The Bear is an usual work because it exists in two main forms. In the simpler form, it is a story of a great bear hunt in which Isaac McCaslin, Sam Fathers, and Old Ben, the bear, are the main characters. The more complex version includes a long and complicated fourth section in which Isaac explains to his older cousin, McCaslin Edmonds, how his experiences hunting in the big woods have led him to refuse the Mississippi plantation of which he is the heir. This is followed by a shorter, concluding fifth section. Even though the longer version was created for and is firmly embedded in the novel, Go Down, Moses (1942), this is the text found in Three Short Novels of William Faulkner, and it often is anthologized. Therefore, this article will discuss the longer text.
Isaac McCaslin is the last and final living heir of his grandfather, Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin, who arrived in Mississippi early in the 19th Century and became the owner of a large and reasonably prosperous plantation and a good number of slaves. During the course of his life, he took one of his slaves as a concubine, and she bore him a daughter, Thomasina or Tomey. When Tomey grew up, he took her as well, and she bore him a son, Terrel or Tomey's Turl. This combination of exploitation and incest revolts Isaac when he learns of it. Therefore, he decides that he must find some positive and powerful way to reject racist and sexist exploitation and prevent it from repeating in future generations. His decision is to refuse to take...
(The entire section is 627 words.)
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Ash is an African-American servant to Major deSpain. He is described in womanly terms and is relegated to tending to camp. After Ike kills his first buck, Ash airs his resentment at not being allowed to hunt. When Major deSpain allows him to go out the next day, Ash shows himself to be an untrained and inept hunter.
See Hubert Beauchamp
Hubert Beauchamp is Ike's uncle. Hubert promised Ike a silver cup full of gold coins as an inheritance; however, he gradually replaced the coins and then the cup with IOU's. Ike rejects his own inheritance on the assumption that the gift from Uncle Hubert would be enough to live on. The worthless inheritance epitomizes the fruitless expectations of many Southern plantation families, most of whom lost their family fortunes in the Civil War.
See Theophilus McCaslin
See Amodeus McCaslin
See McCaslin Edmonds
General Compson is a close friend of the McCaslin's and Major deSpain. Compson respects Ike for his woodsmanship and gives him his compass and his silver hunting horn. He also offers to house Ike after Ike leaves the family farm.
Major deSpain owns the land on which the men hunt. A former officer in the Civil War, Major deSpain now works in a bank and eventually sells off most of the hunting grounds to a logging company.
Cousin and guardian of Ike McCaslin, Cass attempts to convince his ward to accept his inheritance. Their complex dialog in part four of the story indicates that he and Ike do share a special bond that allows them to anticipate each other's thoughts, though he is nowhere as near to Dee as is Sam Fathers. While he understands Ike's position in regard to the family's history, Cass views events with a more practical eye. He acknowledges the scandalous role his family has played in Southern history, but is content to let go the burdens of his past.
Sam Fathers is part Native American and part African American. Descendant of a Chickasaw chief named Hckemotubbe, Sam teaches Isaac McCaslin to hunt the former lands of his ancestors. He is struck down mysteriously when Old Ben dies and shortly thereafter asks Boon to kill him and bury him...
(The entire section is 1035 words.)