Mrs. Harriss

Display Name: 
Mrs. Harriss
Sort Name: 
Harriss, Mrs.
AKA: 
Mrs. Stevens
Melisandre Backus
Race: 
White
Gender: 
Female
Class: 
Upper Class
Rank: 
Secondary
Vitality: 
Alive
Family: 
Stevens
Family (new): 
Date of Birth: 
Friday, January 1, 1904 to Saturday, December 31, 1904
Biography: 

The only child of a nameless father who owns a cotton plantation in Yoknapatawpha, and a mother who apparently died giving birth to her, the woman whom the narrative and the other characters never call anything but "Mrs. Harriss" acquires that name when she "marries a man whom nobody in that part of Mississippi had ever heard of before" (150). Her husband is a wealthy gangster from New Orleans, and the text suggests she may have married him "in order to lift the mortgage on the homestead" (155). At the time of the story she is a "wealthy widow (millionairess, the county stipulated it), the softly fading still softly pretty woman in the late thirties" (148). To Gavin Stevens, who turns out to have been the unknown local man to whom she had been mysteriously engaged at sixteen, she has "been created for simple love and grief" (156); so, despite traveling around Europe and South America, her "old sentiment[s] and old thought[s]" remain "impervious to the foreign names and languages" (166). By the end of the story she is remarried, to Gavin, and so becomes Charles Mallison's "new aunt" (253) - yet she is never referred to by either her first or maiden or new last name. Readers of The Town (1957) and The Mansion (1960), however, know "Mrs. Harriss" as Melisandre Stevens, nee Backus.

Individual or Group: 
Individual
Character changes class in this text: 

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