Unnamed People of Yoknapatawpha 10

Character Key Number: 
Display Name: 
Unnamed People of Yoknapatawpha 10
Sort Name: 
Unnamed People of Yoknapatawpha 10
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 

In "By The People" the "People" are seen through several different lenses. For example, Gavin Stevens and his nephew, the narrator, divide them generationally: Gavin refers to "the ones of my age and generation" (133), and the narrator, to "the ones of my age and time" (134). In either case, however, the "people" evoked are white. Although it is about Southern racism, the story takes for granted the South's exclusion of blacks from the electoral process and its own focus on the white people of Yoknapatawpha, especially as voters, the people who, in a democracy, have the power to create their government. The story does not bring any of these voters into focus as a person, not even when "they" are given lines to speak (135), but as a group, the people who for twenty-five years keep electing Clarence Snopes to represent them in state government are portrayed as either thoughtless ("sheep," 134), naive ("innocents," 131) or racist. Their inadequacies as guardians of the common weal crosses sectional and gender and class lines. The good people of Jefferson - "schoolteachers, young professional people, women" (131) - are as easily manipulated by Snopes as "the mass of country voters" (132). The narrator does create a "few" exceptions (131), the "few of us, only a handful" who recognize the threat Snopes poses to society and hope to defeat him (132); after Devries begins campaigning against Snopes, the narrator refers to the people who support him as "the ex-soldiers, the liberals, the innocents, the women" (136). Snopes is defeated, but not "by the people," nor by the democratic process.