Tennie's Jim|James Beauchamp

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Tennie's Jim|James Beauchamp
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Tennie's Jim|James Beauchamp
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Although always a minor character, this black man reveals a lot about how Faulkner's imagination led him into and out of the haunted issue of slavery and its legacy. In his first published appearance he is "Tennie's Jim" in the hunting story "The Bear"; in that character he's a revised version of "Jimbo," one of the servants Major de Spain takes with him in "The Old People" on his annual hunting trips into the big woods. He assists the camp's cook, "pours whisky from the demijohn into the tin dipper" of the "Brunswick stew" (287), tends the fire, and "passes the bottle" among the white hunters (293). He's still "Tennie's Jim" and still playing that menial role when he first re-appears in Go Down, Moses, but tracing the tangled thread of his character through the complete narrative shows how Faulkner evolved the novel from a set of previously published short stories and from his own awakened interest in the stories of the black inhabitants of Yoknapatawpha. In the book's central chapter, "The Bear," it's "Tennie's Jim" who appears in sections 1, 2 and 3, mostly in the woods but once at the Edmonds-McCaslin place (220), although there he remains just one of the family's black servants. However, in the new material that Faulkner wrote for the novel (Section 4 of "The Bear"), he includes a black character named "James Beauchamp": he is the fourth child of Tomey’s Turl and Tennie Beauchamp, which makes him a part of the McCaslin family. Born a slave in 1864 (259), James left Yoknapatawpha and "vanished sometime on night of his twenty-first birthday" (260), without claiming the $1000 inheritance left by Lucius McCaslin, the white slave-owner who was his grandfather and great-grandfather. The novel makes no explicit connection between the black servant in the woods ("Tennie's Jim") and the exiled biracial child of the McCaslin family (James Beauchamp) until its second to last chapter, "Delta Autumn." There his granddaughter arrives at the white hunters' camp in the Delta woods and in a pointed moment identifies "James Beauchamp" as her grandfather, telling Ike McCaslin that "you called him Tennie's Jim though he had a name" (343). It is almost as if Faulkner is reproaching himself. He appears again, one last time, in Faulkner's last book, The Reivers. Unfortunately, that text returns him to the role of servant. Here too he has a grandchild, but Bobo Beauchamp is a much more stereotypical figure than that woman in "Delta Autumn." This novel never mentions the fact that "Tennie's Jim" has that other name, and is the grandson of Lucius McCaslin.