Faulkner had already created the Sartorises, the Compsons and the Sutpens when he decided to add a fourth planter family to the census of Yoknapatawpha. Eventually the McCaslins become the largest of them all, with more than sixty members. They don't come into focus as a family until Go Down, Moses, a novel published in 1942, and the complex process, as much moral as imaginative, by which different characters, white and black, move toward each other in various stories over the previous decade is one of the most fascinating aspects of Faulkner's career. The story Faulkner uses the family to tell when 38 McCaslins, Beauchamps and Edmondses (all three branches of the extended family) come together in Moses is similar to his use of the Sutpens in Absalom, Absalom! - representing Southern history as a family affair - but the access the McCaslins provide to the darker parts of slavery and the sins of the planter aristocracy deconstructs the earlier image created by Sartorises and Compsons in ways that can seem still more powerful. And unlike the Sutpens, the McCaslins don't effectively disappear in the later fictions. Faulkner's very last novel, The Reivers, published twenty years after Moses, centers again on the McCaslin family, which Faulkner here extends along an entirely new branch, the Priests. On the other hand, after Moses Faulkner does effectively erase the darkest parts of the McCaslin story while also making the family increasingly "white." You can trace this long and winding narrative arc through the charts of the 22 works in which one or more members of the family appear.

There is another possible inter-textual and -familial aspect to the family, one that the genealogical charts available here don't attempt to represent. The roots of the McCaslin family tree may reach as far back as the MacCallum family, from Faulkner's very first Yoknapatawpha fiction. The two families live in almost exactly the same place in northeast Yoknapatawpha, as a comparison of Faulkner's 1936 map (where it's the McCallums' place that appears) with his 1945 map (where it's the McCaslins') will show. The families' patriarchs are named Virginius and Lucius Quintus. When readers are introduced into the families' homes, they find foxes intermingled with foxhounds. How the families are or aren't linked in Faulkner's texts or in his mind, and how differently they represent an idea of the "Old South," readers may choose to explore for themselves.

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McCaslin Family Biography