Gowan Stevens

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Gowan Stevens
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Stevens, Gowan
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The Stevenses are an old Jefferson family that becomes a very big part of the story of Yoknapatawpha by way of Faulkner's fondness for Gavin. The first member of the family to appear in the fictions is "Judge Stevens" in "A Rose for Emily," but in Sanctuary Gavin's second cousin Gowan becomes the first Stevens to play a significant role. And in Sanctuary Faulkner's treatment of Gowan is scathing. He's a recent graduate of the University of Virginia who likes to claim that he learned there both how to hold his liquor and how to be a gentleman. In fact, his inability either to stay sober or to act decently, much less chivalrously, proves disastrous for Temple Drake. He slinks away from Yoknapatawpha about a third of the way through the narrative. However, Faulkner allows him to redeem himself almost two decades later, when he returns imaginatively to Temple and Gowan in Requiem for a Nun. According to that drama, not long after the events of Sanctuary they married, Gowan has stayed sober for eight years, and his face tells a new story: "something has happened to it - tragedy - something . . . which it has accepted and is trying, really and sincerely and selflessly . . . to do its best with according to its code" (54). The plot of Requiem visits another traumatic event on him and Temple; this time he still there at the end, offstage but heard speaking his wife's name as the second to last word of the drama. In his final appearance in The Town, he is younger than in the earlier texts, a child living with the extended Stevens family while his parents are overseas. This middle volume in the Snopes trilogy uses Gavin mainly as a narrative source, a witness to Flem's machinations - a role that subordinates him to the voice of his younger cousin Charles, who is telling Flem's story to us. But the story of Gowan himself that nonetheless emerges is that of a youth becoming an adolescent, and curious about the ways adults behave.