Chicago, Illinois (Location Key)


Chicago, Illinois, is mentioned in 8 texts, and used in this project as a Location in 9. That needs explaining. Our practice is to include a Location for the place from which every first-person narrator tells a story. The narrator of "Ad Astra" only gives ambiguous clues about where he lives. He identifies himself as an "American" in the opening sentences (407). Based on what he says about Bland - "He was a Southerner, too, like Sartoris" (408) - he's not from the South. That doesn't tell us, however, where he is from, nor does the story give any clue about where he is living in the present. "Chicago" here is equivalent to 'somewhere probably in the U.S.' It's Faulkner himself who makes "Chicago" a location in the other 7 texts. Some of his references are general. In Requiem for a Nun it's mentioned along with "Kansas City and Boston and Philadelphia" as an epitome of municipal political corruption (192). In The Town Chick Mallison uses "Chicago" as a way to measure a long distance from Yoknapatawpha, as in "as far away away as Chicago" (14). In a sense that's how Faulkner's using it at the end of Flags in the Dust, when Bayard Sartoris, who as a 'Sartoris' should be looking after his plantation and his family in Yoknapatawpha, is instead getting drunk in a very 'northern,' urban, 'modern' Chicago nightclub. In his story it's a place of exile. At the same time Bayard ends up there, many other Southerners from places like rural Yoknapatawpha migrated to Chicago. They were black. The 'Great Migration' of the early 20th century saw millions of African Americans leave the South for northern cities. Among them are Samuel Worsham Beauchamp, in Go Down, Moses, who was born on the McCaslin plantation but dies in Illinois after "killing a cop" in Chicago, where according to his own account his employment was "getting rich too fast" (256, 352). Requiem for a Nun refers to this migration when it notes that the "ghettoes" of Chicago are one of the places (along with those of "New York and Detroit and Los Angeles") to which the Negro tenant farmers and "furnish-hands" who worked in Yoknapatawpha's fields have moved by the 1930s (193). Joe Christmas' wanderings in Light in August may be Faulkner's earliest reference to this phenomenon, though the connection is not made explicit; Chicago is one of the places, along with Detroit, where "he lives with negroes, shunning white people" (225). For the blacks who moved there, working in factories in the industrial North was preferable to tenantry on Southern farms, though the closest Faulkner's fiction gets to a northern factory is his somewhat antisemitic reference in the "Appendix" to the "Jew owners of Chicago and New York sweatshops" where the "cheap" clothes that southern blacks like TP wear are "manufactured" (343). Two suburbs of Chicago appear in two very different contexts. Intruder in the Dust compares the reputation of Yoknapatawpha's Beat Four to the notoriety that Cicero - a suburb eight miles outside Chicago - acquired "in the middle [nineteen] twenties" (35) as the base from which Al Capone operated his crime syndicate. Requiem mentions "Northwestern," the private university located in Evanston twenty miles from downtown Chicago (205).

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Chicago, Illinois