p. 196). We are encouraged to ask how Isaac might have finished his thought, and to suspect more than one option. Surely, he thinks he is about to say "wife for Thucydus" but stops at the moment of articulation with the realization that what he really means is more nearly "wife for himself," though clearly Eunice could not have lived with L.Q.C. as "wife" if only because he has just noted that L.Q.C. was "not even a widower" in 1807. We raise an alternate, though related possibility: if, as the ledger intimates, Thucydus is L.Q.C.'s father's child, because of whom L.Q.C. went southwest into Mississippi exile, Isaac may have intended to say "wife for his half brother." In any case, Faulkner's visual representation of Isaac's omission marks Isaac's repression of the variables as both provisional and forced: Isaac's thought shifts straight from closure interruptus to the conceit of the self-turning ledger pages.

Isaac accepts Eunice's death as suicide, following Buddy. But how does Buddy know? Presumably someone simply found her body in the creek. If he, Buddy, or anybody else actually saw her, as Isaac envisions it, walking in to the icy December waters, why didn't he or they prevent her, if for no other reason than that she was valuable property? To be sure, the time of year precludes "swimming" as an option, but misadventure and murder, in the absence of witnesses, are at least as likely as suicide. At the risk of sounding overly literal, but in order to expose the holes both in the evidence and in Isaac's extrapolation from it, if we go with "murder," we can easily cite a parallel example: in "The Fire and the Hearth," Zack deprives Lucas of a wife and a son by stealing Molly's maternal labor for his own new-born child; it is unlikely that Zack sleeps with Molly, though entirely likely that Lucas at times believes that he does so. Lucas prepares to take his outrage out on Zack and on himself with razor and gun. Only a misfire prevents him from murdering over nominal and miscegenous adultery. Roskus, Eunice, and L.Q.C. exist in a related triangle. By structural analogy, then, it is possible to imagine that the helpless Roskus vents his rage on Eunice, another victim of the slave system--as, in "That Evening Sun" Nancy believes her husband, Jesus, waits to punish her for her pregnancy by another man, perhaps a white man. Buddy struggles to ameliorate the slave system with the contemporary means available to him. Whether or not he suspects his father's possible use of Eunice, he is unlikely to recover an accident or uncover a murder where suicide is an option. We should remember that close to two months separate his first ledger entry on the death from its reiteration in response to Buck's disbelief: the long delay, like the entries themselves ("identical" to the point of seeming produced by a "rubber stamp" [p. 198]), is finally unreadable, though the cryptic manner of Buck's delivery, more "shadow" than "substance" (p. 196), has been, to adopt de Man on flawed reference, "suspiciously text productive." (21)

But even if suicide is the most logical assumption, does it follow that she committed suicide in despair over her lover's violation of their daughter's virginity? Is it not equally possible that she killed herself in despair simply over being a slave? If she is L.Q.C.'s concubine, perhaps she can no longer tolerate the condition of her life. (22) The novel offers two exemplary and parallel white misunderstandings of black grief in response to violent death. In "Pantaloon in Black," the deputy whose account of Rider's apprehension and death closes that story, manifestly struggles to understand what he equally and manifestly gets wrong--the substance of Rider's grief. (23) In "Go Down, Moses," Gavin Stevens, confronted with Molly Beauchamp's exacting and repeated observation that her nephew, Butch Beauchamp, was "sold ... in Egypt" by Roth Edmonds (pp. 271, 278, 279), can only panic, before subsuming his initial reaction in the misguided and socially self-serving observation that Molly "doesn't care how he died. She just wanted him home ..." (p. 281). Molly not only cares, she knows how Butch died. (24) She signifies on the book of Genesis (chapters 37 and 42), to accuse Roth of expelling Butch into captivity and execution for the petty crime of commissary theft.

Isaac's imaginative recreation of Eunice's death by drowning should perhaps be set alongside Stevens's failure to take Molly's point about "Benjamin," despite his being an amateur translator of the Old Testament (p. 271). Each black death is articulated in terms that best serve the interests of the white articulator. It suits the troubled conscience of the deputy in "Pantaloon," who has played a legal part in the extra-legal killing of a man taken from civic custody, to try to cast that man as less than "human" (p. 116) and as a beast (p. 117). It suits Gavin Stevens, a Jefferson lawyer and county attorney, who therefore represents Jefferson's "official" voice, to remember Butch as a product of "bad" "seed" (p. 272), rather than as one of many young migrant males for whom, in times of forced tenant migration, the city and crime in the city were among the few available economic options. (25) Similarly, it suits him to consider an old and illiterate black woman incapable of turning her biblical tradition into a tormented accusation of the landowning class, that class whose interest Gavin Stevens, as a public servant, in large part serves.

Similarly, it may well suit Isaac to bear witness to the unwitnessed drowning of Eunice as a "suicide" for which his grandfather is responsible:
 he seemed to see her actually walking into the icy creek on that
 Christmas day six months before her daughter's and her lover's (Her
 first lover's he thought. Her first) child was born, solitary,
 inflexible, griefless, ceremonial, in formal and succinct
 repudiation of grief and despair who had already had to repudiate
 belief and hope that was all. He would never need to look at the
 ledgers again nor did he (p. 200)

Given how little we actually know, what Isaac "actually" and oxymoronically "seemed" to see strains credibility.

To summarize: purchased in New Orleans in 1807, and married (perhaps already pregnant) to Thucydus in 1809 (she gives birth to Tomasina in 1810, though the entry specifies no month, for either marriage or birth), Eunice may or may not have been L.Q.C.'s concubine. Planters purchased female slaves of "breedable" age to renew their labor force. L.Q.C.'s sanctioning of the Thucydus/Eunice "marriage" may indeed have been a convenience within which to hide his own miscegenated daughter; but equally it may have been his kindly attempt to give some semblance of social form to persons who within the peculiar institution were held to be "socially dead" (26)--that is, as having no legal right to familial connection. We should remember that the ledgers allow a reading in which Thucydus is L.Q.C.'s half-brother, one to whom L.Q.C. may feel that muted family acknowledgment is due. If L.Q.C.'s father had an unacknowledged "shadow family" (Thucydus from Fibby) over which L.Q.C. quit Carolina for Mississippi, the notion that L.Q.C. should travel all the way from Jefferson to New Orleans in order to purchase a wife for a valued half-brother is at least viable: Isaac, of course, begs to differ, insisting that Tomey's Turl, Eunice's grandson by her daughter. Tomasina, is doubly whitened from the same culpable white source. He offers his sixteen-year-old memory of himself at the age of ten as a reliable witness to Tomey's TurFs paternal and grandpaternal inheritance:
 And Tomey's Terrel was still alive when the boy [Isaac] was ten
 years old and he knew from his own observation and memory that there
 had already been some white in Tomey's Terrel's blood before his
 father [L.Q.C.] gave him the rest of it. (p. 200)

Yet, as just indicated, Turl's whiteness may come from his grandmother Fibby's liaison with Isaac's great-grandfather, L.Q.C.'s father. The ten-year-old has an answer: he can tell, based on "observation and memory," that Turl was partially white prior to conception and yet whiter at conception. So articulated, the claim is nonsense; we have drawn out its foolishness, because Faulkner's phrasing invites readers to do as much. Plainly "to observe" can mean "to hold to," "to give heed to," or "to honor," any or all of which phrases mean "noticing" or "attending" to a received truth (concerning Turl's ancestry, for example). But "observation" also and primarily involves the activity of looking; "to watch," or "to regard with attention"--such "observation" rests firmly on the verb "to see." How can Isaac possibly see what he claims to have seen in Turl? A degree of prenatal, even pre-conceptual, whiteness? That he should make such a claim three lines before seeming "to see" Eunice's suicide requires readers to question his sight, particularly given that what he chooses to see is a version of himself, "solitary," "inflexible" and intent on "formal ... repudiation." Isaac, aged sixteen, is perhaps secretly in the commissary at night (p. 198), using the ledgers to prepare a case for his own formal repudiation of his inheritance on his twenty-first birthday. In Eunice he finds himself. That Eunice happens to die on Christmas day is grist to the creative mill of a repudiator who self-consciously adopts Christ's role as a celibate and propertyless carpenter. (27) In effect, Isaac gives imaginative birth to Eunice-as-suicide so that she can stand in iconic and prefigurative relation to his own social suicide (more of this later). Not everything fits; Isaac is hardly "succinct" or "griefless." But, even so, the text raises doubts about critical assumptions that Isaac knows what he is talking about when he claims insight into Eunice's acts or motives.

