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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 213

The Hamlet by William Faulkner is a story that focuses on two families, the Snopes and the Varners. Will Varner is a wealthy man who owns almost every business and property across Frenchman’s Bend. Because of his age, he decides to delegate most of his work to Jody, his son....

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The Hamlet by William Faulkner is a story that focuses on two families, the Snopes and the Varners. Will Varner is a wealthy man who owns almost every business and property across Frenchman’s Bend. Because of his age, he decides to delegate most of his work to Jody, his son. In addition, Will has a daughter, Eula, who is admired by many men in town.

Jody meets Ab Snopes in one of their stores. He is new in town. Ab has a bad reputation of burning down farms. However, Jody and his son decide to rent out one of their farms to Ab. Jody employs Flem, Ab’s son, at their store, and within a short time span Flem takes up Jody’s role in running the store.

The Snopes keep a lot to themselves. They hardly interact with people. Flem is secretive and does not reveal his plans to anyone. He mainly focuses on making money and is a better businessperson than Will and his son. Flem becomes a loan shark and deceptively gives money to poor, desperate people. Moreover, he makes money by taking advantage of Issac Snopes, who is mentally ill but inherited some wealth from his family. Flem ends up marrying Eula, and they leave Mississippi for Texas.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1130

Will Varner, owner of the Old Frenchman place and almost everything else in Frenchman’s Bend, Mississippi, is aging and has begun to turn many of his affairs over to his thirty-year-old son, Jody. One day, while Jody sits in the Varner store, he meets Ab Snopes, a newcomer to town, and Ab arranges to rent one of the farms owned by the Varners. Jody is then told by V. K. Ratliff, a salesman, that Ab is suspected of having burned barns on other farms where he has been a tenant. Jody and his father conclude that Ab’s unsavory reputation will do them no harm. Jody becomes afraid, however, that Ab might burn some of the Varner property; as a sort of bribe to prevent such burning, he hires Ab’s son, Flem, to clerk in the store.

Ratliff explains Ab’s grievance against the world: Ab once struck a horse-trading deal with Pat Stamper, an almost legendary trader. Ab drove a mule and an old horse to Jefferson, and, before showing them to Stamper, he skillfully doctored the old nag. Stamper accepted the doctored horse and the mule in exchange for a team of mules that looked fine. When Ab tried to drive them out of Jefferson, however, the mules collapsed. To get back his own mule, Ab had to spend the money his wife had given him to buy a milk separator. Stamper also forced him to purchase a dark, fat horse that looked healthy but peculiar. On the way home, Ab ran into a thunderstorm, and the horse changed from dark to light and from fat to lean. It was Ab’s old horse, which Stamper had painted and then fattened with a bicycle pump. Ab was embittered by the experience.

Meanwhile, Will Varner has a daughter, Eula—a plump, sensuous girl who has matured early. The new schoolteacher, Labove, falls in love with her the first day she comes to the schoolhouse. An ambitious young man, Labove rides back and forth between Frenchman’s Bend and the university, where he is studying law and plays on the football team. One day after school, he attempts to seduce Eula; he failed and later is horrified to discover that Eula has not even mentioned the attempt to Jody. Labove leaves Frenchman’s Bend forever.

As she grows older, Eula has many suitors, the principal one being Hoake McCarron, who literally fights off the competition. When the Varners discover that Eula is pregnant, McCarron and two other suitors leave for Texas. Flem Snopes steps in and marries Eula. The newlyweds leave town on a long honeymoon.

Ab and Flem prove to be part of an entire clan, and the Snopes clan gathers in Frenchman’s Bend in the father and son’s wake. The clan begins to have troubles: An idiot Snopes boy, Isaac, is neglected and mistreated by his family. When he falls in love with a cow, his behavior becomes a town scandal. Mink Snopes, another relative, is charged with murdering Jack Houston after Jack impounds Mink’s wandering cattle. Flem stays away from town throughout this trouble. Even when Mink is brought to trial, Flem, who might have helped him, ignores the case. Mink is sent to jail for life.

Flem returns from his honeymoon accompanied by a string of wild, spotted horses and by Buck Hipps, a Texan. The Texan arranges to auction the horses to farmers who have gathered from miles around. To start the auction, the Texan gives one horse to Eck Snopes, on the condition that Eck make the first bid on the next one. At this point, Henry Armstid and his wife drive up. Henry, in spite of his wife’s protests, buys a horse for five dollars. By dark, all but three of the horses have been sold, and Henry is anxious to claim his purchase. He and his wife are almost killed trying to rope their pony. Hipps wants to return the Armstids’ money. He gives the five dollars to Henry’s wife, but Henry takes the bill from her and gives it to Flem. Hipps tells Mrs. Armstid that Flem will return it to her the next day.

When the other purchasers try to rope their horses, the untamed animals run through an open gate and escape into the countryside. Henry Armstid breaks his leg in the commotion and almost dies. Eck Snopes chases the horse that had been given him, running it into a boardinghouse. The horse escapes from the house and runs down the road. At a bridge, it collides with a wagon driven by Vernon Tull and occupied by Tull’s wife and family. The mules pulling the wagon become excited, and Tull is jerked out of the wagon onto his face.

The Tulls sue Eck Snopes for the damages done to Vernon and to their wagon; the Armstids sue Flem for damages to Henry and for the recovery of their five dollars. The justice of the peace, however, is forced to rule in favor of the defendants: The plaintiffs cannot establish that Flem owned the horses, and Eck was not the legal owner of a horse that had been given to him.

Later, Henry Armstid tells Ratliff that Flem has been digging every night in the garden of the Old Frenchman place, which Flem acquired from Will Varner. Local rumors have circulated since the Civil War that the builder of the house buried money and jewels in the garden. Henry and Ratliff take a man named Bookwright into their confidence, and, with the aid of another man who knows how to use a divining rod, they slip into the garden one night after Flem has finished digging. The diviner locates buried metal, and the men begin digging. Each one unearths a bag of silver coins. They decided to pool their resources and buy the land quickly, before Flem can find the rest of the coins. Ratliff agrees to pay Flem an exorbitant price.

After making the purchase, the trio continues shoveling in the night, but they unearth no more treasure. Ratliff finally realizes that no bag could remain intact in the ground for thirty years. He and Bookwright examine the silver coins more closely, and they discover that the coins were minted after the Civil War: Flem must have planted the bags to motivate the other men to buy the property.

Armstid, now totally out of his mind, refuses to believe that there is no treasure. He continues digging, day and night. People from all over the county come to watch his frantic shoveling. Passing by on his way to Jefferson, Flem Snopes pauses for only a moment to watch Henry; then, with a flip of his reins, he drives his horses on.

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