Backus-Harriss Plantation (Location Key)


In 3 late fictions Faulkner creates a new plantation in Yoknapatawpha that is either three or six miles from Jefferson, depending on the novel. The plantation, described in The Mansion as one of Yoknapatawpha's "biggest" (217), originally belongs to the Backus family. It seems safe to assume it was built before the Civil War, but none of the three texts look back that far into the past. They focus instead on the fate of the plantation in the 20th century, and treat its genteel decline and nouveau riche resurrection as a kind of parable of a danger facing the modern South: not the rise of poor whites like the Snopeses but the influx of wealthy outsiders - though both groups have in common a failure to appreciate the traditional values of an aristocratic culture. "Knight's Gambit" tells this story in the most detail, from the stewardship by Mr. Backus, a "widower-owner who stayed at home and farmed his heritage" (150) and who has long-standing relationships with the tenant farmers who work his land, to the way the rich New Orleans bootlegger named Harriss whom his daughter marries "transmogrifies" the estate into something that "looked like the Southern mansion in the moving picture, only about five times as big and ten times as Southern" (162). The Town calls it "a cross between a Kentucky country club and a Long Island race track" (187-88). The Mansion echoes this - "what had been just a simple familiar red-ink north Mississippi cotton plantation" is "changed into a Virginia or Long Island horse farm" (217) - and expresses relief when Harriss is violently killed and the place can again fall into genteel shabbiness. Ultimately the daughter marries Gavin Stevens, and in his hands it will almost certainly live happily ever after.

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Backus-Harriss Plantation