Eula Varner Snopes

Character Key Number: 
190
Display Name: 
Eula Varner Snopes
Sort Name: 
Snopes, Eula Varner
Parent Character Key: 
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 
Yes
Biography: 

Eula is mentioned in Faulkner's first Yoknapatawpha novel and two short stories from the 1930s. The stories at least give some hint of her sexual attractiveness. As the youngest daughter of Will and Maggie Varner in "Spotted Horses" she's a "big, soft-looking" girl whom suitors swarm around "like bees around a honey pot" (166). As Flem Snopes' wife in "Centaur in Brass" she has "something of that vast, serene, impervious beauty of a snowclad virgin mountain flank" (150-51). But in The Hamlet, where one of the novel's four sections is titled "Eula," she plays a major role in the text and her attractiveness acquires a mythic status: "her entire appearance suggested some symbology out of the old Dionysic times" (105). In the next volume of the Snopes trilogy, The Town, her story displaces even that of her husband Flem at the center of the narrative's power. The story is a tragic one, of how poor the men in her world are compared to the richness of her character. Impregnated by a man who runs away, married off for propriety's sake by her father to Flem, who is both sexually impotent and willing to use her to further his own venal ambitions, the mistress of another man who cannot save her when she realizes she must sacrifice herself for the sake of her daughter, much too large for the pettiness she brings out in the 'good' people of Yoknapatawpha, it is a tragedy of waste. What may come as a surprise to readers who judged her at first as the fictions seem to as well, by her body, is the way Faulkner ultimately allows her to display the greatness of her spirit - when it's too late for anything to save her. Her hypocritical husband puts up a monument to her virtues as a "Wife" in the town cemetery, which Gavin Stevens - who spends much of The Town trying ineffectually to save her - seeks to redeem by adding to it a costly imported "marble medallion" of her face (372). But imaginatively her memorial lies in the complex ways that in the trilogy's final volume, The Mansion, her absence shapes the lives of the people she left behind.