Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357

Intruder in the Dust, published in 1948, has many different layers. It appears in some ways to be a whodunit, as Lucas Beauchamp, a black man in Mississippi, is accused of having murdered a white man. However, as the protagonist, Chick Mallison (a white teenager), unravels the murder and exonerates Lucas, the novel turns out to be far more than just a mystery; it is a commentary on the state of race relations in the mid-twentieth century in the deep South, and a story of Chick's gradual maturity.

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Chick's growth is symbolic of that of the South during a time of great racial upheaval and change. At the beginning of the novel, he is in Lucas's debt; Lucas helped him after Chick nearly drowned in a creek four years before the action of the novel takes place. This debt bothers Lucas and chafes at him, as he feels that it makes Lucas his equal. He wishes desperately to be able to pay Lucas back and to restore Lucas to a position of inferiority and submission in their relationship.

This is why Chick embarks on the project of trying to clear Lucas's name. However, as the novel goes on, it is clear that Chick has changed, as he no longer simply wants to clear Lucas's name but also to bring about racial justice and equality. His transformation is a precursor to the racial struggles that occurred in the South as a whole during the Civil Rights era—which took place shortly after the book's publication.

Lucas Beauchamp, in wanting to be equal to the white people around him, was a revolutionary kind of African American character in a book written by a white man during this period. He is not violent or subservient but is instead a proud man who insists that others treat him with decency. At the end of the novel, he asks Chick's uncle, Gavin Stevens, for a bill for having represented him, and he then asks for a receipt. Faulkner's creation of a black man who is dignified and proud was almost unheard-of at the time, particularly in Southern literature written by a white man.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536

Yoknapatawpha County

Yoknapatawpha County (YOK-nuh-puh-TAW-fuh). Fictional county in northern Mississippi, modeled on the region in which William Faulkner lived most of his life—a region that constitutes the fictional world of most of his novels and stories. A representation of the South from its earliest settling to modern times, Yoknapatawpha serves as a repository of southern history, legends, and communal memories. Against this backdrop, Chick Mallison confronts his long-held attitudes, becoming, himself, an intruder in the dust.

Jefferson

Jefferson. Fictional seat of Yoknapatawpha County, based on Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Jefferson is the home of Chick, who is horrified to see the throngs of people converging there to witness the impending lynching of Lucas Beauchamp that is expected to be carried out by the Gowries. The town assumes a holiday atmosphere; music blares; people, including families with children, arrive, eat, joke with one another, and gather outside the jail. Chick’s lawyer uncle, Gavin Stevens, digresses endlessly about the South, while presuming Lucas’s guilt and awaiting the inevitable.

Beat Four

Beat Four. Hilly region of Yoknapatawpha County that is inhabited by the Gowries and other poor white families. Living in unpainted one-room cabins, these independent, uncompromising, and clannish people pursue illegal whiskey making, bootlegging, and crimes of passion. Violent and vindictive, they want no black inhabitants near them, preferring instead their own community, religion, and code of values.

Chick stealthily enters the forbidding area of Beat Four with his black servant and friend, Aleck Sander, and feisty Miss Habersham. Together they sneak...

(The entire section contains 1186 words.)

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