In Flags in the Dust "family" is largely a way to define class. If Faulkner's first Yoknapatawpha fiction depicts the Sartorises as the county's closest thing to a hereditary nobility, Narcissa Benbow's family pedigree identifies her as a kind of town princess. The family home she and her older brother Horace live in was designed three generations earlier by an English architect, and features "mullioned casements brought out from England" (164). When readers first meet her on the novel's first day, she is the one lady at Belle Mitchell's party to whom Miss Jenny Sartoris du Pre offers a ride in her family's horse-drawn carriage (29). The idea that a Snopes could aspire to Narcissa's hand is treated as perverse, a symptom of modernity as chaos, but even the attentions of the middle-class Dr. Alford are depicted as a form of presumption; of course a Benbow should marry a Sartoris, and Narcissa does. When her new husband dies, she and her infant son are left in possession of the Sartoris plantation.

Two earlier generations of Benbows are briefly referred to, and Horace's adult career as a lawyer is described as another kind of inheritance. But the only family relationship that the novel develops is the sibling one between Narcissa and Horace. With them Faulkner also explores "family" psychologically, anticipating a thematic emphasis he will develop much more fully in his next two Yoknapatawpha fictions, The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930). "Horry" and "Narcy" - as they call each other, sometimes with too much affection and sometimes with an anguish that seems over-determined - are pulled together and apart by his sexual desires (which betray him into a sordid relationship with the married Belle, whom he marries at the end) and Narcissa's incompletely sublimated sexual repressions. The relationship between aristocratic exclusivity and incest, fastidiousness and transgression, is another familiar literary and cultural motif, though it's not clear how deliberately Faulkner is deploying it to challenge, or even complicate his class allegiances elsewhere in the novel.

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Affiliated Characters

(Young) Bayard Sartoris - Flags in the Dust
Belle Mitchell - Flags in the Dust
Benbow Sartoris - Flags in the Dust
Francis Benbow - Flags in the Dust
Horace Benbow - Flags in the Dust
Julia Benbow - Flags in the Dust
Narcissa Benbow Sartoris - Flags in the Dust
Will Benbow - Flags in the Dust