Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Jefferson. Mississippi town that is home to aristocrats of the unreconstructed Old South, whose family names include the Compsons, de Spains, Sartorises, and Stevenses. The preserved culture and society of the old land-based, medieval class system survived in the American South well into the middle of the twentieth century. The town is the old order of an agrarian, white, Protestant social construct that has outlived its time and its use in the modern world.

Jefferson is also home to the poor white trash who come to populate it, personified by the members of the Snopes family whose numbers are endless. The new social order brought to town by the Snopeses causes the eventual collapse of the old, aristocratic order as the Baptist, illiterate, dirty, and immoral Snopeses take over Jefferson, first with their large numbers and later politically. Gradually, they take control of local businesses, become deacons and preachers in the churches, and get jobs as school teachers. Finally, one of them even maneuvers himself into being appointed president of the bank.

Water tower

Water tower. Ever-present symbol of Jefferson’s town’s hypocrisy. Standing on a ridge high above the town, the water in the tower contains pieces of stolen brass that Flem Snopes has taken from the city power plant where he works. Everyone in town knows the stolen pieces are there. Whenever they drink a glass of water, they can...

(The entire section is 523 words.)