"Monk" (Text Key 4670)

short story

Faulkner's second detective story, "Monk" was originally published in Scribner's Magazine in May, 1937. Faulkner wrote four more detective fictions between 1939 and 1949, and in 1949 collected all six into a volume entitled Knight's Gambit. Our representation of the story is based on the Vintage International paperback edition of that book (2011).

"Monk" actually features two different types of mystery, which call for two different types of detectives. As in most detective fictions, "Monk" contains mysterious deaths - two of them; as in all the Knight's Gambit stories, the investigating detective figure is Gavin Stevens - Yoknapatawpha County Attorney and one of Faulkner's favorite characters. But "Monk" is even more interested in the mystery of a life - Monk's. And it is the story's unnamed narrator who, at the outset, announces his intention to "tell about Monk" as a kind of detective quest: by means of the "nebulous tools" that "literature" provides he undertakes to resolve the "inconsistencies in [Monk's] brief and sordid and unoriginal history" (41). In the end Gavin discovers the persons responsible for the two deaths, and the narrator makes considerable progress toward reconstructing Monk's life. But neither finds a satisfactory answer to their own questions about why the legal system fails Monk on multiple occasions. As the narrator notes, Monk "should never have gone to the penitentiary at all" (41), nor been executed for a crime that he was coerced into committing there. Faulkner underscores this failure of justice at the story's end, when Stevens simply walks out of the travesty of a Parole Board hearing and effectively turns his back on the legal system, at least for for the time being.

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Scribner's Magazine
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May 1937
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Vintage International
Edit Copy Publisher Location: 
New York
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How to cite this resource:
Railton, Stephen, and Lorie Watkins. "Faulkner's 'Monk.'" Added to the project: 2016.  Additional editing 2018: Johannes H. Burgers, Theresa M. Towner.  Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu