Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Yoknapatawpha County

Yoknapatawpha County (YOK-nuh-puh-TAW-fuh). Faulkner’s mythical county, which is a setting in several of his works. The Old Frenchman’s Place is an abandoned plantation house deep in the county, which has been taken over by bootleggers. The violent actions that set the plot of the novel in motion—arguments, fights, a rape, and a murder—occur in and around the old house and barn. Faulkner contrasts this violence and the unsavory nature of most of the characters with the beauty of the natural surroundings, to which the bootleggers are insensitive. Thus, place becomes an integral part of the plot, especially in the contrast between the natural world and what mankind has made of the environment. Characters in the novel associated with the city of Memphis tend to be evil, or at least amoral, while those closer to nature (Horace Benbow, for example) tend to be virtuous—or at least to make an attempt to be. Old abandoned houses are recurrent elements in gothic fiction, and the plantation house, now put to a new purpose, serves as the setting for the events of the plot.


*Memphis. Tennessee city across the state line from Mississippi that is portrayed as something of a “sin city” in Sanctuary, and it is true that there was considerable crime in that city at the time of the story. Mulberry Street reflects a real downtown thoroughfare in Memphis, in which the red-light district was...

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