This work is one of Faulkner’s most profound explorations of the tragedies and triumphs of Southern history. Published in seven sections, it is not a conventional novel, but its unity becomes apparent when we think of it as being about an extended family and community. The portrayal of the bachelor life of Uncle Buddy and Uncle Buck McCaslin is among the funniest of Faulkner’s passages. When the book first appeared, the Northeastern critics took the hero to be their nephew, Ike McCaslin, who repudiated his family inheritance, tainted as it was by slavery. But Ike also repudiated his responsibilities and he lived a barren life. More perceptive readers came to understand that Ike is not a hero at all. The heroic character is his cousin McCaslin Edmonds, flawed and worldly, but who yet conscientiously took on the burden of care for his family and their black dependents. A section of the novel called “The Bear,” has often been separately reprinted. It is a tribute to the ritual of the hunt which for so long was such a large part of Southern life.
See 20.00.06 for an overview of Faulkner and his works.