With Eunice in place as she who suicidally repudiates L.Q.C.'s sustained abuse of the body of slaves, Isaac has grounds for his own parallel repudiation of McCaslin land, projected through the Eunice-Tomasina-L.Q.C. triangle as a serially raped and abused inheritance. For a second time on a single page of text, Faulkner uses "that was all" to punctuate Isaac's thought, abruptly and without punctuation. The phrase is a full-stop. As in the first instance, the stoppage is followed by an immediate appeal to "the yellowed pages," previously perceived as "old frail pages"; where the earlier pages "turn of their own accord," here they "fad[e]" in "implacable succession" (p. 200). Everything about our reading of the ledgers thus far argues that there is almost nothing automatic, inexorable, or sequential about the "succession" of their pages. Isaac disagrees: in 1883, "looking down at the yellowed page spread beneath the yellow glow of the lantern," "chill" in the "midnight room" (p. 200), he finds his history and establishes, through his imaginary sighting of Eunice's death, that causality which will provide him with his own cause. (28) The historian, traditionally, is he or she who can turn one thing (and its documents) after another thing (and its documents) into one thing because of another. (29) The emergence of causation perhaps necessarily requires that some aspects of the documents recede from attention. Nonetheless, the suasion of that causality must surely depend on an available and traced relation to the documented evidence. Faulkner's attention to the historian's exact relation to his documents, at this crucial point, invites the reader, to consider the extent to which Isaac fixes his evidence. We can have little confidence in the assurance that he has so internalized the ledgers that they are "as much a part of his consciousness ... as the fact of his own nativity ..." (p. 200). His own occlusion of his father's problematic sexuality--as "Was" affirms--indicates that Isaac knows and wants to know as little as possible little about his own "nativity." The ledgers, like that "nativity," will be misconceived if left to the safe keeping of Isaac's head.

But to return, for a moment, to the supposed reasons for Eunice's death. Much of the evidence for L.Q.C.'s miscegenation lies outside the ledgers in family lore; but the reading of that lore as implying a double and incestuous miscegenation is, again, exclusively Isaac's. (30) In other words, and in terms of the evidence of the novel, family lore has it only that L.Q.C. fathers Turl on Tomasina. Isaac alone will have it that he also fathered Tomasina on Eunice. In "Was," Hubert Beauchamp insists that "he wouldn't have that damn white half-McCaslin [Turl] on his place even as a free gift" (p. 7): "half-McCaslin" implies a white father and no more. In "The Fire and the Hearth," Lucas Beauchamp mentions his "white half-brothers" (p. 82) and here in part 4 of "The Bear" Isaac notes that Lucas has outlived Buck and Buddy, his "white half-brothers" (p. 199). Family lore is not to be discounted, but if we are to take it seriously, we must also note that as Lucas prepares himself to die in his confrontation with Zack Edmonds over his wife Molly, he thinks:
 All I got to give up is McCaslin blood that rightfully aint even
 mine or at least aint worth much since old Carothers never seemed
 to miss much what he give to Tomey that night that made my father.
 (p. 44)

Lucas makes no mention of incest as he faces Zack and articulates his relation to the McCaslin/Edmonds line: the phrasing of his admission argues strongly for a sexual relationship between L.Q.C. and Tomasina, though not at all for one between L.Q.C. and Eunice. In any case, clear above all else is that L.Q.C.'s utter wickedness is largely Isaac's narrative construct--one that allows him to displace onto his grandfather his father's acts of homosexual incest and miscegenation. Isaac's quarrel, then, is not crucially with his grandfather (he doesn't in fact even mention his grandfather's depredations to Cass as they argue throughout part 4) but with his father.


At the outset of this essay we spoke loosely of the "repression" of the Brownlee materials; the manner of that repression now needs elucidation. "Repression" may not be the right term, since the Brownlee page is set to one side rather than rendered unreadable. What lies latent in its disclosure is not a "primal scene" or an early event misremembered through the screen of a later event because its materials are too shocking for conscious thought. (31) Isaac may not want to read about the "oral intercourse" of his father and uncle or to consider a love triangle terminated in a stall of the family barn, but he is not Wolf Man: nothing in the text indicates that he has seen the scenes of seduction which he would rather not face in reading about them. Of course, the ledger entries are cryptic, after the manner of a chronicle or any drastically occasional jotting; and consequently their meaning has to be extracted hesitantly from abbreviation and aporia, and is therefore necessarily provisional. But the Brownlee entries are not encrypted by the force of a traumatic witnessing which works through them to deny witness. We do not take the language of the ledgers, though littered with errata, as the stuff of slip and error, best read through the psychoanalytic. Let us be very clear: bestiality in the barn does not here constitute a first event crucial to reference and yet unavailable to the act of reference. The phrase "wrong stall" (p. 196) does not enact a stand-off between the event and its representation. The erratic signs on the Brownlee page are not for Isaac under a contradictory pressure to reveal what they cannot finally reveal, an unavoidable first event, "which cannot be assimilated into the continuity of [Isaac's] psychic life." (32) This is not to say that they are unmarked by the work of concealment, but rather that their lack of transparency is lodged somewhere between the understandable evasions of the original scriptors and the equally understandable reluctance of their son and nephew to unlock the family closet.

Yet at sixteen, having taken the commissary key from the bedroom of his sleeping cousin and stand-in father, McCaslin Edmonds (p. 196), he ensconces himself in front of the ledgers he has read before and, knowing what he will find (p. 198), opens the book to the Brownlee page. The contents must, therefore, fascinate him, even though he simply rereads the page, virtually without comment, before passing to "the specific tragedy" (p. 196) of Eunice, her daughter, and his grandfather. The two triangulated stories share affinities which allow the pattern of Isaac's reading to effect a structural occlusion: Buck, Buddy, and Brownlee enact in their permutations both incest and miscegenation; L.Q.C., Eunice, and Tomasina enact in Isaac's permutation of them a tighter miscegenous incest. In effect, the first page under Isaac's hand is dispossessed or overwritten by the later pages. Isaac cannot complete his act of concealment since he discloses that act by leaving the Brownlee page prominently in place as a prefatory note to his historical reconstruction of his grandfather's wickedness. Had the two stories been manifestly different, the second would not have matched and masked the first. Isaac's textual stratagem would be entirely pointless if the materials he sought to disguise did not possess for him an illicit and instigating force.

How then may the Brownlee page exert influence over our understanding of the ledgers? Though Isaac and generations of critics (33) have refused to think about them, the Brownlee entries do not constitute the unthinkable. Indeed, the very gaps, opacities, lacunae, and cesuras in the Brownlee story offer themselves as a narrative running counter to Isaac's ledger-based emplotment, and perhaps to the larger narrative of "The Bear." The word "Spintrius," for example, blows the cover of its constraining parenthesis, infusing a typographical oddity--")"--with unforgettable spatial oddity. "Spintrius" is Buddy's word, by which he invokes his father and renames Brownlee; but its utterance within the ledger achieves a polyvocal perversity which threatens the name of the father. L.Q.C. may be called by one son to rebuke the "adultery" of another, but to do so. he must acknowledge the twins' sexuality. The father (even the projected father) who acknowledges incest between his sons may feel obliged to question his own parenting. "Spintrius," in Buddy's hand, solicits all manner of improprieties.

But why are its improprieties so troubling? A recent strand of Faulkner scholarship based in the work, among others, of Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, would nominate "homosexual panic" (34): set among such readings, Isaac confronts Brownlee as a crisis in his own sexual definition. Once masculinity is thought of not as a given but as "a regulatory practice that produces the bodies it governs," (35) or as a materialization of the effects of power, biology shifts toward performance. Recast, the gendered body becomes a social inscription, iterated and reiterated by way of the subject's acts of identification, and by that subject's disavowal of the other identifications. Buffer's subject is therefore only as stable as the normative practices into which it is born, and through which it grows. Whatever the state of those practices, Buffer makes the case that sexual identity retains the marks of that from which it "disidentifies." (36) She puts her argument aphoristically: "since bodies that matter do so by refusing to be other bodies, which are declared not to matter, those normative bodies remain haunted by the acts of refusal which tie them to what they exclude." She continues:
 This exclusionary matrix by which subjects are formed thus
 requires the simultaneous production of a domain of abject beings,
 those who are not yet "subjects," but who form the constitutive
 outside to the domain of the subject. The abject designates here
 precisely those "unlivable" and "uninhabitable" zones of social
 life which are nevertheless densely populated by those who do not
 enjoy the status of the subject, but whose living under the sign
 of the "unlivable" is required to circumscribe the domain of the
 subject. (p. 3)

We prefer Butler's "exclusionary matrix" to Susan Donaldson's more user-friendly claim that "the whole of [Faulkner's] career is marked by his attraction to the blurring of sexual boundaries and by his horrified response to that possibility," (37) because Buffer's phrasing allows that "panic" involves a "horrified response" to "unlivable" forms of social life, whose ramifications are close to unthinkable for reasons that are not exclusively sexual. That which Isaac's panic may be thought to put aside is not simply a father's penetration of a male slave, though of course it is that, but it is also a fascinated refusal of the prohibited in several "unlivable" forms and barely "uninhabitable zones." Isaac turns back to Brownlee, as though to a prefatory document incompletely refused, because from the Brownlee entries he might recover the very limits of the existing order within which he lives, and of the categories through which he thinks about that life. We would stress that, aged sixteen, alone, at night, furtively, in the commissary, he seeks evidence for a future repudiation, aged twenty-one, of his inheritance. He wants to effect a revolution, and will eventually do it (if only for himself) through the fabrication of L.Q.C.'s founding and insufferable act of miscegenous incest. Yet on the Brownlee ledger pages, if releasable from the lock of sexual panic, he faces evidence of his father's and his uncle's local and revolutionary practices. What frees him, momentarily and partially, from panic and its attendant attempt to exclude the Brownlee materials from relevance, is the memory of his father's house; or, more properly, of the house his father and uncle create as an apt home for Percival Brownlee.

