"Go Down, Moses" (Text Key 2091)

short story

"Go Down, Moses" originally appeared in the January 25, 1941, issue of Collier's Magazine accompanied by an illustration by George Howe. Faulkner used a slightly revised version as the final chapter in Go Down, Moses (1942). Our edition uses the magazine version as reprinted in the Uncollected Stories, edited by Joseph Blotner.

Faulkner draws his title from the spiritual of the same name, which includes the lyrics, "Go Down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land. Tell old pharaoh to let my people go." The title helps to draw out the contrast between how Gavin Stevens and Mollie Beauchamp view Samuel Beauchamp's run-ins with the law and eventual execution. Stevens argues that Samuel, whose father is in the state penitentiary, comes from bad seed. His grandmother Mollie claims that Carothers "Roth" Edmonds is to blame for banishing Samuel from the plantation when he was a teenager. She says that Roth "sold him to Pharaoh." While Stevens is the story's focal character, the title suggests that Faulkner may not want his readers to simply adopt the lawyer's take on the case of Samuel Beauchamp.

Dating the Story: The story takes place over two days in July during the 1940 census. The exact days are unspecified, so we used the middle of the month (July 15-16).

First Publisher: 
Collier's Magazine
First Publisher Date: 
January 25, 1941
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Vintage International
Edit Copy Publisher Location: 
New York
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How to cite this resource:
Jewett, Chad, and Steven Knepper. "Faulkner's 'Go Down, Moses.'" Added to the project: 2015.   Additional editing 2018: John Padgett, Ben Robbins.  Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu

Associate Editors: