Ned McCaslin

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Ned McCaslin
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Ned McCaslin
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Introduced into The Reivers as "Grandfather's coachman" (31), Ned McCaslin plays a major role in the narrative, and becomes, at times at least, one of Faulkner's most complex African American characters. The novel's narrator, Lucius Priest, calls him "our family skeleton" (31). He was "born in the McCaslin back yard in 1860," at which time he would have been enslaved (31). His grandfather is Lucius McCaslin, the white man who owned his mother - and after whom Lucius himself is named. In 1905 he is married to the Priest family's cook (one of his four wives). Lucius' mother wants her children to call him "Uncle" Ned. She is a McCaslin-Edmonds, and may intend to acknowledge the family relationship, but it is also possible that she is using "Uncle" in its familiar cultural sense: to patronize a black male. Lucius notes, for example, that Ned is "not Uncle Remus" around himself, "members of his own race," or when treated as a fellow human being by a white man like Sam Caldwell (178). The uncertain meaning of 'uncle' in his case reflects the ambiguous way he is depicted in the narrative: at times as a figure of comedy, with a clownish laugh and an affinity for larceny that leads the "reivers" into much of the trouble that befalls them; at others as an intelligent man whose race exposes him to shameful abuses, and whose scheming seems entirely justified by his social disenfranchisement. He dies at age 74.

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