Historic California (Location Key)


California appears in over a dozen of the fictions, in all but two of them as a state. It seems worthwhile to describe separately the two instances which use the historic California as a setting. In Light in August Calvin Burden sails to California when he runs away from his New England home at age twelve. This is around 1820, several decades before the Gold Rush brought thousands of other Americans there. At the time California belonged to Spain, and young Calvin's experiences are shaped by that: he "turns Catholic" and lives "for a year in a monastery" (241); it is the Catholic "priests in California" who teach him how to read - but only in Spanish (242). California is briefly mentioned twice in Absalom! It's speculated that the unnamed lawyer pretends to be looking for Thomas Sutpen there in the 1840s and 50s (244), and it's included on the list of places Henry Sutpen might have fled to after killing Bon in 1865 (147). It's in between these references that California was annexed by the U.S. in 1846 and then, almost as soon as gold was discovered there, became a U.S. state in 1850. (See also Hollywood, Japanese Internment Camp, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Stanford University in this index.)

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