Just prior to commentary on Buck's and Buddy's handwriting (p. 195), Faulkner has Isaac recall the McCaslin plantation house, after L.Q.C.'s death (1837) and prior to his parents' marriage (probably in 1865 or 1866). The dates are important in so far as they establish this house as the house where Brownlee would have lived but in which Isaac never truly lived, although he was born in a later manifestation of it. On L.Q.C.'s death the twins quit the incomplete "edifice" of their family home for a one-roomed cabin built primarily by their own labor. They redeploy the great house as a "domicile" for the McCaslin slaves. The arrangement presumably runs from 1837 until Sophonsiba marries Buck; at which point Isaac's mother takes back the house, spending her Beauchamp dowry on its completion and furbishment. Isaac is born not only into a much changed house but also into the history of those changes. We will quote at length to establish his implied immersion in the lore of his birthplace--a place traceably haunted, for this child, by rumors of once-lived but now "unliveable" forms of life, and containing rooms where house-servants can only have whispered of abjected acts in "zones" beyond current "dominion":
 each sundown the brother who superintended the farming would parade
 the negroes as a first sergeant dismisses a company, and herd them
 willynilly, man woman and child, without question protest or
 recourse, into the tremendous abortive edifice scarcely yet out of
 embryo, as if even old Carothers McCaslin had paused aghast at the
 concrete indication of his own vanity's boundless conceiving: he
 would call his mental roll and herd them in and with a hand-wrought
 nail as long as a flenching-knife and suspended from a short
 deer-hide thong attached to the door-jamb for that purpose, he would
 nail to the door of that house which lacked half its windows and had
 no hinged back door at all, so that presently and for fifty years
 afterward, when the boy himself was big enough to hear and remember
 it, there was in the land a sort of folk-tale: of the countryside
 all night long full of skulking McCaslin slaves dodging the moonlit
 roads and the Patrolriders to visit other plantations, and of the
 unspoken gentlemen's agreement between the two white men and the two
 dozen black ones that, after the white man had counted them and
 driven the home-made nail into the front door at sundown, neither of
 the white men would go around behind the house and look at the back
 door, provided that all the negroes were behind the front one when
 the brother who drove it drew out the nail again at daybreak.
 (pp. 193-194)

Buck and Buddy know in 1837 what Ab Snopes knew during the 1890s, that a plantation house is "nigger sweat" with columns, (38) but they know it from the perspective of the owners. Hence their decision not to live in their own house and, further, to display its ruin by inverting its purposes: they make their great house into the quarters. Faulkner's choice of the verb "to domicile" rather than "to quarter" (p. 193) exactly catches the brothers' intent and its limits. The ledgers record that they freed Roskus, Fibby, and Thucydus, an act indicating their aim to manage free rather than bound labor; yet during the 1830s in the frontier South, manumission was difficult: the ledgers note that none of the freed were forced to leave. The twins' emancipations grow gestural, and the quarters remain a quarters, though recast as upmarket "domicile[s]." We should not, however, dismiss Buck's and Buddy's liberatory performances, since they are sustained, subversive, and founded on traced economic losses. They put the slave where the master should be, mastering their labor forces in a parody of bondage, whose expression "willynilly" mocks the inescapable fact that slavery in the 1830s and the 1840s was an embattled institution, held in place by compulsory pass systems, by complex patterns of surveillance, and by "the obligatory involvement of all white members of the community in the implementation of the laws." (39) One historian comments that the plantocracy administered "a strung-out society," strung-out because the blacks "were in the south in such number and manner as they were," and that manner "was recurrently rebellious." (40) It can hardly have helped the equipoise of planters that two of their number were by day mocking procedures for policing and by night conniving at the release of twenty-four "skulking slaves" to play runaway with the Patrollers. The McCaslin slaves are, at the very least, emancipated on a nightly pass, and in some cases by name and fully. Our point is that the twins do the best they can, producing a labor force that though "not free," is, in the conventional sense, "not slave" either. (41) Their version of the peculiar institution is truly peculiar. Except, that is, for Brownlee, who is an exception because Buck buys him, considers selling him, and only eventually frees him.

How then can we speak of a house that Faulkner characterized as misruled as being apt to Brownlee? The key to Brownlee's affinity to the place, and to the place as prefatory to Brownlee, is the nail, read in the fullness of its innuendo. But before we draw that singular nail, let us briefly reprise what the ledgers establish about Brownlee. He is a homosexual. He is useless as labor, either in house or field. His sexuality compounds his uselessness in that he cannot serve in the reproduction of labor. The goods he yields involve neither work nor product. His body is exclusively a locus of desire, increasingly accounted for in terms of price. He achieves autonomy as a carrier of labor power in his own body--that is, without dependency on property or person. On all these counts and because he is male, Brownlee is anomalous within a system of bound labor.

Unfit for slavery, he fits in a house where slave practices are subject to mirth and reversal. Indeed, the McCaslin plantation house would be the house that Brownlee built, were Brownlee capable of labor. It is designed for his body. The key "hand-wrought" to Buck's hand, lengthy and on display at the front, all but announces penile purpose, particularly since its function is to seal a front entrance while opening one at the back. L.Q.C. raised the house as an "embryo" "tremendously-conceived" (pp. 194, 193) to express his "boundless conceiving": (42) the rhetoric is vaginal, but if old Carothers' conception is to reach full term its inheritors must have sons and its slaves must breed, and neither looks likely in a house whose back door is so much used. Mere mention of the "unhinged" portal "fifty years afterward" is enough to give the young Isaac an editorially problematic hard-on. The text in the Library of America edition (1994) reads, "when the boy himself was big enough to hear and remember it," although the typescript setting copy and the 1990 Vintage edition both read, "when the boy himself was big to hear and remember": "enough" is just enough of a fig-leaf to cover Isaac's excitement at the "folk-tale[s]" that circulate about what went on around the back of the McCaslin "barn-like edifice" (p. 193). Buck and Buddy run a gay house, in both the old and the newer senses of that term, perhaps a bawdy house, certainly a house that is the focus of sustained anal innuendo.

The innuendo is problematic, not in and of itself, but in that its focus and key is Brownlee, without whose page the plantation might pass as unruly, but not as anally so. Isaac will do his best to suppress the Brownlee entries. How then are we to take his responsiveness to the back-door anecdotes? Faulkner describes the house in free indirect discourse, that is, in a voice whose double orientation allows authorial speech and the consciousness of a character to co-exsist: they may "speak at the same time" from within single terms or phrases, producing "split referents" (43) whose meanings interfere with one another to yield oscillation within the word between the viewpoints of author and character. So, for example: Faulkner likens the elaborately phallic nail to a "flenching-knife," a comparison which renders the knife two-edged: a "flenching" or "flensing" knife was the instrument used to strip blubber from whales; Faulkner here draws on Moby-Dick, (44) whose very title is grist to innuendo (of author and character). However, the reference to an implement for flaying may be taken as rebarbative, or as threatening to those who indulge in anal thoughts or desires. Here, Isaac's inflection could be considered dominant, though the "deer-hide thong" presages how the boy may sublate his illicit desire into the acceptable homosocial context of the hunting camp.

The text concerning the McCaslin house between 1837 and ca. 1867 is unstable because two-faced, in that it serves two consciousnesses. Identifying the operative consciousness at any point--author or character--is difficult and at times too close to call. As a result the source of the innuendo remains unresolved. We appreciate it but do not know to whom it should be attributed. The distinction matters because the degree to which Isaac responds to the tall tales is the degree to which he receives his father's desires as something other than that which must be disavowed. The higher his degree of responsiveness, the more the nail unlocks; where the nail may be understood as the key to Isaac's capacity to realize the fullness of Brownlee's subversions--subversions which attach to the nexus of Isaac's sexuality and life, once the prohibition on that desire and its social implications is undone. We would note that the back-door tales refer to the rear entrance of the house in which Isaac was raised. As "folk-tale[s] ... in the land" they may be thought of as African American stories passed between field worker and house servant. Presumably, the boy Isaac overhears them from talkers who appreciate that they are letting the future master of the house listen in on home-truths, dense with lives once lived and now unlivable. In Butler's terms, the tale tellers excite the boy with news from an "uninhabitable zone," briefly repopulated with "abject[ed]" beings who may yet be admitted to social life, and who once lived in the rooms where he now lives.

