Uncle Willy Christian

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Uncle Willy Christian
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Christian, Uncle Willy
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"Uncle Willy" is the title character in a 1935 short story. His last name is Christian, his first name is probably William, and as the narrator says, "he wasn't anybody's uncle" (225). His story is briefly recapitulated in two later novels, The Town and The Mansion. His story is very un-Faulknerian in its refusal to provide many details about Willy's past. He was born in Jefferson soon after the end of the Civil War, the son of a man who opened a drugstore in town in the 1850s; Willy himself adds the fact that he "graduated from a university" (245). He still owns the store, but keeps it mainly as a way to supply his own morphine addiction; the narrator of "Uncle Willy" either does not know how the sixty-year-old man became so estranged from adult life, or is satisfied with the reason he himself supplies for Willy's unconventional behavior: "he had had fun all his life in spite of what they had tried to do to him" (239). The references to him in the later novels don't shed any additional light on his history, but from them it's clear that Willy remains a well-known part of Yoknapatawpha lore. In addition to drugs, Willy finds his fun in alcohol and prostitutes and, ultimately, flying. Willy seems to be summing up his life when, after asking the 'Christian' ladies of Jefferson who try to reform him to "please go to hell," he says he wants to get there at his "own gait" (231). Readers have to decide for themselves how to view this man who is both child-like and willing to allow real children to help him inject morphine or steal alcohol, and whose death may be as much a suicide as an accident.