Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Spotted Horses” is among a series of short stories that William Faulkner wrote from the late 1920’s to the end of the 1930’s and that would subsequently become part of his trilogy of novels about the rise and fall of Flem Snopes and the general infestation of the country by the Snopes family. First published in 1931 in Scribner’s Monthly, it was later incorporated in the fourth section of The Hamlet (1940), entitled “The Peasants.” By itself, the story is a riotous comic portrayal of a shady horse deal, but positioned near the end of The Hamlet at the point at which Flem is about to complete his takeover of Frenchman’s Bend before moving on to the town of Jefferson, it assumes ominous overtones that are only weakly apparent in Flem’s ruthless treatment of Mrs. Armstid.

The horses themselves are several times referred to as “that Texas disease,” and it is the image of plague sweeping over the countryside that dominates this and other of the stories in the Snopes saga. Faulkner himself once compared the arrival of the Snopeses to a plague of locusts, and it is clear that he himself viewed the rise of Flem Snopes to a position of power with something like the alarm evinced by V. K. Ratliff, the itinerant sewing machine sales representative who opposes Flem throughout the three volumes in which he figures. The story of the wild horses, symbolizing the unleashing of chaos on the world of the novel, resonates...

(The entire section is 488 words.)