V.K. Suratt|Ratliff

Character Key Number: 
463
Display Name: 
V.K. Suratt|Ratliff
Sort Name: 
Suratt|Ratliff, V.K.
Parent Character Key: 
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 
Yes
Biography: 

This is one of Faulkner's favorite characters. He appears under two different last names, first as V.K. Suratt (in his first four appearances, in texts published through early 1932), then - apparently after someone named 'Suratt' complained to Faulkner - as V.K. Ratliff in six more texts, beginning in early 1934. Under either name he is an itinerant sewing machine salesman who travels throughout Yoknapatawpha at first on a wagon drawn by a sturdy mismatched team of horses, and then in a small, specially outfitted truck. He is always gregarious, carrying the local news to and from groups of men and women across several counties. Over time he emerges as an implacable foe of 'Snopesism,' though in The Hamlet he is bested by Flem in a scam that enables the Snopeses to start moving into Jefferson; that is the one time his actions seem motivated by greed, rather than curiosity and a kind of altruism that has the best interests of the people of Yoknapatawpha at heart. Altogether he appears in ten texts, and in many of them (including the second two volumes of the Snopes trilogy) Faulkner uses him as a first-person narrator and also as a story teller whose vernacular voice is often as eloquent as Faulkner's high modernist style, as when near the end of The Town it registers the tragedy of Eula Varner's fate as Flem's wife. It is Eula to whom he confides what those two initials in his name stand for.