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The title character of "Elly" is eighteen years old. She "lives in Jefferson . . . with her father and mother and grandmother in a biggish house" (208). Elly has inherited her given name, Ailanthia, from her grandmother, a link that Faulkner uses to underscore the generational tension between the grandmother's Victorian sexual repression and Southern racial prejudices, and Elly's restlessness with these taboos. Elly expresses herself largely through her physicality, first using her youthful sexuality to attract suitors, and then later climbing the stairs "with the tread almost of an old woman" when she is burdened by her grandmother's censure (208). She is able to "change completely" (208), depending on her mood and her company. She is injured, but apparently not fatally, in the automobile accident that, technically, she causes, but that psychologically is the result of the conflict within her between rebelling against and submitting to the world that her grandmother epitomizes.

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