Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The early settlers of what would later become Yoknapatawpha County founded the town of Jefferson to escape the “terrible freedom” of the wilderness. The town’s courthouse evolved over time, from a wooden lean-to built on the old log jail to an imposing colonial Georgian building. The Georgian courthouse was designed in the nineteenth century by a French architect who had been imported by Colonel Sutpen to design his estate. The town grew around the courthouse, until it was burned to the ground by the invading Union troops during the Civil War. It was rebuilt during Reconstruction with the help of carpetbaggers, who remained afterward to prosper and eventually become part of the local community.
Now, on November 13, the courthouse is the scene of a sentencing hearing. Nancy Mannigoe is sentenced to death for killing the infant child of Mr. and Mrs. Gowan Stevens. In the presence of the Stevenses, as well as of Gavin Stevens—Nancy’s defense attorney and the great-uncle of the slain infant—the judge orders that Nancy be hanged on March 13.
Later that evening, Gavin follows Gowan and his wife, Temple, back to their home, where they discuss Nancy’s death sentence. Temple asks Gavin whether Nancy has confided in him and offered any excuse for the murder. Gowan brings in a tray containing a bottle of whiskey and three glasses. Before drinking the whiskey, Gowan states that he has not had a drink in eight years. The conversation...
(The entire section is 1195 words.)
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