Memphis: Miss Reba's (Location Key)


In The Reivers Boon tells Lucius Priest that 'Miss Reba's' is "a kind a boarding house" (93), and in Sanctuary Virgil Snopes and Fonzo Snopes live there for some time on the assumption that it is a boarding house, one where the landlady has a lot of daughters. But of course Miss Reba's place is a brothel, one of several in Memphis' notorious red-light district which lay at "the foot of the bluff below Main Street" (Sanctuary, 142). The Mansion refers to this side of Memphis life in a number of passages: "Mulberry and Gayoso and Pontotoc streets" (68), "that Catalpa Street house" (305), "joints and dives and cathouses" (83) - these and other references point to prostitution as a major element in Memphis' tourist economy, at least in Faulkner's fictions. Even as Mink Snopes heads for a pawn shop to purchase a gun, he passes the Memphis brothel in which "forty-seven years ago" he slept with a white woman for the first time, and in which, unknown to him, his long estranged "younger daughter is now the madam" (320). Miss Reba's is mentioned in The Mansion, but in two other fictions the house figures as a major narrative site. From the outside, it's described in Sanctuary as a "dingy three-storey house" on "a narrow dingy street of frame houses and junk yards" (142, 191). Reivers identifies the street as Catalpa (137). Despite its seedy appearance, the brothel, at least according to Reba herself, is a very well known establishment, with a clientele that includes "bankers, lawyers, doctors - all of them" (143). In that novel it is where Popeye takes Temple Drake after raping her; there she is both a prisoner and, eventually, a willing participant in a sexual relationship that shocks even Reba. The Reivers also spends a lot of time in Miss Reba's. In that novel it is less shady: there is a homelike quality to the way the 'girls' who work there are treated by Miss Reba and Mr. Binford, though the place's pretensions to gentility often wear thin. Mr. Binford in this novel runs the house, but in Sanctuary it's a woman-owned and -operated business, and there's no question about how well Reba runs it.

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Memphis: Miss Reba's
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Memphis: Miss Reba's