Lucas Quintus Carothers McCaslin Beauchamp

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Lucas Quintus Carothers McCaslin Beauchamp
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Beauchamp, Lucas Quintus Carothers McCaslin
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Lucas Beauchamp appears in seven fictions, all written after 1940. In Faulkner's last published novel, The Reivers, he is only mentioned, but the brief description of him there that one white character gives another sums him up well: "except for color," Lucas "looked (and behaved: just as arrogant, just as iron-headed, just as intolerant) exactly like" Lucius the first, the patriarch of the McCaslin family who is both Lucas' grandfather and his great-grandfather (223), and whom Lucas himself claims as his birthright. As he puts it, proudly, in Intruder in the Dust, "I am a McCaslin" (19). Of course, you cannot escape 'color' in the world Faulkner represents, and the fact that Lucas is the result of that first McCaslin's sexual affairs with one of his slaves and then, fifteen years later, with his own enslaved daughter, while it means Lucas has more 'McCaslin blood' in him than any of the white descendants, also means that he is not recognized as "a McCaslin" legally or socially or in any way that might give him rights as an heir. He lives his whole life as a sharecropper on the McCaslin-Edmonds plantation. In the fictions, however, his character undergoes considerable evolution. In the first two stories in which he appears, "A Point of Law" and "Gold Is Not Always," he speaks in a very thick 'Negro' dialect and is cast in an essentially comic part as a schemer whose schemes seldom prosper but do exasperate the family relative, Roth Edmonds, on whose land he labors. When Faulkner combined those stories and two more in which Lucas is mentioned, into the novel Go Down, Moses, he retained the comic misadventures but added a number of new episodes in which, for one of the first times in his career, he used his imagination and his capacity for empathy to occupy the space that Jim Crow culture forced a black man to inhabit. The results of this are even more impressive in Intruder. There Lucas owns ten acres of land that Zack Edmonds gave him in the middle of their plantation, and on that space Lucas lives as a man who refuses to accept the racist terms laid down by the segregated society around him despite the longing of "every white man" in Beat Four (as Chick McCaslin puts it with a crudeness that reminds us of how demeaning those terms were) "to make a nigger out of him" (18, 31). The novel describes him with adjectives like "friendless opinionated arrogant hardheaded intractable independent" (76) "damned highnosed [and] impudent" (148). In jail and on the verge of being lynched for a murder he didn't commit, he finds a way to save himself and to expose the real killer. Although offstage for most of the narrative, he is probably Faulkner's most impressive African American character.