The Reivers (Text Key 231)


Faulkner's last novel was written in 1961, and published 4 June 1962 - just a month before his death. His original title for it was "The Horse Stealers"; this was shortened to "The Stealers," then changed to "The Reavers" - an archaic English word for "robbers" - before he settled on The Reivers, which uses an even more archaic Scottish spelling of the word. One thing that remained unchanged throughout its composition is the subtitle: "A Reminiscence." An essentially comic picaresque coming-of-age story featuring the misadventures of Lucius Priest, an 11-year-old boy, with two lower class men, one white and one black, the novel has often been compared to Huck Finn. But while Lucius' journey takes him among prostitutes, gamblers and other kinds of outcasts, as a member of Yoknapatawpha's aristocracy he enjoys a much more secure place in the social order than Huck could ever imagine.

The book's narrative structure is surprisingly complex. Its first two words - "Grandfather said" - are written by the protagonist's grandson, also named Lucius. The remainder of the book is spoken by the older Lucius, a man in his late sixties reminiscing about what happened some fifty-six years earlier. Although most of this story takes place outside Yoknapatawpha, it seems safe to assume that both Luciuses are somewhere in the county when it is told and retold; in any case, we have located the events that take place in 1961, whenever grandfather Lucius interrupts his narrative to speak directly to his grandson, in "Courthouse Square," the project's default site for events that canot be more precisely located in Jefferson or Yoknapatawpha.

The idea for the novel first occurred to Faulkner in 1940, but the book he wrote two decades later can be read as a kind of indulgent valedictory to his career, especially in the way it deploys or alludes to so many characters and locations from earlier Yoknapatawpha fictions. It has the happiest ending and is the most popularly accessible of all Faulkner's novels. While some contemporary critics complained it was too nostalgic or sentimental, it was generally well-received, and chosen for both the Book-of-the-Month Club and the 1963 Pulitzer Prize. Our representation of it is based on Noel Polk's "corrected text," as published by Vintage International in 2011.

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Random House
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New York
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Vintage International
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New York
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How to cite this resource:
Denton, Ren, Steven Knepper, and Stephen Railton. "Faulkner's The Reivers." Added to the project: 2015.  Additional editing, 2019: Johannes H. Burgers, Theresa M. Towner.  Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia,