Ab Snopes

Character Key Number: 
181
Display Name: 
Ab Snopes
Sort Name: 
Snopes, Ab
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 
Yes
Biography: 

In the larger Yoknapatawpha saga, Ab Snopes is the patriarch of the Snopes family, the father of Flem, and the memorable 'barn burner' in one of Faulkner's best known stories. He first emerges in two of the Unvanquished stories, "The Unvanquished" and "Vendee," and in the same fictional context reappears in "My Grandmother Millard" - all of these are set during the Civil War, but Ab is serving himself rather than the Confederacy as a kind of hanger-on at the Sartoris plantation. Colonel John Sartoris asks him to look after Rosa Millard while he's away, but indicates how well he knows Ab by also asking Bayard and Ringo to keep an eye on him. In "Vendee" he joins up with Grumby's vicious gang and becomes an accomplice to Rosa's murder at their hands. There is little connection between the story those stories tell about him and the role he plays in the fictions that come later. In the short story "Barn Burning," a kind of prequel to the Snopes trilogy, he is a violent man embittered by the (decidedly unheroic) wound he got during the Civil War, when he was shot by "a Confederate provost's man" while trying to steal a horse (5), and by his impoverished and transient life as a tenant farmer living in cabins that, as he puts it, "aint fitten for hawgs" (9). In the first volume of the trilogy, The Hamlet, he walks on a "club foot" which, according to Buck McCaslin's revision of Ab's wounding, is the result of being shot during the Civil War by Colonel Sartoris while trying to steal Sartoris' own horse (18). That is only one version of Ab's Civil War experience: "Barn Burning" says he was shot by a "Confederate provost's man" (5), and The Town says he might have been hanged by Confederates during the war as a horse thief (5). "Barn Burning" focuses on his violent relationship with both his younger son, whom he named "Colonel Sartoris Snopes," and with the wealthy landlords whose land he's supposed to work. At the start of the trilogy he contracts to work a farm for Will Varner in Frenchman's Bend, but from the first Faulkner's focus is on what that means for his older son, Flem. Ab's most substantial appearance in the trilogy is in the comic story Ratliff tells in The Hamlet about Ab's attempt to best Pat Stamper in a horse trade, a revision of the story "Fool about a Horse." Ab married twice, first to Vynie from Jefferson and then to Lennie, with whom he has four children: his sons and twin daughters (one named Net in "Barn Burning").