Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 418
The Hamlet—published in 1940—is the first of Faulkner's three novels that follow the fictional Snopes family from Mississippi (the others include The Town and The Mansion ). The Snopes family is full of people somewhat akin to anti-heroes. There are dishonest opportunists, thieves, and mentally retarded members. The family's...
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The Hamlet—published in 1940—is the first of Faulkner's three novels that follow the fictional Snopes family from Mississippi (the others include The Town and The Mansion). The Snopes family is full of people somewhat akin to anti-heroes. There are dishonest opportunists, thieves, and mentally retarded members. The family's patriarch Flem Snopes is an unscrupulous farmer who comes to Frenchman's Bend, Mississippi. He seeks to acquire property by any mean necessary—with no qualms about being deceptive. In the course of the novel, he marries the local beauty, Eula Varner, who becomes pregnant by one of several possible suitors. Flem sees this as an opportunity to establish connections with a wealthy man.
Important quotations include:
"When Flem Snopes came to clerk in her father's store, Eula Varner was not quite thirteen. She was the last of sixteen children...she was already bigger than most grown women and even her breasts were no longer little, hard, fiercely-pointed cones of puberty of even maidenhood. On the contrary, her entire appearance suggested some sym-bology out of the old Dionysic times--honey in sunlight and bursting grapes, the writhen bleeding of the crushed fecundated vine beneath the hard rapacious trampling goat-hoof. She seemed to be not a living integer of her contemporary scene, but rather to exist in a teeming vacuum, hi which her days followed one another as though behind sound-proof glass, where she seemed to listen in sullen bemusement, with a weary wisdom heired of all mammalian maturity, to the enlarging of her own organs" (54).
This clever and poetic description introduces the novel's "damsel in distress," and, though Flem is at this point only an acquaintance of Eula, the novel forecasts his ultimate marriage to her. Flem's father Ab exhibits similarly opportunistic behavior, for which he receives just rewards in the following scene:
"It wasn't till next morning that Ab found the bicycle pump valve under its hide just inside the nigh foreshoulder--the one place in the world where a man might own a horse for twenty years and never think to look at it" (25)
This quote is taken from the scene in which Ab Snopes is escorting home his seemingly new horse, recently purchased from the notorious trader, Pat Stamper. Only after trading a considerable sum of money does Stamper relinquish the horse to Ab, which, was in fact Ab Snopes' own horse, painted black and inflated by means of a bicycle pump to seem more vigorous. This quote exemplifies poetic justice, as the disingenuous Ab Snopes receives his comeuppance.