Varner's Store (Location Key)


Varner's country store is the established center of both the economic and social life of Frenchman's Bend, the hamlet usually located about twenty miles southeast of Jefferson. It is one of the many properties owned by Will Varner, for whom many of the Bend's inhabitants work as tenants on small farms he also owns. Since it is the only store in the area, and owned by the man they rent from, these 'sharecroppers' are expected to buy all their supplies and necessities there. The tenantry system emerged during Reconstruction, and among its dire economic effects was the fact that during the year tenants became the landlord's debtors as well as his unpaid laborers, acquiring what The Mansion calls a "furnish bill" from the store (310). When tenants finally brought in their cotton or corn in the fall, they owed the landlord both his large share of the crop and also that debt, with accrued interest. In The Hamlet Faulkner describes Varner "making his yearly settlement with his tenants and debtors" (67). Socially, the store's front porch - or 'gallery' - is where the men of the Bend regularly gather to talk when they aren't working their farms. In The Town Gavin Stevens provides a description of the contents of the store: "the racks of hames and plow-handles, the rank side meat and flour and cheap molasses and cheese and shoes and coal oil and work gloves and snuff and chewing tobacco and fly-specked candy" (307). Varner's is one of many such stores in Yoknapatawpha, but the one that appears most frequently in the fictions (eighteen altogether), in part because it is also the first rung on the ladder of upward mobility for Flem Snopes, who leaves the life of a sharecropper's son behind by getting hired as the store's clerk by Will's son Jody.

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