The implications of Brownlee and of Buck and Buddy's involvement with him are dense. His story at least implicitly persists within the black speech community. As we read it, Isaac hears the tales and reads the relevant ledger page but cannot face what he encounters. He obfuscates the radical potential of what he hears and sees, encrypting and secreting his father's story within an altogether more tellable fiction about his grandfather. Incestuous miscegenation between a white man and two black women allows him a clear villain and a family narrative. Incestuous miscegenation involving white brothers and a black male strains the extant genealogical limits of the family plot, and potentially draws from hiding intimations of alternative ways of living within an abusive system. Since at age sixteen Isaac wants to quit that system, and looks to find justification for doing so, he leaves hidden materials that might have required him to read, think, and live in different ways.


After the Brownlee page and in the wake of the Eunice entries, Isaac assures himself that he "would never need to look at the ledgers again" and, Faulkner assures us, "nor did he"--a double assurance that unsettles his and our reading of the remaining entries. Do we take them to be faithfully reproduced from the ledgers or as functions of Isaac's fallible memory? The first entry introduces the Beauchamps into the family:
 Tennie Beauchamp 21yrs Won by Amodeus McCaslin from Hubert Beauchamp
 Esqre Possible Strait against three Treys in sigt Not called 1859
 Marrid to Tomys Turl 1859 (p. 200)

Tennie Beauchamp takes us back to the chase and the poker game in "Was," wherein Turl and Sophonsiba, Uncle Hubert's maiden sister, conspire to trap Buck into marriage with Sophinsoba so that Turl can marry Tennie: which conspiracy fails, thanks to Buddy's bluff and Tomey's Turl's handling of the cards. Tennie is a mysterious figure throughout the novel, a hovering presence even when only represented by her son Tennie's Jim. She becomes Isaac's nurse and is present to him always through her "inscrutable face" (p. 225). Tennie's date of emancipation is not recorded here, perhaps because it came at the end of the War or because McCaslin (who at some point takes over the ledgers) didn't keep obituaries in the ledgers, as had Buck and Buddy. She lives at least to 1898, long enough "to see a grandson by her last living child" (p. 201). Lucas, "her last living child," would be nine years old in 1883; Lucas's son Henry (b. 1898) is her grandchild. There follow entries recording her progeny, the first in Buck's hand:
 Amodeus McCaslin Beauchamp Son of Tomes Turl @ Tennie Beauchamp
 1859 dide 1859

Buddy takes up the recording, because Buck is now a soldier in Forrest's cavalry (p. 201). Presumably, Buck goes to war as the more male of the couple--and he would not be the only male in Faulkner's work to look upon military service as a way to escape marriage.

Tenny and Turl's second child, born in 1862, also dies, apparently of starvation (p. 201). The third child, James, born in 1863, lives. Faulkner's commentary on the survival of the child James reveals a divided response. Buddy reacts emphatically his script is "clearer, fuller, more carefully written and spelled" as if he "had taken as an omen for renewed hope the fact that this nameless inheritor of slaves was at least remaining alive long enough to receive a name" (p. 201). Isaac contradicts his uncle, attributing James's survival rather to "Tennie's perseverance" and to "the fading and diluted ghost of old Carothers' ruthlessness" as it "conquered even starvation" (p. 201). "Of" in the curious locution, "nameless inheritor of slaves," can only mean "from" (as in "descended from"), since under no circumstances in 1864 could James have owned slaves. Nonetheless, "of" gives the reader sufficient pause over the issue of inheritance to hear a whispered dispute. Buddy's "clearer," "fuller" inscription, at the very least, challenges the commentary's appeal to the genealogical continuity (in James) of L.Q.C.'s "fading and diluted" specter. Isaac, sensing the challenge of the calligraphy, badmouths the calligrapher. He notes of the careful script, that Buddy "should have been a woman to begin with," presumably because lettering is women's work. Isaac's interpolation reaches back toward an initial summary of attitudes toward the twins in "Was," which noted that Uncle Buddy never went to fetch Turl from Hubert Beauchamp's, "even though they all knew that Uncle Buddy could have risked it ten times as much as Uncle Buck could have dared" (p. 7). Together these passages suggest that Buddy is the more feminine brother, or at least the more confidently homosexual of the two. The passage from "Was" further implies that the twins' relationship is fairly common knowledge among their friends and acquaintances, though to be sure there might be other reasons for their assuming that Buddy was less marriageable than Buck. But the point to be taken from Isaac's dismissal of his uncle's gendered calligraphy is that Buck's son, raised in large part by a bisexual father and a gay uncle, is hypersensitive to homosexual marks and latencies in his immediate family. That which cannot speak its name haunts the text with mute reminders, including Isaac's description of his own handwriting, less than half a page distant, when he himself begins to add to the ledgers and notes how his own handwriting "queerly" resembles "not his father's nor his uncle's" but rather "that of his grandfather" (p. 202). The adverb reclaims what the comparison disclaims, all but announcing that the queer phalli lie in Isaac's writing hand rather than the reassuring, because simply evil, heterosexual phallus of L.Q.C. Such fine distinctions are highly suggestive of Isaac's fearful questioning of his own masculinity, and offer perhaps another explanation of the failure of his marriage and of his decidedly homosocial life in the big woods.

The normally laconic Buddy records the birth of Tennie's Jim with considerably more information than he usually gives.
 James Thucydus Beauchamp Son of Tomes Turl and Tenny Beauchamp Born
 29th december 1864 and both Well Wanted to call him Theophilus but
 Tride Amodeus McCaslin and Callina McCaslin and both dide so
 Disswaded Them Born at Two clock A, m, both Well (p. 201)

His interest in the naming of Tennie's and Turl's children seems significant. It would, of course, have been the owner's right to name his slaves' children, but Buddy does not here seem to be claiming that right. It is not clear who "Wanted to call [James] Theophilus," nor who "Disswaded Them." Perhaps Buddy talked the parents out of it, or perhaps the premature death of the first son, named Amodeus McCaslin Beauchamp, was taken as auguring bad luck to those named after the twins. Perhaps Tennie and Turl tell Buddy that they thought of naming Jim after him, but that the early death of the first-born, Amodeus, was sufficient reason not to. Instead, they name Jim after his own grandfather Thucydus. Alternatively, the parents desired to name the child for Buddy, but desisted at Buddy's "disswasion." Whoever persuaded whom (and grammatically the entry is a riddle, turning on the distribution of the omitted pronouns "I" and "they"), what remains inescapably clear from the highly compacted episode is Buddy's sheer delight at James's survival ("both Well"), and his determination to do historical justice to the birth and naming of the child ("Two clock A,m,both Well"). As "they" (Turl and Tennie) and "I" (Buddy) pass into and out of one another's subject positions, the relationship between the twins and of the slave family emerges not as Isaac's "curse" or "doom," but as a manifestly mutual and negotiated affection in the dreadful circumstances of 1864.

The entry for James's birth and naming is the last entry for two years, until James's twenty-first birthday, when he disappears. But by this time the twins have added to their father's $1000 legacy to his presumptive black son Turl another $2000, to allow James's two surviving siblings to share in that legacy (p. 202), a legacy they can claim on their twenty-first birthdays. With reference to that legacy, Isaac records a very curious detail concerning James. He notes that James
 Vanished sometime on night of his twenty-first birthday Dec 29 1885.
 Traced by Isaac McCaslin to Jackson Tenn. and there lost. His third
 of legacy $1000.00 returned to McCaslin Edmonds Trustee this day
 Jan 12 1886

Isaac's orthography is considerably more "correct" and grammatical than the twins'. But he doesn't try to explain why James would have stayed on the plantation until his twenty-first birthday, only to leave, disappear, without claiming his thousand dollars. Does this perhaps suggest that he didn't know about the bequest (unlikely), and that he simply left upon attaining his majority? The notion that James, unhappy on the plantation, should delay his departure when nothing prevented it is curious. Perhaps he stays so long at Tennie's request? We do not know why he leaves, though it may be significant that in "The Fire and the Hearth" when, on reaching twenty-one, Lucas, Jim's younger brother, presents himself at Isaac's bungalow to ask for "The rest of that money ... Old Master left for pappy," Isaac reacts defensively, asserting "It's not mine to give or withhold either. It was your father's.... I tried to find Jim" (p. 84). He insists that "All [Lucas] ... had to do was ask for it," and he immediately elaborates: "All you, any of you, would have had to do would be to come to me" (p. 84). Isaac's attitude to his executor's task is proprietorial: he can and does dress it up in an echo of the gospel: "suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me" (Matthew 19:4). But apparently the black inheritors must actually ask for the money to get it. Even at sixteen, viewing the "scarred and cracked backs" of the shelved ledgers, Isaac supposes their "doubtless tedious record" in tones whose heavy reliance on the possessive pronoun sits ill with his announced concern for the dispossessed. He perceives the ledgers as the record
 not alone of his own flesh and blood but of all his people, not only
 the whites but the black ones too, who were as much a part of his
 ancestry as his white progenitors, and of the land which they had
 all held and used in common.... (p. 198)

The McCaslin plantation is not in fact held "in common": that the child who will repudiate its inheritance should think it is might surprise its workers, though they might have expected sentimentality from an enemy of private property so ready to be rhetorically proprietorial about ("his people," black and white). Perhaps, then, neither James nor Sophonsiba could play Sambo for Isaac on the relevant birthday. Certainly Isaac is troubled by Lucas's prompt and palpable failure to claim economic independence with that due deference associated with dependency.

