Sam Fathers

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Sam Fathers
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Fathers, Sam
Uncle Blue-Gum
Free Black
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Wednesday, January 1, 1817 to Friday, December 31, 1819

This character has two names: in the story's present, when he works as an accomplished carpenter for the Compsons and is reputed to be "almost a hundred years old" (343), he is called "Sam Fathers," but when he was born into a tribe of Choctaw Indians he was given the name "Had-Two-Fathers" (345). At the center of the narrative, he tells Quentin Compson the account he himself heard many years ago about how he was conceived and named. The story he tells was revised by Faulkner in the better-known "The Bear" section of Go Down, Moses: there he is described as the "son of a Negro slave and an Indian king"; in "A Justice," however, he identifies his "pappy" as a more plebeian Indian called "Craw-ford" or "Crawfish-ford" (347). His mother is a married slave woman who is won by Doom on a steamboat, and taken as by Craw-ford as a concubine. As a young man he is sold along with his mother by the chief of the tribe to Quentin's great-grandfather, although he did not have to go with her "because I was a warrior too then" (345). Although he is treated as black by whites and lives "with the Negroes" (343) in the quarters of the Compson family farm, he self-identifies as Indian. Quentin is confused by the contradictions in his character - the ways he resembles the other blacks on the farm (his hair, his speech) and yet is different (his skin color, his "nose and mouth and chin," and especially the way he doesn't show the racially appropriate deference to white people: "he wouldn't jump up and go back to work when Mr. Stokes or even Grandfather came along," 344). Sam's story - of sex, race, slavery and exile - leaves the twelve-year-old Quentin still more confused. He last sees him, in his mind's eye, sitting in his carpenter's shop "like something looked upon after a long time in a preservative bath in a museum" (360).

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