Varner's Mill (Location Key)


It seems that Faulkner couldn't decide what was produced at the Frenchman's Bend mill owned by Will Varner. It is referred to in three different texts. In two of them - "By the People" and The Mansion - it's "Uncle Bill Varner's water mill" (347), and the site of "the annual Varner's Mill picnic," a social event at which local politicians announce their candidacies (88, 326). In the other, The Town, it's "Uncle Billy Varner's saw mill" (33), and the site of an industrial accident that cripples Eck Snopes. The sawmills of Yoknapatawpha turn trees into lumber, one of the staples of the county's export economy. Watermills are much more likely to turn corn into flour which would be used by the county's residents. The Town mentions "the saw-carriage" that keeps the tree in place while being cut into boards; the other texts mention not only the mill, but the "mill-dam" that collects the water in the "mill-pond" that provides the power to drive the mill's machinery (137, 347-48). That system wouldn't create a powerful or dependable enough source of energy for a sawmill. None of this matters nearly as much as the fact that "jest above the mill-pond" there's what Ratliff calls "a dog thicket": "a clump of gum and hickory and ash and pin oak switches" (347-48); in "By the People" and The Mansion it serves the dogs in the area as a place to relieve themselves, and provides Ratliff with the urine power to drive Clarence Snopes out of politics. Perhaps it was to set up this joke that Faulkner decided to turn a sawmill into a "water mill."

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