The next entry is in Buck's "almost indecipherable" left-handed writing, left-handed because his right suffers from the "rheumatism which now crippled him." He has spent the final years of the war as a soldier in Forrest's cavalry, following the sword "of the only man ever breathing who ever sold him a negro, let alone beat him in a trade" (p. 202). Thus the text directly invokes Percival Brownlee yet again, as preface to the penultimate and final ledger entries, both of which involve Isaac's control over his family's heritage. The last two entries record Tennie's and Turl's last two children, and the narratives about these entries involve the money Isaac's grandfather, father, and uncle have provided for Turl's immediate descendants. For a man trying to get out from under his own inheritance, Isaac seems hell-bent on making sure that this money gets distributed properly, and that he gets to distribute it.
 Miss sophonsiba b dtr t t @ t 1869 (p. 202)

 Lucas Quintus Carothers McCaslin Beauchamp. Last surviving son and
 child of Tomey's Terrel and Tennie Beauchamp. March 17,
 1874 (p. 208)

Having been unable to track dowd James, Isaac, at great effort and considerable expense, tracks Fonsiba to Arkansas. We should note that each effort and every expense by the will's executor compounds that executor's crucial misattribution of the phrase "Fathers will" (p. 199). In the light of Isaac's fabrication of his grandfather's culpability, his rainsoaked and "interminable" journey as one of the Magi bearing a "secret golden girdle" into the "roadless and even pathless waste ... and wilderness jungle" of Arkansas (p. 205) should be reinflected as a reiteration of an initial error. The announced and celebrated trials of the executor, like the executor's reading of crucial elements of the ledgers, are founded on faulty exegesis.


One other ledger of sorts records yet another of Isaac's legacies, this from his Beauchamp ancestors, initiated by his Uncle Hubert, his mother's brother. This legacy, however, originates as pieces of gold that Isaac's mother's brother, his Uncle Hubert, puts in a silver cup, at Isaac's birth, for Isaac to have upon reaching twenty-one. The intended legacy is thus "no pale sentence or paragraph scrawled in cringing fear of death by a weak and trembling hand," but rather
 a Legacy, a Thing, possessing weight to the hand and bulk to the eye
 and even audible: a silver cup filled with gold pieces and wrapped
 in burlap and sealed with his godfather's ring.... (p. 223)

The Beauchamp "ledger" is actually a series of I.O.U.s recording Uncle Hubert's "borrowings" from the gold in the cup. Opened, all that remains of the "Legacy," the "Thing," are the I.O.U.s. Hubert's good intentions fail for reasons the episode hints at but does not make completely clear.

The episode follows the dramatic conclusion of Isaac's argument with Cass over his repudiation, a conversation which ends with his well-known locution, "Sam Fathers set me free" (p. 222)--a problematic assertion, at best, since the last things fathers in Faulkner ever do is set their sons free. The paragraph which records Isaac's declaration of freedom continues to describe his "free" life; he lives "in one small cramped fireless rented room in a Jefferson boarding-house" with his "brand-new carpenter's tools and the shotgun McCaslin had given him with his name engraved in silver," General Compson's "compass (and ... silver-mounted horn too)," the "iron cot and mattress" and the "bright tin coffee-pot" (p. 222)--a spartan freedom, indeed. The paragraph ends with no punctuation, and Faulkner ushers us back into the uncapitalized and sparsely punctuated format he had used earlier when detailing Isaac's encounter with the ledgers. He also returns us to the unstable locutions of the free indirect discourse which characterizes his treatment of those plantation ledgers.

The episode is important not just for what it tells us of Uncle Hubert's legacy, but for what little it tells us of Isaac's very early life--his life particularly in relation to his mother, his introduction to sexuality as something both miscegenous and shameful. The paragraph begins to describe Hubert's gift: "there had been a legacy, from his Uncle Hubert Beauchamp" (p. 222). But Isaac comes to the I.O.U.s by way of a brief family history and a crucial vignette of his very early years. After Buck marries Sophonsiba, they move into the McCaslin house, the "tremendous cavern which old Carothers had started and never finished." They "cleared the remaining negroes out of it" and used Sophonsiba's dowry "to complete it" (p. 223). Buddy refuses to leave the cabin he and Buck had lived in.

Uncle Hubert is very ceremonial about the gold coins: when Isaac is two weeks old he counts the coins one by one into the silver cup, encloses the gift in the burlap and seals the package, while Isaac's "mother and his father and McCaslin and Tennie (his nurse: carrying him) ... watched" (p. 223), then carries it back home to keep. Perhaps not so curiously, Buddy is not there to witness.

Isaac and parents visit Warwick infrequently, with some reluctance on Buck's part, apparently--"at last his mother would prevail" (p. 223)--to drive the twenty-two miles to Warwick. When Uncle Buddy "beg[ins] to fail," apparently even Buck refuses to go with them, so the group becomes Isaac, his mother, Tennie, his nurse, and Tomey's Turl to drive, to visit Hubert in the house his mother still insists upon calling Warwick "because her brother was if truth but triumphed and justice but prevailed the rightful earl of it" (p. 224). One traumatic visit abrupts into the narrative, again in a parenthesis, which reveals it even as Isaac's memory tries to repress it, since it occurs when Isaac is less than three years old (p. 230): the interruptive parenthesis forms a structural parallel with that which occludes the Brownlee page. Isaac "remembers" in "an instant, a flash" how they catch Hubert in flagrante delicto with a young negro woman, and Isaac reacts with shame and excitement:
 a face young and female and even lighter in color than Tomey's
 Terrel's for an instant in a closing door; a swirl, a glimpse of
 the silk gown and the flick and glint of an ear-ring: all
 apparition rapid and tawdry and illicit yet somehow even to the
 child, the infant still almost, breathless and exciting and
 evocative: as though, like two limpid and pellucid streams
 meeting, the child which he still was had made serene and
 absolute and perfect rapport and contact through that glimpsed
 nameless illicit hybrid female flesh with the boy which had
 existed at that stage of inviolable and immortal adolescence
 in his uncle for almost sixty years.... (p. 224)

His mother is outraged, the more so that the black woman wears her dress, as if that somehow compounds Hubert's act. Hubert responds first with denial: "She's my cook! She's my new cook! I had to have a cook, didn't I?" and then with self-justification: "They're free now! They're folks too just like we are!" To which his sister responds with the outcry, "That's why! That's why! My mother's house! Defiled! Defiled!" (pp. 224-225).

Several impressions imprint themselves on the young Isaac's memory, most importantly that of "Tennie's inscrutable face" as she watches an instance of that miscegenation which had produced her husband, perhaps even herself (p. 225), and the retreating mistress:
 the back, the nameless face which he had seen only for a moment,
 the once-hooped dress ballooning and flapping below a man's
 overcoat, the worn heavy carpet-bag jouncing and banging against
 her knee, routed and in retreat true enough and in the empty
 lane solitary young-looking and forlorn yet withal still exciting
 and evocative and wearing still the silken banner captured inside
 the very citadel of respectability, and unforgettable. (p. 225)

This scene gives us almost all we know of Isaac's life before he began hunting. If it is not strictly a "primal" scene in the Freudian sense, it seems to function like one, by providing a partially repressed memory of a childhood trauma that marked his consciousness forever; it is the only such scene of his family life that Faulkner gives us, and it is suggestive. Here, already, is the miscegenation that Isaac repudiates in his grandfather, accompanied by his mother's shrieks of condemnation and shame, shrieks which, arguably, he takes into himself, absorbs, and never forgets, as he never forgets the "exciting and evocative" black mistress. The scene may thus suggest a pathology for Isaac. Part of his revulsion from a compounding of his family's miscegenation is his own attraction to it: he rejects in his family what he so fears and loathes in himself. This quasi-primal scene might be thought to motivate Isaac's selective reading habits as he approaches the commissary ledgers and L.Q.C.'s hand therein.

