Molly Worsham Beauchamp

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Molly Worsham Beauchamp
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Beauchamp, Molly Worsham
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The wife of Lucas Beauchamp figures in five different texts. In the first two ("A Point of Law" and "Gold Is Not Always") she is unnamed. In the first one she speaks a thick, essentially mistrelish dialect ("Yawl and your Gawge Wilkins!" 223), in the second she is only mentioned, once. In the short story "Go Down, Moses," however, she becomes a character with a biography - she grew up side by side with the privileged white daughter of one of Jefferson's oldest families - and though she is "a little old Negro woman with a shrunken, incredibly old face beneath a white headcloth and a black straw hat which would have fitted a child" (257), her stature as the deeply religious, grieving grandmother of a young man who left the plantation she and Lucas live on is morally and emotionally impressive. Faulkner combined and revised these three stories into Go Down, Moses, where she is "Molly" until the final chapter, which calls her "Mollie." Go Down, Moses is dedicated to the black woman, Caroline Barr, who was Faulkner's own "Mammy"; the praise he bestows on Barr in the novel's Dedication recurs later in the novel in a description of Mollie (113), an extra-textual linkage that gives this character a status unlike any other in the canon. There are other inconsistencies besides her name in Molly's character in the novel, which remains comic in scenes transposed from the first two stories but becomes even more poignant in some new scenes involving the tension between being a 'mammy' to Roth Edmonds and the wife of Lucas. Given how hard it is to get her character into a focus, it is interesting that in her last appearance, in Intruder in the Dust, she is presented and re-presented simultaneously when a young white boy is confronted with the contrast between her appearance in person as "a tiny almost doll-sized woman" who is wearing "an immaculate white cloth on her head" (10) - a completely familiar image for a white southerner in Faulkner's time - and a large mounted photograph of her in the same room, outside that socially imposed costume and culturally defined character, looking "like nobody he has ever seen before" (14). That moment of cognitive dissonance marks the beginning of this young boy's re-education, and makes Molly a potentially subversive figure.