Flem Snopes

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Flem Snopes
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Snopes, Flem
Middle Class
Family (new): 
Specific Job: 
Bank President
Cause of Death: 

The central character throughout the Snopes Trilogy, Flem represents the rise of the "poor white" in Yoknapatawpha and the consequent displacement of the aristocratic planter class. The son of Ab and Lennie Snopes (not mentioned in this novel), he has followed his father from tenant farm to tenant farm until that fateful day in The Hamlet when they arrive in Frenchman's Bend. Through cunning and shady dealing, Flem schemes his way from clerking in a country store to being President of the Sartoris bank in Jefferson. In his progress through the volumes of the trilogy he marries the mythically beautiful Eula Varner, but "the only thing he loved was money" (159). He even, as Montgomery Ward Snopes puts it, "parlayed his wife into the presidency of a bank" (92), a reference to Flem's exploitation of the adulterous affair between Eula and Manfred de Spain developed in The Town. He is originally cast as ruthless and rapacious in The Hamlet, but in the later volumes of the trilogy Faulkner softens his edges a bit. Though Flem never entirely becomes sympathetic, his motivations become more human and more understandable. Most of all, Flem strives for prestige and respectability, neither of which are given to him on a plate as they are to the grand old families of Jefferson. Instead, he has to earn both money and respectability; as Faulkner describes, using Ratliff's vernacular voice, Flem must "snatch and tear and scrabble both of them outen the hard enduring resisting rock" (171). Though he is by far the wealthiest resident of Jefferson, he is not quite upper class, as he never has the respectability of the first families. Somewhat pitifully, "nobody . . . had ever managed to sell Flem Snopes anything as amorphous as prestige" (358). Paradoxically, his various attempts to imitate the South's traditional aristocratic class makes him "the tory who had done more than any other man in Jefferson or Yoknapatawpha County either to repeal time back to 1900 at least" (253).

CUT: His traditionalism serves as a means to command respect;
Financial Status: 
controls substantial wealth
Social Status: 
has influential social contacts (family, business, political)
Individual or Group: 
Character changes class in this text: