Road between Jefferson and Mottstown (Location Key)


The main north-south road through Jefferson is frequently traveled in the fictions, though most of the traffic is on the section north of town. Travel on the other portion is mainly connected with getting to and from Mottstown, the seat of the adjacent county to the south. In As I Lay Dying the Bundrens travel up this road and enter Jefferson from the south as the last leg of their journey to the cemetery to bury Addie; on the outskirts of town they see a car for the first time on the trip, and on the southern edge of town they see "massed telephone lines" and "negro cabins" (229). The most memorable trip down this road is probably the one that Jason Compson takes in The Sound and the Fury on Easter Sunday, his headache pounding from the smell of gasoline, furiously chasing the money that he believes can save him while passing churches "from time to time" (306). But the stretch of this road closest to Mottstown also is the site of two very different kinds of events. In Light in August it is the last stage of Joe Christmas' long journey. He can't know that Mottstown is where the grandfather who abandoned him as an infant on the steps of the orphanage in Memphis now lives, he doesn't even seem to want to reach Mottstown, but he sees the "broad gravelled road" on which he is getting a ride into Mottstown in the shape of the "circle" in which he's lived his whole life (338, 339). The spot where Joe reaches the road can't be far from the place where Granny and Bayard are almost captured by the Union soldiers from whom they've just stolen a set of mules in The Unvanquished - this happens about four years after Joe's ride, measured by the dates of Faulkner's career, and over half a century earlier in the chronological record of Yoknapatawpha. The road is also taken to Mottstown by the family of the narrator in "That Will Be Fine," and to Jefferson by the barnstorming pilots and daredevils in "Death Drag." We assume the "straight stretch of road about two miles from town" where Manfred de Spain and Lucius Hogganbeck race cars on Sunday afternoons in The Town is also somewhere along this road (61). How conscious Faulkner is about using the roads of Yoknapatawpha as one way to measure the larger progress of the South is a question I can't answer, but it may be worth noting that when Jason rushes down the road in 1928, it's completely unpaved; Jason is sure is it's going to rain, turning the road to "mud" in which his car will get stuck (305), while just a few years later, when Joe is driven down it in a mule-drawn wagon, it's "graveled," which leads the narrator of that text to call it a "highway" (338). Paving does play a significant role elsewhere in the fictions: in "A Rose for Emily" Homer comes to Jefferson to pave the sidewalks in town, and other roads are often characterized by how well graded or graveled or, eventually, paved they are. (Needless to say, 'getting stuck' also plays a big role in Faulkner's fiction, as Joe's viscious circle indicates.)

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Road between Jefferson and Mottstown
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Road between Jefferson and Mottstown