Characters Discussed

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Mink (M. C.) Snopes

Mink M. C.) Snopes, the central character. He is a child-sized man who lives by his own code, trusting “Old Moster” not to play tricks on him. Mink’s code lets him accept self-caused trouble. He is patient, humble, tenacious, hardworking, focused, thoughtful about things, and a strict rule keeper. His thoughts pepper the novel, and most of them read like poetry. Against all odds, he is pardoned after thirty-eight years in the Parchman prison. He manages to get a gun in Memphis and go to Jefferson to kill Flem. After the murder, he remains free.

Linda Snopes Kohl

Linda Snopes Kohl, Eula Varner Snopes’s daughter by Hoake McCarron. Linda despises Flem. She marries a communist Jewish sculptor and goes to Spain to fight in the war. He dies in a plane crash, and she is deafened by an exploding bomb. Back in Jefferson, she creates problems by trying to educate black children. She works in the Pascagoula Shipyards near the end of the war. At home again, despising Flem, she manipulates Gavin, getting him to petition for Mink Snopes’s release from Parchman. She helps Mink escape after Flem’s murder. A Jaguar she ordered as soon as she knew Gavin could secure Mink’s pardon is delivered the day of Flem’s funeral. She dismisses Gavin’s disillusionment and leaves him to put a marker on Flem’s grave.

Gavin Stevens

Gavin Stevens, an idealistic patsy for Linda to the bitter end, as he had been for Linda’s mother. He sees her as innocent until the end of the book, and he is unable to see her as manipulative. While getting Mink out of prison, he believes Linda has no notion that Mink would kill Flem or that he, himself, would feel professionally soiled and personally responsible if Mink did, because he got the pardon knowing Mink would do just that. On the day of Flem’s funeral, he realizes that Linda knew all those things and had used him. At the book’s end, he continues executing tasks she assigns.

Vladimir Kyrilytch (V. K.) Ratliff

Vladimir Kyrilytch (V. K.) Ratliff, Faulkner’s voice of reason. He knows Linda will involve Gavin in something bad and spends the novel watchdogging him. He discovers that Mink sidestepped Gavin’s ploy to keep him out of Mississippi and calls to give warning, realizing that Linda’s use of Gavin to instigate Flem’s murder is the “bad” he had feared. He tries to help Gavin cope with lost illusions. The two search out Mink and give him money Linda left him.

Montgomery Ward Snopes

Montgomery Ward Snopes, a chief force in the novel who sets the stage for Flem’s murder. He had a pornography business on the side and might have done time in federal prison, but Flem wanted him in Parchman and framed him with bootlegged whiskey planted in his shop. Before leaving for prison, Montgomery gives Reba Rivers, madam of a Memphis brothel, $40 of Flem’s money to send, anonymously, to Mink. Mink had $3.75 of that left when pardoned; without it, he could not have bought the pistol. At Parchman, Flem tells him to trick Mink into escaping and getting caught. Montgomery has mink wear a girl’s dress, telling him it is Flem’s idea. Mink kills Flem over that dress. After serving two years, Montgomery moves to California and gets rich making pornographic films.

Flem Snopes

Flem Snopes, who, by framing Montgomery Ward Snopes on charges of possession of bootlegged whiskey, makes sure Mink stays at Parchman twenty extra years. He has Montgomery trick Mink into an attempted escape and then have him captured. Flem is...

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virtually a flat character, never more so than when he sits staring at Mink, fumbling with a gun until it fires.

Charles “Chick” Mallison

Charles “Chick” Mallison, Gavin’s nephew. He learns, in the course of the book, that though he loved his father, Gavin had been the chief influence on his life. Although Chick narrates a few chapters of the novel, his role is that of sounding board for Gavin and Ratliff. Through the course of the novel, he takes Gavin’s advice and continues in law school past the time he wanted to join the Air Force, but he does manage to fly in the war, not as a pilot but as guard of a case containing locations of bomb sites. After the war, he helps Gavin handle a few typical political problems in Jefferson.




Critical Essays