"The Hound" (Text Key 1315)

short story

Curiously, there are no geographical names in this story.   The town is just called "the town" or "the countyseat" and the county, "the county." But its cast includes a Snopes and Vernon Tull, and the local meeting place is "Varner's store" - these details clearly locate the tale in Yoknapatawpha. The story it tells was probably originally imagined as part of the novel Faulkner titled "Father Abraham." This planned work, organized around Flem Snopes' rise from poverty in Frenchman's Bend to wealth and power in Jefferson, was Faulkner's first attempt to write about the place that he soon decided to call Yoknapatawpha. He never finished it, but did publish three different stories set in Frenchman's Bend between 1931 and 1932. "The Hound," published by Harper's Magazine in August, 1931, was the second of these.

A grim tale of crime and guilt, the story stays tightly focused on the actions and emotions of its anti-hero, Ernest Cotton, a "mild man" who turns out to have an inexhaustible fund of bitterness, rage and fear. The hound, his nemesis, provides the tale's relentless soundtrack.  Faulkner reprinted the story in his second collection of short fiction, Doctor Martino and Other Stories (1934). At the end of that decade he returned to the original "Father Abraham" project, recasting it as the Snopes Trilogy. Along with the other two early tales - "Spotted Horses" (1931) and "Lizards in Jamshyd's Courtyard" (1932) - "The Hound" was incorporated into the first volume of that trilogy, The Hamlet (1940). For this novel Faulkner made extensive revisions in the story, including changing Cotton's name to Mink Snopes, giving him a wife and children, and expanding the role of the Snopes who clerks in the store, who is now identified as Mink's cousin Lump. Our representation of the story derives from the Harper's text, as reprinted by Joseph Blotner in the Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner (1979).

Dating the Story: We have chosen to date our representation of the story over 11 days - and for Cotton, 10 sleepless nights - in July, 1929. This is a speculation, informed by the temporal cues that the text itself provides. On the tale's last day, when Cotton is being driven to jail, the Sheriff's car meets "cars and wagons" going home from "market day in the town"; in the Yoknapatawpha fictions, as in Faulkner's rural South, the regular day for country people to go into town to shop is Saturday. And as the car drives through the streets of town, it passes children playing and adults walking homeward "in the long twilight of summer," which makes July a good guess. The fact that Cotton is in a car and that they meet other cars on the road suggests that the year is probably the late 1920s (earlier, cars were rare in Yoknapatawpha; when Faulkner revised the story for The Hamlet, the Sheriff travels in a horse-drawn surrey). Using Faulkner's tendency to set fictions that aren't explicitly "historical" at or near the time he was writing them gave us 1929. In July 1929 there is a Saturday on the 13th. The men at Varner's say Houston's horse returned home without him on a "Tuesday." Working backward from the 13th "two-three days" to the day Cotton's shotgun was brought to Varner's and then further back over the several nights that the hound has already been howling took us to July 2nd as the Tuesday on which the story starts. But this is our interpretation. The story takes place in the summer in the late Twenties, and begins on a Tuesday and ends on a Saturday - that's all we know for certain.

First Publisher: 
Harper's Magazine
First Publisher Date: 
August 1931
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Edit Copy Publisher: 
Vintage International
Edit Copy Publisher Location: 
New York
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How to cite this resource:
Burgers, Johannes H., and Stephen Railton. "Faulkner's 'The Hound.'" Added to the project: 2016. Additional editing 2021: John Corrigan.  Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu

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