Unnamed Jefferson Townspeople

Display Name: 
Unnamed Jefferson Townspeople
Sort Name: 
Unnamed Jefferson Townspeople
Multiracial Group
Multi Gender Group
MultiClass Group

"When I say 'we' and 'we thought,'" Charles says on the novel's first page, "what I mean is Jefferson and what Jefferson thought" (3). This entry represents the "town," the people of Jefferson as a group, in that larger role - as spectators, commentators and interpreters - at various points in the narrative. As a group, they often preserve the history of Yoknapatawpha; Gavin, for instance, mentions the men who were still alive in his childhood who before the Civil War "had actually seen" the steamboat that Ikkemotubbe, one of the Chickasaw chiefs, lived in as his 'big house' (331). Occasionally these folks also take a more active role in the story, as when "plenty" of the people who had watched Mrs. Hait's house burn down seek out I.O. Snopes in the Square to "keep him posted" (252). But their typical role is to serve as witnesses to what happens during the novel's present: before the board of aldermen meets to try to settle Gavin's official complaint against Mayor de Spain, for example, these "folks coming up the streets and gathering in the Square, [are] laughing and making jokes back and forth" (89). The novel's three narrators repeatedly refer to this anonymous group. "More people than you would have thought" send flowers to Eck Snopes' funeral (117); a large group attends Eula's funeral in person, "The women inside and the men standing around the little front yard and along the street, all neat and clean and wearing coats and not quite looking at each other while they talked quietly about crops and weather" (360). "The whole county" seems to be in the Square to watch Matt Levitt drive away (208); similarly at the end of the novel "a considerable crowd" gathers at the train station to watch the four children of Byron Snopes depart Jefferson (389). A variety of people view the confrontations between Mrs. Hait, I.O. Snopes, and his mules : "the ladies in the peignors and boudoir caps of morning, the children playing in the yards, and the people Negro and white who happened to be passing at the moment" (247). Most of the references to this group implies that "Jefferson" is white, but as this last example shows, at times the local audience for the novel's events includes the Negro population. While the narrators assume this group always thinks or feels the same way, on at least one occasion town opinion is split: Jeffersonians disagree over how to dispose of the Eula Snopes-Manfred de Spain affair: "Two camps: the one that said the sin must be exposed now, it had already lasted eighteen years too long; the other which said it dare not be exposed now and so reveal our own baseness in helping to keep it hidden all this long time"; and even these two camps, says Chick Mallison, are "split in turn into what you might call a hundred individual nonconforming bivouacs" (322).

Individual or Group: 
Character changes class in this text: