Tenant Farms in Yoknapatawpha (Location Key)


Faulkner's imaginative county never responded to a census, so we cannot say for sure, for example, how many of its farmers owned their own land as opposed to the many who worked as tenant farmers on land that was owned by others - nor can we say with any precision how many of Yoknapatawpha's landless farmers and farm workers were black and how many were white, or how many were 'tenants' or 'sharecroppers' or hired field 'hands' who worked for fixed wages. Intruder in the Dust, for example, refers to all these types (except hired hands) as part of the landscape of Beat Four: "every tenant and renter and freeholder white or black in the neighborhood" (18). But the general pattern seems to be that north of Jefferson, where you find the richest soil is and most of the big plantations, there are large holdings that belong to white landlords (often identifiable as the descendants of slave-owners), and most of their fields are worked by Negroes who are tenants or sharecroppers rather than employees. Intruder in the Dust makes this clear when Chick Mallison makes two trips along "the long road" leading north from Jefferson out to the Edmonds place (143). On the cold winter morning when Chick makes his first journey, all the men and women on these farms seem to be doing the same thing: preparing to slaughter a hog. When Chick travels the same road in May four years later, the farm houses are described as "paintless Negro cabins" (143), which suggests that the farmers are all or mostly African American tenant farmers. On this later trip Chick notes the "fields geometric with furrows" for planting corn and cotton, but except for one Negro straining to turn the soil with a "wooden plow" pulled by a mule, the farms seem deserted as the black population stays out of sight while the county waits for a possible lynching (145). The earlier story "Gold Is Not Always" provides further evidence when in front of the courthouse Lucas Beauchamp, who works on shares at the McCaslin-Edmonds place, sees "other tenants from their own farm and from other farms along the creek" (221).

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Tenant Farms in Yoknapatawpha
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Tenant Farms in Yoknapatawpha