The central narrative arc of the first volume in the Snopes trilogy is organized around Flem Snopes' rise, from sharecropper's son in Frenchman's Bend toward business owner in Jefferson. Following in his wake are five more Snopeses: in order of their arrival in the Bend, I.O., Eck, Mink, Ike and Lump. They refer to each other as cousins, all children of different fathers who may have been brothers of Ab Snopes. Mink tells Ratliff that he, Flem and Ike had a common "grandma" (84), which suggests that Ab's own father, the ur-Snopes who never appears in the fictions, must have had two wives; Mink says as much in The Mansion, written twenty years after The Hamlet. However, in the way this first Snopes novel describes the extended family, the phrase "nobody ever knew for certain" exactly what "the relationship was" - used to describe the connection between Flem and Eck (73) - sums up the general difficulty of drawing a definitive Snopes family tree (73). Economically the members of the family seem allied by their ambitions, but their emotional bonds are very tenuous - except for the rage that Mink and his (unnamed) wife feel toward Flem's success; Mink's hostility toward Flem will become a major motif in the trilogy's final volume.

The various male Snopeses are drawn very vividly, but their lives and familial relationships are depicted from a distance. The third-person narrator often sees them through V.K. Ratliff's eyes, and Ratliff shares their class origins (his father and Ab were both sharecroppers on Anse Holland's place, 29). But Ratliff's attitude toward the family alternates between astonishment and consternation, and neither he nor the narrator display any hint of empathy. The life of Eula Varner, the young woman whom Flem marries as another step upward on the social ladder he's climbing, is described in considerable detail - until she becomes "Mrs. Snopes," at which point she becomes essentially opaque.

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Affiliated Characters

Ab Snopes - The Hamlet
Ab Snopes' Daughter(1) - The Hamlet
Ab Snopes' Daughter(2) - The Hamlet
Ab Snopes' Wife - The Hamlet
Eck Snopes - The Hamlet
Eula Snopes' Daughter - The Hamlet
Eula Varner - The Hamlet
Eustace Grimm - The Hamlet
Eustace Grimm's Father - The Hamlet
Eustace Grimm's Infant - The Hamlet
Eustace Grimm's Mother - The Hamlet
Flem Snopes - The Hamlet
Flem Snopes's Brother - The Hamlet
I.O. Snopes - The Hamlet
I.O. Snopes's Child - The Hamlet
Ike Snopes - The Hamlet
Lump Snopes - The Hamlet
Lump Snopes' Father - The Hamlet
Lump Snopes' Mother - The Hamlet
Mink Snopes - The Hamlet
Mink Snopes's Father - The Hamlet
Mink Snopes's Wife - The Hamlet
Mrs. Eustace Grimm - The Hamlet
Mrs. I.O. Snopes - The Hamlet
Saint Elmo Snopes - The Hamlet
Vynie Snopes - The Hamlet