McCaslin-Edmonds Place (Location Key)


Some seventeen miles northeast of Jefferson stands the McCaslin-Edmonds house, which has the longest history of any of the structures in Yoknapatawpha, although its exact age varies in different texts. According to Faulkner's last novel, The Reivers, the house was built in 1813 by Old Carothers McCaslin, and it is still there at the center of a working plantation in 1961, though the enslaved people who once lived in the slave quarters have been replaced Negro domestics and sharecroppers who live in the "servant and tenant quarters" (Intruder in the Dust, 8). On the other hand, the earlier Go Down, Moses implies the house (and Carothers) were in Yoknapatawpha before 1807. The texts also disagree, even within themselves, about the kind of house Carothers built. Near the beginning of Moses it's described as a "log" structure with "two wings," which after the Civil War was transformed by Cass Edmonds (Carothers' great-grandson) into a more conventional plantation big house, "portico" and all (44); near the end of that novel, however, the narrator calls Carothers' original house a "vast [unfinished] cavern" (286). The Reivers offers a slightly different but more consistent account; there the original "two-room mud-chinked log half domicile and half fort" has been repeatedly enlarged and covered over by "the clapboards and Greek revival and steamboat scrollwork" which the women who marry into the Edmonds family have added over the decades (61). This gentrification of the place is only one of the ways it morphs over time - that is, over the course of Faulkner's career. According to The Unvanquished it was pretty genteel from the beginning: what that first McCaslin built was not a log cabin but a "big colonial house," "one of the finest [residences] in the country," before Old Carothers' sons decided to move all the slaves they inherited along with the land into "the manor house," choosing to live themselves in a cabin they built nearby (47). According to Go Down, Moses, Old Carothers' grandson Ike is even more uncomfortable with the property's slave-owning past, so although he is slated to inherit it some years after Emancipation he instead renounces his claim, which is how the Edmondses who descend from Carothers' daughter come to own it. As Ike discovers in Moses, the plantation is "cursed" by the monstrous sin his grandfather committed there before he was born (283). In that novel the legacy of this sin lives on through the generations - though notably, no reference to that particular past is made in the other eight texts in which the property appears or is mentioned. And Faulkner's various accounts of the place raise further questions. For example, in The Hamlet Flem Snopes' family spends a winter at Ike McCaslin's "farm" (390), but Ike never owns the property and nowhere else is it called a farm. And Faulkner's reference in his last fiction to the original "log" house connects the place back to the MacCallum home that stands on the same spot on Faulkner's first map of Yoknapatawpha as the McCaslins' place occupies on his second - but the MacCallum place is in the hills, while the McCaslin place sits on the rich bottom land near the river. The way Faulkner's imagination keeps returning to and re-creating this spot is a sign that for him it's one of the places in his world onto which he can project and seek to resolve his own conflicted feelings about the larger Southern past.

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