Grenier Plantation|Old Frenchman Place (Location Key)


The 'old Frenchman place' is the third plantation 'big house' Faulkner creates. The first - Sartoris in Flags in the Dust - is still intact and prosperous over half a century after the Civil War. The second - the Compson place in The Sound and the Fury - is falling into decay by then. The old Frenchman place has already fallen by the time it first appears, in Sanctuary. The novel actually describes it as if for the first time twice, from Gavin Stevens' point of view and then from Temple Drake's. The "gutted" and "gaunt weather-stained ruin" of an antebellum mansion they both see (8, 41) serves Faulkner's imagination as the appropriate setting for a very Gothic tale, a sinister place defined by mobsters, murder and rape. It re-appears in ten more fictions, and in the process gets located more clearly in the context of Southern history. The old Frenchman was one of Yoknapatawpha county's original white settlers, and his place the county's "first big land patent," a slave plantation originally so "vast" that half of it was "not even in Yoknapatawpha County" (Requiem for a Nun, 6, 8). Its "tremendous house" was designed by an "imported and nameless architect"; no longer habitable, it has been reduced to a "broken roof and topless chimneys and one high rectangle of window through which [one can] see the stars" (The Hamlet, 375). Since the Civil War the small farmers who live in Frenchman's Bend have been tearing it apart to use the wood as fuel. In the Snopes trilogy, Flem Snopes acquires it when he marries Eula Varner. Reputedly, the old Frenchman's silver is still buried somewhere on the property, which gives Flem a fraudulent way to use the remains of the house to climb another rung on the ladder that ultimately leads to a different 'mansion' in Jefferson. This is one of those pieces of unreal estate in Yoknapatawpha that moves around: in earlier editions of Sanctuary the place is located "twenty miles from town," but Polk's corrected text puts the distance at "twelve miles" (121).

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Grenier Plantation|Old Frenchman Place
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Grenier Plantation|Old Frenchman Place