Horace Benbow

Character Key Number: 
Display Name: 
Horace Benbow
Sort Name: 
Benbow, Horace
Parent Character Key: 
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 

In the larger narrative of Yoknapatawpha Horace Benbow's place is a curious one. One of the two central characters in the first Yoknapatawpha fiction, Flags in the Dust, Horace becomes the first major recurring character in the canon when Faulkner casts him as the protagonist of Sanctuary. After that second appearance he essentially disappears. In Flags he is, like Bayard Sartoris, both the male descendant of one of the county's most aristocratic families and also a member of the 'lost generation.' Though he went to World War I as a non-combatant, his attempt to come home afterwards is as unsuccessful as Bayard's. His affair with the married Belle Mitchell comes between him and his sister Narcissa, and ends up sending him too into a very modernist exile at the end of the novel. He is again trying to go home again ten years later in Sanctuary. Although his passion for Belle is gone, he remains a squeamish idealist. But the sexual anxieties he is fleeing from are only exascerbated by the Gothic world he enters at the Old Frenchman place, a decaying antebellum plantation house that becomes the site of murder and rape. His quest to discover the truth about what happened there makes him the first of the many 'detectives' in Faulkner's fiction, but it is compromised by his futile longing to protect his own innocence. "Futility," in fact, sums up the essential truth about his character: as a kind of artist and lover in Flags or as an attorney and detective in Sanctuary. In the end of the second novel he goes back to his marriage, and is seen again only once in the fictions, when the narrator of "There Was a Queen" mentions that Narcissa has a "brother" (735). On the other hand, in a sense Horace does return in later texts: there are a lot of affinities between him and Faulkner's favorite character, Gavin Stevens.