Lucas Beauchamp's Cabin (Location Key)


Faulkner uses the cabin that Lucas Beauchamp lives in on the McCaslin-Edmonds plantation as a location in five different texts between 1940 and 1948. Lucas is a tenant farmer on the property in all five, but across them his character - and his cabin - become increasingly noteworthy and significant. In "A Point of Law" it's not much more than the place Lucas lives, with his wife Molly and daughter Nat. It sits uphill from the stable, and contains at least three rooms: "the room where he and his wife slept" (215), "the room where his daughter slept" (215), and a "kitchen" (223); it also has an unenclosed "back porch" (216). The companion story "Gold Is Not Always" only mentions the cabin in passing. In "Pantaloon in Black," published less than four months after "Point of Law," readers learn that when he married Molly, "Uncle Lucas Beauchamp, Edmonds' oldest tenant," lit a fire on the cabin's hearth that has burned steadily for forty-five years (240). And when Faulkner combined and revised these stories along with others into the 1942 novel Go Down, Moses, although some of the minstrel elements from the first of the stories remain, in the long "Fire and the Hearth" chapter he looks deeply into the racial burden that is hinted at and repressed in terms like "Uncle Lucas" and "tenant." He makes Lucas a McCaslin too, more closely related to the patriarch who founded the Yoknapatawpha plantation than his white landlord, and in a number of scenes juxtaposes in subtle but resonant ways the distance between the inherited big house where Roth Edmonds lives and the cabin where someone like Lucas has to live. Although he doesn't own it, it too is 'inherited' - from the racist structures of the society in which Lucas must try to be a man. Intruder in the Dust goes still further, making Lucas' cabin a place where all Chick Mallison's racial assumptions, as a child of white privilege, are challenged when he spends part of a day inside it. In this novel Lucas owns both his cabin and the ten acres of land around it. The property was deeded to him by Roth Edmunds' father, as a belated recognition of Lucas' place in the family. Lucas' land is described as an "oblong of earth set forever in the middle of a two thousand acre plantation like a postage stamp in the center of an envelop" (8), and the walk up the "half gully and half road" that mounts to his cabin is characterized with adjectives that set Lucas as well as his property apart from Yoknapatawpha's conventional racial patterns: "solitary independent and intractable too" (8). The narrative equivocates about what to call his home, using the phrase "the house, the cabin" when Chick first sees it (8), and the contradictory note of poverty and pride it strikes obviously confuses the twelve-year-old son of an old white family. The adjective "paintless" is used seven times to in its description (8, 9), but the yard is tidy and the secondhand furnishings inside are arranged with an air of dignity. In this novel the centerpiece of the home is the large portrait photo of Lucas and Molly in their finest clothes set in a frame of "gold-painted wood on a gold-painted easel" (10). Readers of "A Rose for Emily" see a equally formal photograph similarly displayed in the upper-class home of Emily Grierson. Chick is confused to find such an object in a 'Negro cabin,' even more so because Molly's hair is uncovered in the picture, and he's never seen a black woman who wasn't wearing a "headrag" (14). By the time Chick leaves to try to return to his old assumptions about white and black, the cabin has become the threshhold of revelation.

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