County Jail in Requiem for a Nun (Location)

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Public building
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The third act of the novel is titled "The Jail" (167), which gives this location an unusually large symbolic significance. Gavin Stevens himself "was wont to say" that the best way to learn "the history of a community" is to study the graffiti drawn by successive generations of prisoners on their cell walls (168). The novel does not include any examples of this record - though it gives a prominent thematic role to the name and date that the jailor's daughter left behind on a window pane in the jail, scratched there in 1861 by means of her diamond ring (180). Physically, the county jail begins as the "mortised-log, mud-chinked shake-down" building that is one of the first structures erected by the whites who settle Yoknapatawpha around the turn into the 19th century (4). When a gang of "Natchez trace bandits" (4) is locked up there, the jail also becomes the first Yoknapatawpha structure to be destroyed - or at least ruined: when the bandits break jail, they also break the jail, taking down one "entire wall," "the mud-chinked, axe-mortised logs unjointed neatly," removed, "and stacked as neatly to one side" (13). Repaired, the structure lasts until the mid-20th century, eventually being "translated into brick," although underneath this new facade the "old mud-chinked logs" remain as the ground floor of a two-story building (175). Prisoners are confined upstairs in the "bullpen and cell" (168); the downstairs has become "the living quarters for the turnkey's family" (179).

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