Jason Compson I

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Jason Compson I
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Compson, Jason Lycurgus I
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Requiem for a Nun identifies the first member of the family in Yoknapatawpha as "a man named Compson" (11) - but which Compson? Faulkner's fictions answer that question three different ways; there is no way to reconcile them, but this Compson is probably the one with the best claim. In the prose introduction to Act I of Requiem, which actually takes place in the earliest days of the frontier settlement that will become Jefferson, the "Compson" who takes charge of a tense situation is not given any first name. The prose part of Act III names him Jason (169), and develops his story in a bit more detail: he trades a race horse to Ikkemotubbe "for a square of land" (169), becoming one of the county's largest planters; he also becomes the partner of Ratcliffe in owning the settlement's store (173). He is also identified as the father of "General Compson, the first Jason's son" (187). In the main that account is consistent with what Faulkner says about Jason in the "Appendix Compson" that he wrote in the mid-1940s, where he has a middle name too. In 1799, as an "infant," Jason Lycurgus was taken by his grandfather - the first Compson in America - from Carolina to Kentucky (326). He arrived at the Mississippi settlement in 1811. By racing his mare against the horses of Ikkemotubbe's men, Jason I won from Ikkemotubbe the "solid square mile of land" that would become the Compson Domain (328). His leadership role in Requiem makes plausible the suggestion that he is the "Governor" whom both Quentin III and Jason IV in The Sound and the Fury refer to as "one of our forefathers" (101), but there are other candidates on the family tree for that title, as well as for the title 'first Compson in Yoknapatawpha' (see the entries for both this Jason's son, Quentin Compson II, and his grandson, Jason II). As a man and an example of Yoknapatawpha's planter class, the outlines of his character recall Thomas Sutpen more than John Sartoris: an enterprising and ambitious man who works his way up to the big house on the big plantation. As an inconsistency in the history of Yoknapatawpha, he's a reminder that Faulkner seldom worried about keeping all his imaginative 'facts' straight.