The West (Location Key)


When the young Thomas Sutpen decides to leave his family in eastern Virginia for a new land of opportunity, he doesn't 'go west' - he goes south to the West Indies. This is probably Faulkner's ironic take on the familiar cultural trope that young men go west to find or make their fortunes, on "The West" as a place both on a map and in the national psyche. For very obvious reasons, 21st century readers identify Yoknapatawpha with 'the South,' and Faulkner's world as essentially antithetical to the idea of leaving the past behind which has always been crucial to the frontier trope, but to the men named Grier and Sartoris, Holston and McCaslin who traveled west through the wilderness to settle the area in the early 19th century Mississippi was at the western edge of 'the Southwest.' The Civil War meant that young men in places like Yoknapatawpha had to look further west. Requiem for a Nun, for example, uses a capital 'W' to describe how, immediately after the surrender at Appomattox, Southerners departed for places like "Texas, the West, New Mexico" (204); given that most people would define Texas and New Mexico as part of "the West" too, it's not clear exactly how this phrase defines "the West" as a place, but clearly all three places are seen as "new land" and even a source of "new hope" (204). In "Hand upon the Waters" Tyler Ballenbaugh "went out West," where he is rumored to have won a lot of money "gambling at cards" (75); in this story "the West" is associated with "violence," "gambling," and vast "sums" (75). He comes back to Yoknapatawpha, however, as do most of the other characters who go west at some point, including Jack Houston, who in The Town spends several years in Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona and West Texas (234).

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