Boy Grier

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Boy Grier
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Grier, Boy
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Unlike the upper-class boy narrators of Faulkner's previous fictions, the unnamed eight-year-old who narrates the three 'Grier' stories in the early 1940s - "Two Soldiers," "Shingles for the Lord" and "Shall Not Perish" - narrates from within the class of impoverished farmers who subsist on the poor land around Frenchman's Bend. His concerns are closely tied to his family - mother, father and brother Pete - but in the first and last of the stories Faulkner also uses him to represent his caste in a new context, the second World War. In that context a family of poor farmers can be a rich patriotic resource. Soldier number one in the first story is the narrator's brother Pete, who enlists in the army immediately after Pearl Harbor. The second 'soldier' is the eight-year-old, who follows his love for Pete and his zeal for serving as far as the recruiting station in Memphis before being sent back to the Bend. The third story is about two casualties - Pete and the son of the upper class Major de Spain have both died in combat in the Pacific - and the way this common sacrifice unites the upper and lower classes in a common cause called "America" (115). The second story falls back on using the father of the Grier family in a role that Snopeses often play in Faulkner's fiction: vernacular comedy. But even there, the boy narrator's thoughtful reflections on what the burning of a church signifies about the values that bind a community together reveals depths in both his character and his community that weren't always visible in earlier fictions' treatment of the county's rural poor. This young narrator is not a consistent character. He is a violent country boy who twice pulls his knife on men in "Two Soldiers" who is matured and considerably mellowed in "Shall Not Perish," but the greatest inconsistency in the series is a narrative one. In the first tale Faulkner's representation of the boy's perspective and voice are essentially realistic, but by the third story his intellectual and linguistic range belies his youth and class background. The first story, for example, ends "I set there by that soldier, crying. We was going fast" (99). His last words in the second story are about his "pap" taking sips of toddy: "Then he taken a long one" (43). "Shall Not Perish" ends with a 57-word sentence followed by this one: "It was America, and it covered all the western earth" (115).