Jefferson Square Monuments (Location Key)


"The slender white pencil of the Confederate monument" - that is how Intruder in the Dust refers to the statue of an unidentified Confederate soldier that stands atop a tall pedestal in front of the courthouse in the Square at the center of Jefferson (48). This monument appears in 8 fictions. Requiem for a Nun provides the most detail about it and its history, and includes an account of the "Confederate Decoration Day" in 1900 when Colonel Sartoris' sister, Virginia DuPre, officially unveiled it and the town's surviving Confederate veterans sounded one last 'rebel yell' (188). According to Requiem, the monument was "instigated" and paid for by the United Daughters of the Confederacy - a real Southern organization that in the decades right before and after 1900 erected many of the real Confederate monuments across the South (189). Also according to Requiem, neither the U.D.C. nor the "architect" who designed the monument noticed that the soldier faces south, "toward (if anything) his own rear" - apparently looking "for reinforcements" (190). This "Confederate soldier gazing with empty eyes beneath his marble hand in wind and weather" figures most significantly in the last scene of The Sound and the Fury (319), when Benjy Compson is briefly traumatized by being taken the 'wrong' way around the statue during his regular trip to the town cemetery. That event is echoed, though it's hard to say how intentionally or ironically, when Go Down, Moses ends with the hearse carrying the black body of Samuel Worsham Beauchamp "circling the Confederate monument" on his trip "home" to a cemetery in the county (363). Several fictions mention the different 'monument' that pays a perverse kind of tribute to Flem Snopes and his anti-heroic venality: the town's tall water tower, where one of Flem's corrupt schemes has made the water undrinkable. Less obvious though perhaps also worth noting in connection with the town's official monument to the 'Lost Cause' and its defeated heroes is the image that forms in Quentin Compson's thoughts earlier in The Sound and the Fury, of "Colonel Sartoris" and his grandfather General Compson "wearing his uniform" on "a high place looking across at something" (176). Faulkner considered the Confederate monument significant enough to include it as one of the Yoknapatawpha places he included on his first map of the county, and even though most of the fictions that mention the monument do so only briefly, in passing, it's probably always appropriate to consider the context in which those references occur, or even to think about how, in both a geographic and historical and ideological sense, this statue stands at the center of Yoknapatawpha. On the other hand, it's also interesting to wonder why, in some texts, the statue is conspicuous by its absence. For example, in Light in August, Byron Bunch stands outside the courthouse "beneath the portico which faced the south side of the square," and notes how "the stone columns rose, arching, weathered, stained with generations of casual tobacco" (415); but Bryon (who is one of Faulkner's few major characters who leave their 'past' behind) does not make any reference to the marble soldier who in so many other Faulkner texts stands outside the courthouse's south side. And one text, Requiem, adds two new monuments to the Square: "a French point-seventy-five field piece squatting on one flank of the base of the Confederate monument" that is apparently a memorial to the soldiers who fought (as American rather than Confederate soldiers) during World War I (190); and (presumably on the statue's other "flank") a memorial to the combatants of World War II that very explicitly marks both a re-united and still divided United States: an anti-tank gun "captured from a regiment of Germans in an African desert by a regiment of Japanese in American uniforms, whose mothers and fathers at the time were in a California detention camp for enemy aliens" (194). These don't appear in any other texts. As supplements to the original statue, they locate 'Yoknapatawpha' in a much larger context, even racially.

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Jefferson Square Monuments
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Jefferson Square Monuments