New Orleans, Louisiana (Location Key)


Faulkner lived in New Orleans in 1925 and 1926, and the city provides the setting for a number of his non-Yoknapatawpha novels, including Mosquitoes, Pylon, and The Wild Palms. It is also used as a setting or mentioned in 16 Yoknapatawpha fictions, putting it almost as high as Memphis on the frequency list of 'OutOfYoknapatawpha' Locations. It is in fact often associated with Memphis; when in The Reivers, for example, Lucius Priest hears Boon mention "New Orleans," he says he should have immediately realized that Boon's scheme involves an illicit trip to the closer city of Memphis (44) - because both places are associated with moral truancy. Requiem for a Nun also links New Orleans to Memphis as the two places where even Yoknapatawphans who don't do much traveling are likely to go - to misbehave during "a few prolonged Saturday nights" (205). When the Indian chief Doom visits the city in "Red Leaves," much of his time there is spent "among the gamblers and cutthroats of the river front" (317). Popeye, the Memphis gangster in Sanctuary, lived earlier in New Orleans. The husband of Melisandre Backus in "Knight's Gambit," The Town and The Mansion is described in the last novel as "a New Orleans underworld bigshot" (216). When Doom makes his visit, New Orleans is "a European city" (317) - originally settled by the Spanish, then ceded to France, it has only recently been acquired by the young U.S. in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Its architecture as well as its social life retain this 'Creole' history, a term which in the Southern racial context has implications of interracial sex. In "Red Leaves" Doom impregnates the "daughter of a fairly well-to-do West Indian family" (318); when the story of his trip is re-told in Go Down, Moses, the pregnant woman is a "quadroon" (158). That word connects the New Orleans of the Indian stories with the "New Orleans" that appears in Absalom, Absalom! The quotation marks are to indicate how much the city that appears in Absalom! is the product of the imaginations of its various white story-tellers, none of whom, as far as can be determined, has ever been to New Orleans. "New Orleans" is most elaborately evoked by Mr. Compson in Chapter 4, during his reconstruction of the visit Bon and Henry Sutpen pay to the city on the eve of the Civil War. New Orleans already had a reputation as a sensuous place, but Compson's account oozes sexuality. The city's architecture is "a little curious, a little femininely flamboyant and therefore to Henry opulent, sensuous, sinful" (87). The remainder of his account is a heavily guided tour through a realm of aristocratic pleasures. The stops include: the city's public spaces ("the flash and glitter of a myriad carriage wheels," "women, enthroned" and "men in linen a little finer and diamonds a little brighter," 88); the private auction house in which mixed-race women are sold as concubines ("a neighborhood a little decadent," the place "invested . . . with something of secret and curious and unimaginable delights," 89); the adjacent enclosed dueling ground, with "only the most recent of the brown stains showing" (90); the living quarters of the "quadroon" Compson calls Bon's mistress and her child: "a place created for and by voluptuousness" (91). Faulkner's imagination again connects "New Orleans" with transgressive sexuality in Go Down, Moses, when Carothers McCaslin travels to the city in 1807 to purchase an enslaved woman named Eunice for an extravagant amount of money. Henry Sutpen is made extremely uncomfortable by the racial-sexual world he is exposed to in the city. What Ike McCaslin, the grandson of Old Carothers, learns about his grandfather and Eunice is still more devastating. It was in New Orleans, by the way, that Ikkemotubbe acquired the subriquet "Doom."

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New Orleans, Louisiana
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New Orleans, Louisiana