The following paragraph introduces a curious new character. Buck and Buddy are dead (p. 226) and Hubert lives "in the almost completely empty house," Warwick, with "Tennie's ancient and quarrelsome great-grandfather" (p. 226). We do not know where the great-grandfather comes from, but "Beauchamp" is a name associated with South Carolina, and Faulkner seems clearly to be suggesting some sort of intimate family connection. The great-grandfather's brief appearance complicates even further Isaac's Beauchamp ancestry: Isaac is, we learn from Hubert's I.O.U., "Isaac Beauchamp McCaslin" (p. 227), so that he already shares a name and lineage with the black Beauchamps, long before he "discovers" how his McCaslin ancestors supply him with a black McCaslin family. That Hubert and the old man "lived, cooked and slept in one single room" may seem to hint at a relationship like that of Buck and Buddy, though the difference in their ages may argue against a homosexual relationship (he is old enough to "claim to have seen La Fayette" [p. 226] ); and, indeed, perhaps they merely live together so that the old man can care for Hubert, if he is black, or vice-versa if he is not. Faulkner does not tell us the old man's race; his being Tennie's great-grandfather might argue, but certainly does not prove, that he is part black, just as his living with Hubert might argue that he is white. Is the old man Hubert's great-grandfather too? At the very least, their living together supposes a very close relationship, doubtless a blood connection, which therefore implies a blood connection between himself, Sophonsiba and Tennie, and also a blood relationship between Isaac and Tennie. As Tennie's great-grandfather, the old man is of the generation of L.Q.C.'s father. The possible blood connection makes it reasonable to speculate that at least part of Sophonsiba's horrified reaction to Hubert's miscegenation is that her brother repeats his own ancestor's or ancestors' acts of miscegenation.

When Warwick burns down in 1870, Hubert comes to live with Buck, Sophonsiba, and Isaac; he and Tennie's great-grandfather ride "double up to the sister's door" (p. 226) and Tennie's great-grandfather disappears from the text as simply and as mysteriously as he appeared. Hubert has come to his sister's house to die, bringing with him the I.O.U.s by which he has drained Isaac's legacy. We do not know why he has "borrowed" the money, but we may reasonably guess that gold coins would have helped him keep house and home together in the decade following the end of the War; we may also reasonably guess that his mistress was an expense. As Hubert lies on his deathbed, McCaslin takes the key from him, removes the parcel from the closet, and offers it to Isaac. Since at ten years old he is only "almost halfway" to his majority, Isaac refuses, preferring to honor the terms of the legacy. At twenty-one, he and Cass open not the silver cup (which Hubert has doubtless also sold) but a tin coffee-pot and read the series of I.O.U.s, which account for the depletion. This scene takes place in 1888, in November, the month of the annual hunt, almost at exactly the same time he and Cass are arguing over his repudiation of his McCaslin legacy. While he is thus busy repudiating his McCaslin legacy, his Beauchamp legacy, so central to his repudiation of the McCaslin inheritance, has been just as busy repudiating him.


We are, to be sure, aware that the ledgers do not "prove" that Buck and Buddy are homosexual lovers any more than they "prove" that L.Q.C. fathered Tomey on his own daughter, though we are convinced that they provide much stronger evidence for our reading than for Isaac's. Even so, it is well to remind ourselves that our reading here is but a reading, and that others might reconfigure the evidence of the ledgers in ways that differ from what we and Isaac have done: one might, for example, propose the possibility that of the twins only Buck is homosexual, (45) and that Buddy's reaction to Buck's purchase of Percival Brownlee is a response first to his twin's homosexuality and second to his purchase of a slave to satisfy his lusts, even though such reasoning ignores how in "Was" and in part 4 of "The Bear" Buddy's activities as cook, housekeeper, and even sometimes nagging wife of the "couple" feminize him. No more do the ledgers prove whether L.Q.G. or Buck and Buddy freed Roskus and Fibby upon L.Q.C.'s death. Our object, however, is not to "prove" what the ledgers say or do not say on these or any other subjects. What matters here is less what the ledgers do or do not conclusively say than the recognition that readers must separate what Isaac believes and wants them to say from the evidence they supply. It is less important to prove that Buck and Buddy are homosexual lovers than to understand that Isaac believes they are, believes that his father is a homosexual miscegenator and that these beliefs, conscious or unconscious, are what drives his renunciation of the land and of his family tradition, not his grandfather's presumptive heterosexual miscegenation and incest.

At top dead center of Go Down, Moses is one reader's attempt to read and interpret a written document, a reader who has his own needs to satisfy as he reads. He brings those needs to his reading--as, to be sure, do we all--and forces the text to conform to his needs, forcing from them certainty, closure, and truth--even Truth--where in fact they offer little more than quasi-related statements purporting to be facts, accumulated helter-skelter over several decades. The ledgers are, finally, uninterpretable on such matters from which Isaac desperately wants to wring meaning, and we do not pretend that we have read, or understood, these complicated ledgers to the last fragment. We do hope, however, to have untethered them and their various significations from the monolithic, unitary interpretation Isaac has imposed on them, so that we can now proceed to study them, "The Bear," and indeed Go Down, Moses on their own terms, rather than on Isaac's.

(1) William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses, in William Faulkner: Novels 1942-1954, ed. Joseph L. Blotner and Noel Polk (New York: Library of America, 1994), p. 193.

(2) Christopher Craft argues that puns actually enact a drive towards the same in so far as their sound "cunningly erases, or momentarily suspends ... semantic differences." He goes on to gender their structures, marking the pun's drive towards the "homophonic" as "homoerotic"; by contradistinction the acknowledged pun, a declared site of difference, is heard "hetero," though having been identified as a pun, it cannot escape its defining and residual homophony (which contains that which cannot be named). Craft is too clever by far: we cite him only to draw out the troubling semantic play in "oral intercourse" ("Alias Bunbury: Desire and Termination in The Importance of Being Ernest," Representations 31 (1990), 38.

(3) Our questions, here and elsewhere, at times risk the pedantry of literalism. We take that risk to be one inherent in the ledger form. The ledgers as chronicles offer an annalistic narrative, which, neither adequately sequential not all causal, leaves out more than it puts in. Isaac translates the ledgers as grounds for his own theoditic teleology: that is to say, he is a bad reader of the commissary documents in genre terms because he develops them in a form that begs no questions.

(4) Mark Tushnett, The American Law of Slavery: Considerations of Humanity and Interest (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), p.33.

(5) Eugene D. Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Capital in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 5.

(6) See Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 335,348. See also Susan Bucks-Morse, The Dialects of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997), pp. 177-185, 190-197.

(7) Winthrop Jordan (telephone interview, May 22, 2002) says he knows of no documented cases of homosexual contact between owners and slaves; he is certain such relationships existed but are not likely to have been documented. His White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), p.78, notes one case in 1630 in which an "angry Virginia court sentenced 'Hugh Davis to be soundly whipped, before an assembly of negroes and others for abusing himself to the dishonor of God and shame of Christians, by defiling his body in lying with a negro.'" Given that period's fear of miscegenation and intolerance of fornication, Jordan speculates that the negro with whom Hugh Davis lay might well have been female. But the peculiar language--"defiling his body"--seems to us to contain some horror that could not be directly named. In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Harriet Jacobs records an incident powerfully suggestive of miscegenous homosexuality: "As he [the master] lay there on his bed, a mere degraded wreck of manhood, he took into his head the strangest freaks of despotism; and if Luke [the slave] hesitated to submit to his orders, the constable was immediately sent for [to whip him]. Some of these freaks were of a nature too filthy to be repeated. When I fled from the house of bondage, I left poor Luke still chained to the bedside of this cruel and disgusting wretch." Before this we learn that "some days he was not allowed to wear any thing but his shirt, in order to be in readiness to be flogged" (Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin [Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1987], p. 192). We are grateful to Theresa Towner for calling this to our attention.

(8) At least one of Faulkner's possible sources for Buddy's word specifies that Spintrius should specialize in troilism and arcana. Suetonius's The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, of which Faulkner had a copy in his library, makes three references to "spintrae," and in relation to Tiberius's love life details their pleasures: "In his retreat at Capri there was a room devised by him dedicated to the most arcane lusts. Here he had assembled from all quarters girls and perverts, whom he called spintrae, who invented monstrous feats of lubricity, and defiled one another before him, interlaced on a series of threes in order to inflame his feeble appetite" (The Lives, ed. Joseph Gavorse [New York: Modern Library, 1931], p. 145). As so often throughout this paper, we are grateful for the scrupulous work of Nancy Dew Taylor. For fuller details on possible sources for "Spintrius" see her note to the name, Annotations to William Faulkner's "Go Down, Moses" (New York: Garland, 1994), p. 151.

(9) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick offers a useful gloss on our activity: she notes that "the potency of any signifier is proven and increased, over and over, by how visibly and spectacularly it fails to be adequate to the various signifieds over which it nonetheless seeks to hold sway. So the gaping fit between on the one hand the Name of the Family, and on the other the quite varied groupings gathered in that name, can only add to the numinous prestige of a term whose origins, histories, and uses may have little in common with our recognizable needs." Tendencies (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), p. 72.

(10) We thank Mark Clark for pointing out the chiasmus in these names.

