Texas (Location Key)


Texas plays a quasi-mythical role in Yoknapatawpha's history. While most of the people in the county arrive there from the East, there are two sets of inhabitants who come east to Yoknapatawpha from Texas. Four different fictions tell the story of the "spotted horses" that Flem Snopes brings to Frenchman's Bend from Texas, and that the hapless men who buy them unleash upon the county. The horses are invariably associated with a kind of frontier violence and wildness, but they are not the most dangerous creatures who come to Yoknapatawpha from Texas. That label has to be given to the four unnamed children of Bryon Snopes and a Jicarilla Apache; these unnamed kids travel from El Paso to Jefferson and proceed to terrify the community - until the town manages to ship them back to El Paso. The most pervasive way in which "Texas" inhabits the story and the sensibility of Yoknapatawpha, however, is as a place to go to - to run away to, when you've done something wrong. The chronologically earliest times the state is defined this way occur in Absalom!, first when the town speculates about the way Thomas Sutpen has acquired the expensive furnishings for his mansion and concludes that it must have been by the kind of act that, if he'd been caught at it, would have meant changing his name "and moving to Texas" (208); similarly, the town speculates that after killing Charles Bon, Sutpen's son Henry "fled to Texas" or someplace even further away (147). The father's action occurs in 1836, the year Texas declared its independence from Mexico; it became a U.S. state in 1845, and at the time Henry might have fled there it was a member of the Confederate States. But it remains associated with flight throughout the fictions. When it's learned that the unmarried Eula Varner is pregnant, for example, some of her suitors reportedly take off for Texas, and after she is married to Flem Snopes, the newlyweds spend a year in Texas to hide the illegitimate birth - which is when Flem acquires those ponies. Two of the worst outlaws in the fictions, members of Grumby's gang in The Unvanquished named Matt Bowden and Bridger, are "going to Texas" when they are last seen (113). Byron Snopes is last seen heading east after robbing the Sartoris bank in Flags in the Dust, but according to The Town he too ends up in Texas. There are other instances of this pattern in the fictions; according to Don H. Doyle, so many northern Mississippians migrated or fled there that in the antebellum period the abbreviation 'GTT' - gone to Texas - regularly appears in civic records (Faulkner's County, 84). In The Hamlet Jack Houston is running away from the expectation that he'll marry his childhood sweetheart rather than anything more sinister when he goes west; much of his time away from Yoknapatawpha is spent in Texas, in particular in Galveston and El Paso. And two different Yoknapatawphans are in uniform when they travel to Texas: Pap notes in "Two Soldiers" that he was "drafted and sent clean to Texas" during the first World War (85); Charles Mallison goes to Texas for pilot training during the Second World War (252). Yet another mythic aspect of 'Texas' is evoked in "Uncle Willy," when Willy's sister marries a man who is both a Texan and "an oil millionaire" (225).

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