Charles Mallison II

Character Key Number: 
219
Display Name: 
Charles Mallison II
Sort Name: 
Mallison, Charles II
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 
Yes
Biography: 

Charles Mallison Jr. appears in nine texts, in all but one of them mainly as narrator, especially of the exploits and misadventures of the man he refers to hundreds of times, usually in an admiring tone, as "Uncle Gavin." Gavin is Gavin Stevens, and his nephew is thus a member of one of the older upper class families in Yoknapatawpha, the only child of Gavin's twin sister Maggie Stevens Mallison. Faulkner creates Charles ("Chick," as Gavin calls him once in "Tomorrow," the first time he's given any name) to serve as a kind of Dr. Watson to Gavin's kind of Sherlock Holmes in the Knight's Gambit detective stories, but in Intruder in the Dust he becomes a major character in his own right, as a sixteen-year-old who bravely sets out to save a black man from being lynched. In the process he becomes a detective figure himself, and also the last young man in the line of Faulkner's knightly idealists, the sons of the aristocratic class who confront the dragons of southern history and society. Chick even rides a horse as he goes off to this quest. Although it's interesting that his character becomes most promising when he stops listening to what "Uncle Gavin said," the frequency of Chick's appearances does mainly derive from Faulkner's fondness for Gavin as a character. He is again given the part of a narrator in the last two volumes of the Snopes trilogy, but from the larger arc of his appearances we can construct a kind of biography for him. By the end of The Mansion he has followed his Uncle Gavin to Harvard and the University of Mississippi and toward a legal career, and become the first member of his family to serve in the military, either as an aviator in the Pacific ("By the People") or as part of a bomber crew that is shot down over Europe and taken prisoner during World War II (The Mansion). On the other hand, it is hard to locate that biography in time. In "Knight's Gambit," Chick is "almost eighteen" just before December 7, 1941, so would have been born in 1923 (205). That date of birth works well enough for five other stories, but given the probable post-World War II setting of Intruder in the Dust, there Chick's date of birth would be about a decade later, and by his own accounting in both The Town and The Mansion he had to have been born about a decade earlier, around 1914. (For more on dates, see the Notes of the Texts for these works.) Chick's age is one of the more extreme examples of the flexible demographics of Faulkner's world.