(11) In an email communication of April 10, 2002, Allen Williams, Associate Curator of the Historic New Orleans collection at Loyola University, writes: "In all of The Historic New Orleans Collection's sources on New Orleans prostitution circa 1880, not one addresses male prostitution. Of course, the situation certainly existed, but [we] can't say there was an exclusive male brothel in the city. Al Rose's definitive study of Storyville doesn't discuss it, nor is there a reference in any of the Blue Books. This was verified by Pamela Arceneaux, head librarian and authority on the New Orleans flesh industry.... In fact, our only source concerning the gay scene is a 'Fess' Manetta interview, 'Queers in the District,' in the Bill Russell oral history cassettes. Manetta, she says, describes the scene then (circa 1915 or so) in terms which make it sound very much like the bar scene today.... Young men were sometimes kept in European female brothels to service interested clients, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was also the case here...."

(12) Faulkner did not close the break begun by the dash. In editing the Library of America text I came close to supplying one, to follow the close parenthesis on p. 196, which would have read ")--". I left the irregularity against the possibility that Faulkner might be trying in his own prose to replicate the ragged and irregular jottings of the ledger entries (NP).

(13) We should indicate that Buck and Buddy make their initial sustained appearance in The Unvanquished (1938), and more particularly in the story "Retreat." There are several differences, as one might expect: in "Retreat" Buddy goes to war, not Buck; that text makes no mention of Brownlee; the twins display no contrasting nuances of gender; the plantation key is neither suggestive nor a nail; and property, rather than sexuality lies at the center of the three-page account (The Unvanquished. William Faulkner: Novels 1936-1940, ed. Joseph L. Blotner and Noel Polk [New York: Library of America, 1990], pp. 350-353). "Retreat" specifies that Buck and Buddy operate a system for freeing their inherited slaves, whereby those slaves "buy" liberty "not in money ... but in work from the plantation" (p. 351). In addition, the earlier text notes that the twins persuade white "dirt farmers" to "pool their little patches of poor hill land along with niggers and the McCaslin plantation" (p. 352). Pooled land results in "white trash" whose families have shoes, and some of whose children go to school. Faulkner adds that such "ideas about men and land ... didn't have a name ... yet" (p. 352). We are reminded, anachronistically, of the cross-racial activities of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (1934-1935). The point to make here, however, is that between The Unvanquished and Go Down, Moses, Faulkner's characterization of Buck and Buddy appears to shift emphasis, from labor to desire. Perhaps the years between 1938 and 1941, in that they see large-scale Southern land enclosure and the attendant dispossession of a black tenantry, prompt his recasting of the twins. Since by 1941 the black body is less and less bound to the land by debt or labor (though still the body whose work created and maintained a white landowning class) landowners needed to retain it by means other than work: hence the emergence of Brownlee, Buck, Buddy and their desires. We thank Peter Nicolaisen for reminding us of the twins' earlier appearance, and different representation, in The Unvanquished.

(14) The ledgers and the surrounding text only say "Carolina" or "Callina." Don H. Doyle notes that the "population that followed into Lafayette County came largely from the old southeastern states." The 1850 census reveals that 23 percent of white heads of households in Lafayette County were from North Carolina, 22 percent from South Carolina. (Faulkner's County: The Historical Roots of Yoknapatawpha [Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2001], p. 59.)

(15) Here we depend heavily on Taylor's annotation of "Refused 10 acre peace fathers Will" in her Annotations to Faulkner's "Go Down, Moses," p. 153, and on Evelyn Jaffe Schreiber's "'Old Carothers's Doomed and Fatal Blood': The Layers of the Ledgers in Go Down, Moses" (in The Faulkner Journal 12 [Spring 1997], 87-88). Schreiber uses her detection of L.Q.C.'s father's putative crime to ratify Isaac's version of L.Q.C.; her case being that incestuous miscegenation is a transgenerational sin. We extend Taylor's insight, and deploy Schreiber's hypothesis about what happened in Carolina to very different ends.

(16) Joel Williamson, William Faulkner and Southern History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 25. The passage continues: "Sometimes white kinspeople, scandalized and outraged, moved aggressively to break such wills--occasionally, by having the man declared incompetent or, more bluntly, insane."

(17) The phrase seems to be Williamson's; he, at any rate, is the first scholar we know of to use the term in Faulkner studies (New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States [New York: Free Press, 1980], pp. 44-54).

(18) Our thinking here is informed by the work of Evgeny Pashukanis in his Law and Marxism (London: Ink Links, 1978), particularly the chapter on "Commodity and the Subject," pp. 109-133.

(19) Much of part 4, indeed, much of Go Down. Moses, consists of free indirect discourse, an authorial option which allows Faulkner simultaneously to identify with and yet remain distant from a creation. More is involved than a "mixture" or "average" of subject positions and modes of enunciation (V. N. Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language [New York: Seminar Press, 1973], p. 142). Instead, in free indirect discourse, "an author and character speak at the same time" (p. 144). Although in particular passages and phrases author or character may take precedence, the reader is always likely to be aware that any word, as the potential locus of "two differently orientated voices," may carry a "double intonation" in which two speech acts interfere with one another (pp. 144, 157). See also Michael Toolan, The Stylistic Function: A Literary Linguistic Approach (London: Routledge, 1990. pp. 74-82.

(20) For a detailed analysis of this incident, see Richard Godden, "Agricultural Adjustment, Revenants, Remnants and Counter-Revolution in Faulkner's 'The Fire and the Hearth,'" Faulkner Journal, 12 (Spring 1997), 41-55.

(21) Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figural Landscape in Rousseau, Nietszche, Rilke, and Proust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), p. 200. Faulkner studies--that is, nearly all commentators on Go Down, Moses--have agreed with Isaac in following Buddy's belief that Eunice committed suicide, and nearly all readings of Go Down, Moses of which we are aware are based upon Isaac's interpretation of that suicide as having been caused by old Carothers's incestuous union with his and Eunice's daughter Tomy. See, for a representative sampling: Olga W. Vickery, The Novels of William Faulkner: A Critical Interpretation (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959), p.126; Cleanth Brooks, William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), pp. 262, 448; John T. Matthews, The Play of Faulkner's Language (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), pp. 262-63; Dirk Kuyk, Jr., Threads Cable-strong: William Faulkner's "Go Down, Moses" (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1983), pp. 116ff.; and Eric J. Sundquist, Faulkner: The House Divided (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), p. 137. See also all the essays and genealogies in Arthur W. Kinney, ed., Critical Essays on William Faulkner: The McCaslin Family (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990), and especially Kinney's introduction, p.5. We cite these well-known books not to be contentious but simply to note how "official" or "institutionalized" this reading of Go Down, Moses has become. Michael Millgate, The Achievement of William Faulkner (New York: Random House, 1966), pp. 201-214, and Thadious M. Davis, Faulkner's "Negro": Art and the Southern Context (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983), pp. 239-247, are honorable exceptions to this general rule, but neither writes directly about the problem of genealogy in the novel.

It is worth noting that Faulkner himself provided somewhat contradictory extra-textual evidence. On June 23, 1942, right after Go Down, Moses was published, he wrote a letter to an inquiring neighbor who wanted to know about the ledgers. Faulkner wrote: "The ledger exerpts [sic] in Go Down Moses were a little to set a tone and an atmosphere, but they also told a story, of how the negros became McCaslins too. Old McCaslin bought a handsome octoroon and got a daughter on her and then got a son on that daughter; that son was his mother's child and her brother at the same time; he was both McCaslin's son and his grandson" (Noel Polk "'How the negros became McCaslins too ...': A New Faulkner Letter," Southern Cultures, 5 (Fall 1999), 103-108. Faulkner here returns to his notorious practice with interviewers of answering as simply as possible; even if he intended Carothers to be taken as an incestuous miscegenator, the novel provides no evidence of it; nor does it suggest that Eunice is a "handsome octoroon." Apparently while he was writing Go Down, Moses he drew at least three different genealogical charts; they at any rate appear on the versos of pages of preliminary typescripts of that novel (Thomas L. McHaney, ed., William Faulkner Manuscripts 16 Volume I "Go Down, Moses," Typescripts and Miscellaneous Typescript Pages [New York: Garland, 1987], pp. 240-241). The two apparently earlier (p. 241) genealogies do not deal with the part-black McCaslins at all, but they introduce other McCaslins--e.g., Lucius I (b. 1845) and Lucius II (b. 1895)--who were dropped from the family. The third genealogy (p. 240) clearly claims L.Q.C.'s fathering of Turl: it draws a line directly from old Carothers to Tomey's Turl, who appears on the same generational line as Buck and Buddy and their white sister--that is, as one of their siblings; but no line connects him with Eunice or Tomey, just as no line to any of the siblings goes through a named mother. This genealogy has been in print since 1961, in James B. Meriwether, The Literary Career of William Faulkner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), p. 31.

(22) Arthur Kinney suggests that Carothers may not know that Tomasina is his child by Eunice and that Eunice commits suicide as a reaction to his denial (p. 5).

(23) See Noel Polk, "Man in the Middle: Faulkner and the Southern White Moderate," in his Children of the Dark House: Text and Context in Faulkner (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996), pp. 238-241.

