What is the meaning or point behind Ratliff's goat trading in The Hamlet. I am missing the whole premise behind it-confusing. Ratliff sold sewing machines. Were the goats really his goats to sell or was it a con?
Ratliff was not planning to raise goats or to deal in goats. He only gave that as a reason for wanting to buy the Old Frenchman's Place from Flem Snopes. (How Flem got the property is part of the long yarn which spans three of Faulkner's best novels--The Hamlet, the Town, and the Mansion.) Ratliff and two other men believed that the original owner of the plantation had buried money and other valuables on the land when they were forced to flee from the Union Army during the Civil War. This "buried treasure" had been a local legend ever since. Flem had taken advantage of the legend to "salt" the property around the abandoned mansion with some bags of silver dollars, and he had made sure that Ratliff and his partners saw him digging late at night when they were spying on him. They did some digging on their own and found several bags of silver dollars. They assumed there was a lot more treasure to be found and bought the worthless property from Flem so that they could be free to dig legally and in broad daylight. Flem asked Ratliff what he wanted the Old Frenchman's Place for, pretending to be reluctant to part with it, and Ratliff could only think of telling him he planned to raise goats. Flem knew exactly why Ratliff and his partners wanted the property because he had "salted" it with just a few bags of dollars. They quickly found out that they had been tricked.
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