Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Faulkner’s prose is legendary for its complexity and its violation of the ordinary constraints of syntax. In addition, as has often been remarked, Faulkner captures the idiom of the southern rural poor with great acuteness, reproducing not only their diction and pronunciation but also the very rhythms of their speech.

“Spotted Horses” is unusual among most of the other episodes in The Hamlet for not featuring V. K. Ratliff, the archetypal raconteur who figures prominently in early sections and who is generally on hand to attempt to prevent Flem’s doing grave harm to the community. His steadfast refusal to intervene in this episode, even on behalf of the Armstids, differentiates this section from the others thematically, as the episode is distinct technically for its placing Ratliff largely to the side of the action. One can surmise that this relative absence of Ratliff from the action suggests something about the stage in the plot that has been attained at this point. It is plausible to read here the beginning of the end, in this novel at least, for any principled attempt to stop the onward march of the Snopeses into the country. The next and final episode in The Hamlet involves Ratliff’s being easily bilked by Flem into purchasing a worthless piece of property and thereby providing Flem with his entrée into the town of Jefferson. Thus, the temporary disappearance of Ratliff from the foreground of the narrative would seem the...

(The entire section is 443 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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