(24) Isaac's reconstruction of Eunice's death bears interesting resemblances to Molly's reconstruction of Butch's execution. The comparison stands as evidence that black victims of legal or extra-legal violence elicit explanatory responses that both bear and solicit revision. Butch's mother, Molly's daughter, died in childbirth, leaving Molly to raise him (p. 270). Molly was also "the only mother ... [Roth] ever knew" (p. 77); thus we may take Butch and Roth as brothers. At the University of Virginia, Faulkner admitted that he used the names Joseph and Benjamin interchangeably" (Faulkner in the University, ed. Frederick L. Gwyn and Joseph L. Blotner [Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1959], p. 18). See also Taylor, Annotations to William Faulkner's "Go Down, Moses," p. 225. Consequently we may understand Molly's reference to Butch as "Benjamin" to refer to "Joseph," since Joseph, Jacob's favored son, was sold in Egypt by his brothers. Joseph rises in the Pharaoh's eyes, and when Jacob's sons revisit Egypt to buy corn, Joseph recommends that they return home and bring Benjamin (a favorite left safely in Canaan) back with them into Egypt. Joseph eventually seeks by trickery to retain his brother Benjamin with him in Egypt. The story is as elaborate as Molly's use of it is simple. She blames one son (Roth) for expelling another son and his brother (Butch) from Canaan (the Edmonds plantation) into Egypt (first to Jefferson, then to the North). She knows whom she holds responsible for Butch's death, Roth: an unsympathetic landlord who, faced with a black youth breaking into his commissary (the very commissary where Isaac reads the ledgers [p. 273]), forced him from the land into town and so into the urban crime that killed him. Stevens reads no such story from Molly's abrupt, repeated, and gnomic utterances about "Benjamin," "Pharaoh," and "Egypt." We, however, are required to recognize in her nominal error and deployment of Genesis a political and grief-stricken accusation.

(25) For an illuminating reading of Butch as displaced labor, and of Go Down, Moses as a whole in relation to the economics of the late thirties and early forties, see John T. Matthews, "Touching Race in Go Down, Moses," in New Essays on "Go Down, Moses, "ed. Linda Wagner Martin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 21-47. See also Cheryl Lester, "If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem and the Great Migration: History in Black and White," in Faulkner in Cultural Context: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 1995, ed. Donald M. Kartiganer and Ann J. Abadie (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977), pp. 191-219, and her "Racial Awareness and Arrested Development: The Sound and the Fury and the Great Migration (1915-1928)," in The Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner, ed. Philip M. Weinstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 123-145.

(26) James Oakes, Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (New York: Knopf, 1990), p. 4.

(27) "... if the Nazarene had found carpentering good enough for the life and ends He had assumed and elected to serve, it would be all right too for Isaac McCaslin ..." (p. 229). Poor, self-serving Isaac can't get even his martyrdom right: Jesus left carpentering to engage the world toward his "life and ends." Isaac takes up carpentering precisely to escape that engagement. His reading of the Bible, here and elsewhere, seems no more acute than his reading of the ledgers.

(28) He bases his "sight" on an explicit refusal of "citation." We are told that "he would never need to look at the ledgers again" (p. 200), and that he did not do so.

(29) Paul Ricoeur notes, "to make up a plot is already to make the intelligible spring from the accidental, the universal from the singular, the necessary or probable from the episodic." He adds that plots "do not see the universal, they make it spring forth." Our purpose has been (care of the documents in their "episodic," "accidental," "singular" and chronicular form) to make Ricoeur's point in relation to Isaac's projection (and self-projection concerning Eunice). Put another way, again via Ricoeur's phrasing, we seek to draw out "the play of discordance internal to [Isaac's] concordance." See Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 1, trans. K. McLaughton and D. Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 41, 38.

(30) As to the family's lore about the mixing of bloods, the record of "The Fire and the Hearth," the only other chapter in the novel which concerns itself with genealogical bloodlines to a significant degree, would have L.Q.C. Lucas's grandfather. Lucas says directly to Zack: "The same thing made my pappy that made your grandmaw" (p. 37), a claim which may contradict or confirm the other; that is, nothing in Lucas's statement here keeps old Carothers from being both his father and his grandfather. But later in the same episode, that same narrative voice refers to Lucas's "white grandfather, Carothers McCaslin himself" (p. 40)--which assertion, if true, would provide evidence for L.Q.C.'s liaison with Eunice. Likewise, Lucas thinks to himself that "old Carothers never seemed to miss much what [blood] he give to Tomey that night that made my father" (p. 44). Much later, Roth Edmonds notes Lucas's "quarter strain not only of white blood and not even Edmonds blood, but of old Carothers McCaslin himself" (p. 80). With "a quarter strain" of Carothers' blood Lucas would be L.Q.C.'s grandson. Finally, that same narrative voice, discussing Turl's and Tennie's children, notes that James, the eldest, ran away from home, putting "running water between himself and the land of his grandmother's betrayal and his father's nameless birth" (p. 81). Thus it would seem that the family "lore" would have L.Q.C. as Lucas's grandfather. But note that when Lucas first goes to Zack Edmonds to demand that he return Molly, the narrative voice--which strikes us as adopting the mode of free indirect discourse which shifts between the position of an implied narrator and that of a particular character. Free indirect discourse leaves undecideable whether the voice has an omniscient narrator's authority or that of a character--that voice's claim that "old Carothers McCaslin ... had sired him [Lucas] and Zack Edmonds both" (p. 36), which is chronologically impossible, since Lucas was born in 1874 and L.Q.C. died in 1837. The only explanation we can formulate for Lucas's claim on L.Q.C. as his "sire" is that he is preparing to confront Zack essentially over the matter of his own manhood, his pride in his wife's fidelity, and he wants to claim as much of Carothers' strength as he possibly can.

(31) See Ned Lukacher, Primal Scenes Literature. Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968), particularly pp 1944. 68-96.

(32) Nicolas Rand, "Introduction: Renewals of Psychoanalysis," in The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonomy, eds. Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 21. See also Abraham and Torok, "The Shell and the Kernel: The Scope and Originality of Freudian Psychoanalysis," in their The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, trans. Nicolas Rand (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 79-98. Peter Nicholls' work on deferred action was particularly helpful in our formulation of what the language of the ledgers does not do: see his "The Belated Postmodern: History, Phantoms and Toni Morrison," in Psychoanalytic Criticism: A Reader, ed. Sue Vue (Oxford: Polity Press, 1996), pp. 50-74.

(33) The annotational work of Taylor is an exception. See her entries on "Mule josephine Broke Leg @ shot" and "Spintrius," which are crucial to our argument, pp. 150-51. Note also Catherine G. Kodat's unpublished paper "Faulknerian Homotextuality: The Saming Change in Go Down, Moses," delivered at the American Literature Associaton's annual meeting, Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 2001.

(34) See John Duvall, "Faulkner's Crying Game: Male Homosexual Panic," in Faulkner and Gender: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 1994, ed. Donald M. Kartiganer and Ann J. Abadie (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996), pp. 48-72.

(35) Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (New York: Routledge, 1993), p. 1.

(36) A Butlerian neologism: in Bodies that Matter she speaks of the persistence of the disavowed, or of "disidentification" (p. 4).

(37) Susan Donaldson, "Faulkner and Sexuality," Faulkner Journal, 9 (Fall 1993/Spring 1994). 5.

(38) "Barn Burning," in Collected Stories of William Faulkner (New York: Random House, 1950), p. 12.

(39) Sylvia Fry, Water from Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 235. On black rebellion see Eugene Genovese, From Rebellion to Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979), p. 95; William Freeling, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina 1816-36 (New York: Harper, 1969), pp. 58-60; and Stephen Oates, The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion (New York: Mentor, 1973), pp. 12, 17.

(40) Joel Williamson, The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South since Emancipation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 31.

(41) We adapt the title of Jay Mandle's study of black labor, Not Slave, Not Free: The African American Economic Experience since the Civil War (New York: Basic Books, 1986).

(42) "The Fire and the Hearth" gives a slightly different history of L.Q.C.'s "tremendous abortive edifice." As he left it, the house was "two log wings which Carothers McCaslin had built and which had sufficed old Buck and Buddy, connected by the open hallway which, as his pride's monument and epitaph, old Cass Edmonds had enclosed and superposed with a second storey of white clapboards and faced with a portico" (p. 35). The house would thus seem to be a monument not to Old Carothers's "vanity's boundless conceiving" but rather to Cass's.

(43) See note 27. The phrase "split referent" is Paul Ricoeur's. See his "The Metaphoric Process of Cognition, Imagination and Feeling," in On Metaphor, ed. Sheldon Sacks (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 153.

(44) See Calvin S. Brown, A Glossary of Faulkner's South (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), p.83.

(45) We thank James B. Carothers for suggesting this. We also thank Joseph Urgo for reading the manuscript and making several useful comments.


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Author:Godden, Richard; Polk, Noel
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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