Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Yoknapatawpha County

Yoknapatawpha County (YOK-nuh-puh-TAW-fuh). County in Mississippi that resembles the region in northern Mississippi where Faulkner spent most of his life. Faulkner regarded his fictitious county (of which he called himself “sole owner and proprietor”) as a microcosm of the post-Civil War South. It is suffering through the disastrous legacy of slavery and, in a larger sense, is a microcosm of the entire world, with its lust, greed, exploitation, chicanery, violence, and endless struggle for existence.


Hamlet. Unnamed village of about three dozen dwellings; a general store; a cotton gin; a gristmill, which also serves as a blacksmith shop; a dilapidated one-room schoolhouse; a church; a livery barn; and a small hotel. Most businesses in this community and much of the surrounding farmland belong to Will Varner.

Frenchman’s Bend

Frenchman’s Bend. Plantation that before the Civil War was a single enormous farm worked by slaves. The plantation was destroyed by General Ulysses S. Grant’s army on his way to capture Vicksburg. After the war the plantation was subdivided into small farms, many of which are worked by sharecroppers. As in many of Faulkner’s novels, The Hamlet is haunted by a sense of the dramatic contrast between the past and present.

Old Frenchman’s place

Old Frenchman’s place. Great mansion that once stood like a feudal castle over the rich farmland, symbolizing the Old South. The name of the owner has been forgotten, and it is simply called the “Old Frenchman’s place.” The estate’s land is now “parcelled out . . . into small shiftless mortgaged farms for the directors of Jefferson banks to squabble over before selling...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974. More of a vast collection of facts than a finely shaped biography, this study of Faulkner’s life and work contains perceptive observations on The Hamlet and its place in the Faulkner canon.

Greet, T. Y. “The Theme and Structure of Faulkner’s The Hamlet.” In William Faulkner: Three Decades of Criticism. Edited by Frederick J. Hoffman and Olga W. Vickery. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1960. A relatively brief but still useful overview of how Faulkner combined meanings and form in the novel.

Kenner, Hugh. A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974. The section on Faulkner places The Hamlet within the context of Faulkner’s own development as a writer and the range of modern American fiction.

Vickery, Olga W. The Novels of William Faulkner. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. Its chapter on The Hamlet is a close reading of the intertwined themes of sex and economics as primal forces in human action and how they determine the actions of the characters in the novel.

Watson, James Gray. The Snopes Dilemma: Faulkner’s Trilogy. Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1970. Argues persuasively that the heart of the Snopes trilogy (The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion) is a conflict between moral verities and “amoral Snopesism.”