As did “The Bear,” Faulkner’s “Spotted Horses” evolved over a period of years. As early as 1927 and 1928, he was writing about the Snopeses in a work titled “Father Abraham” (it was never published as such). In Flags in the Dust and Sartoris, Flem and Byron Snopes appear as minor characters. The first-published fuller treatment of Flem was in the short story version of “Spotted Horses” in 1931; originally titled “Aria con Amore,” it had been revised into this version for Scribner’s magazine. It was also enlarged into a novella and was included as a key episode in the first Snopes novel, The Hamlet, in 1940. Five years later, parts were included in Malcolm Cowley’s collection The Portable Faulkner.
“Spotted Horses,” then, marks the beginning of the Snopes stories (others include “Barn Burning,” 1939, and “Mule in the Yard,” 1934) and (as part of The Hamlet) the Snopes novels. Flem’s rise from obscurity to prominence and affluence is the subject of the Snopes trilogy (The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion); his first important stride is his gaining ascendancy over the Varners. By marrying the pregnant Eula, he gains not only a most desirable woman but also opportunities for advancement. “Spotted Horses” opens with Flem, Eula, and her baby returning from a honeymoon in Texas. They bring with them a stranger, the Texan Buck Hipps, and a...
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