Flem Snopes

Character Key: 
Display Name: 
Flem Snopes
Sort Name: 
Snopes, Flem
Lower Class
Family (new): 
Sales and Service
Specific Job: 
Restaurant Owner, Power Plant Superintendent, Banker

Nominally the central character of The Town, and of the larger Snopes Trilogy, Flem Snopes is the son of Abner Snopes, the husband of Eula Varner Snopes, the putative father of Linda Snopes, and the anxious focus of Gavin Stevens and V.K. Ratliff, two of the novel's narrators. His story can be seen as both a cautionary tale about the modernist forces that threaten the South's traditional social and moral order - this is the role in which the novel's narrators generally cast him - or as a southern variant of the American dream of rising from poverty to wealth and status - this is the way Gavin depicts him in Chapter 17. Like Thomas Sutpen, the protagonist of Absalom, Absalom!, Flem's life begins at the bottom, as the poor white son of a shiftless tenant farmer. In The Town he arrives in Jefferson as the new partner in a disreputable side-street restaurant who lives with his family in a tent; by the end he is the new president of the Sartoris bank and moving into the De Spain family mansion. His success is grounded in a combination of intelligence, determination, secrecy, and a willingness to employ nepotism, thievery, and unscrupulous financial influence. His relationship with Eula's lover, Manfred de Spain, called "amicable cuckoldry" by Stevens and Ratliff, is a form of extortion or blackmail on the part of Flem. He is first described as "a squat uncommunicative man with a neat minute bow tie and opaque eyes and a sudden little hooked nose like the beak of a small hawk" (4). His behavior intrigues, puzzles, and angers the novel's narrators, who even argue among themselves about his true motivations. Money, his means if not always his goal, figures prominently in his sequence of ventures. He is apparently prepared to use his daughter, Linda, as well as his wife to achieve his ambition. In her last conversation with Stevens, Eula explains Flem's behavior and concludes: "You've got to be careful or you'll have to pity him. You'll have to" (347).

Individual or Group: 
Character changes class in this text: