The Snopeses are the largest family in Faulkner's world: altogether at least 67 different Snopeses appear in twenty-one different fictions, including the three long novels (The Hamlet, The Town and The Mansion) written as parts of a Snopes trilogy that Faulkner planned and worked on for decades. Snopeses haunted his imagination from the mid-1920s, when he started the earliest Yoknapatawpha fiction, titled "Father Abraham," to tell the story of Flem Snopes' rise from poor white sharecropper's son to Jefferson bank president, through the early-1960s, when he worked with his publisher to bring out Snopes: A Trilogy in one volume. Faulkner regularly talked about "Snopesism" as the demographic symptom of the decline of the Old South into the local version of Modernist decay, much as T.S. Eliot uses Sweeney in his poetry from the 1920s. Faulkner told an approving audience at Virginia in 1958, for example, that there was "not any sort of shoddiness and sorriness and baseness that some Snopes wasn't capable of." On the other hand, among those 67 characters are many who are genuinely admirable, and most are imagined in the context of their individual stories as human beings rather than sociological distress signals.

After considerable discussion, it is the consensus of this project's collaborators and advisory editors that our genealogical display should not represent the Snopes family the same way we depict the other ten recurring families. Half a dozen Snopes family trees have been created and published by other scholars, but even they would no doubt admit that it isn't possible to determine reliably who all the Snopeses are, nor how all of them are related to each other. In the first novel in the trilogy, for example, the Snopes clan exposes the limits on the omniscient third-person narrator's 'omnisicence': he refers to I.O. as Flem's "cousin (or whatever the relationship was: nobody ever knew for certain)" (73). Similar perplexities recur repeatedly across the texts; in the trilogy's second volume Gavin Stevens sums up the problem of a Snopes genealogy this way: "they none of them seemed to bear any specific kinship to one another; they were just Snopeses, like colonies of rats or termites are just rats and termites" (42). The Snopes themselves seldom define their kinship relations. "It's a funny thing about them Snopes," says the first-person narrator of "Spotted Horses," "they all looks alike, yet there ain't ere a two of them that claims brothers. They're always just cousins" (180). That's an exaggeration, but when, for instance, in the last book of the trilogy V.K. Ratliff presses Montgomery Ward to say whether Mink is "your uncle or your cousin," all Mink says is "Yeah?" (71). Obfuscating kinship connections among Snopeses may be one of Faulkner's ways to distinguish between them and the other major white families in his fiction, where the lineage of the aristocratic Sartorises or Compsons is much more clearly established.

The "aggregate" here makes no attempt to organize the 67 Snopeses into a 'tree' but instead sorts them into generations, an easier category to establish - though even here there may be overlap or error. Text-by-text, on the other hand, the connections between husbands and wives (even when I.O. Snopes has two wives at the same time) and parents and children (even when a child is illegitimate) are much more definite, so as you click through the individual texts you'll see the horizontal and vertical lines between character icons that are missing in this collective representation.

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Snopes Family Biography