Jefferson School (Location Key)


It is not possible to get Faulkner's representation of the public school system in Jefferson into a clear and consistent focus. A pair of texts acknowledge the reality of Jim Crow segregation, and distinguish the "Negro" school from the "white" one, and a few more establish the existence of a separate "high school" for older public school students - both these categories have their own Locations in our database. This entry includes the schools that are neither "Negro" nor exclusively "high," though the earliest such examples reveal the difficulty of trying to sort Faulkner's fiction into specific data fields. In The Sound and the Fury Quentin remembers a shameful moment from his own school days, when he's too preoccupied to realize that the teacher is asking him a question. The question Miss Laura is asking - "who discovered the Mississippi River?" (88) - suggests what we would call middle school, though in Faulkner's world the all the grades before high school were aggregated in what was called 'grammar school.' Quentin's namesake in the novel, however, Caddie's 17-year-old daughter Quentin, is clearly in high school. But when Jason takes her there on Friday morning, he refers to "the school house," as if there were a single school building for all the town's children (188) - on that basis we assume there is one 'school' as a Location in this novel. In "Hair," on the other hand, the narrative explicitly states that Susan Reed attends school in Jefferson until she reaches adolescence, so there's no question that she's in grammar school when she walks past the barbershop "each morning and afternoon" (132). Yet the story's reference to a "high-school" boy suggests again that all the grades, from elementary through high school, are taught in one "building" (135). Although the idea of a "consolidated" school - like the one in Frenchman's Bend the narrator of "Two Soldiers" attends - cannot be ruled out in the other three texts that refer to schools, those texts involve children of grammar school age ("Miss Zilphia Gant," "Uncle Willy") or who are in grammar school despite being older. That's the endearing case with Wallstreet Panic Snopes in The Town, who is twelve when he enters "kindergarten" along with his 6-year-old brother (153) and proposes to his second-grade teacher in her classroom, the "empty room itself smelling of chalk and anguished cerebration and the dry inflexibility of facts" (153). This empty classroom, along with the scene of Quentin's discomfiture, are among the very few times Faulkner's imagination ever goes inside Jefferson's schools.

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