Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

McCaslin plantation

McCaslin plantation. Located seventeen miles from Jefferson, this plantation was established by Carothers McCaslin near the end of the eighteenth century. The land’s passage through the generations of McCaslins and Edmonds tells the story of the McCaslin family. The land is handed down through the white side of the family, but worked chiefly by the family’s black side—the illegitimate descendants of the plantation’s founder through miscegenation with his slave Eunice and his incest with Thomasina—his own daughter by Eunice. The story titled “Was” reveals that by 1859, Carothers McCaslin’s twin sons, Uncle Buddy and Uncle Buck, have moved into a log cabin they have built and moved their slaves into the unfinished big house, turning the world upside down. Uncle Buck’s son, Isaac, repudiates his inheritance, so the plantation that was his birthright passes through the female line of the family to his cousin Carothers McCaslin Edmonds (“Cass”), then to his son Zack and his grandson Roth.

No further miscegenation is recorded until 1940, when Roth fathers a son by an unnamed black woman who is, like Roth, a great-great-great grandchild of the family patriarch, Carothers McCaslin. Like much of the agrarian South, the McCaslin plantation is a dark and bloody ground, on which black and white coexist uneasily, each group suffering the consequences of McCaslin family history as the sins of the father are continually visited upon the sons. “Was” begins on the McCaslin plantation, while nearly all of “The Fire...

(The entire section is 644 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Beck, Warren. Faulkner: Essays. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976. Contains a 248-page essay that discusses each story in the novel.

Brooks, Cleanth. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1963. Deals with Faulkner’s novels set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County; chapter on Go Down, Moses discusses each of the seven stories in the novel.

Early, James. The Making of “Go Down, Moses.” Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1972. Book length study of how the novel was made from a series of stories; discusses Faulkner’s themes, characterization, and narrative techniques; includes the words of the spiritual “Go Down, Moses” and a McCaslin genealogy.

Kinney, Arthur F., ed. Critical Essays on William Faulkner: The McCaslin Family. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990. Provides a McCaslin genealogy, a chronology for the action of Go Down, Moses, character descriptions, and a number of essays on Go Down, Moses and on Southern history and culture.

Muste, John M. “The Failure of Love in Go Down, Moses.” Modern Fiction Studies 10, no. 4 (Winter, 1964-1965): 366-378. Theme of the white characters’ inability to love unifies the novel.