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William Faulkner: The Town

The middle novel in the Snopes trilogy is perhaps the weakest. Faulkner tells us a few stories, whose connection is primarily Flem Snopes, but it seems that his main aim is to fill in gaps about the stories he has told us in the previous novels. He is concerned at giving us more details of how Flem Snopes rose. We learn how he became head of the water-works, how he became vice-president and then president of the Bank and how his daughter Linda left Jefferson. As in The Hamlet, we tend to see Flem Snopes, only at second hand, i.e. as he is reported or as others see him. And, as in that novel, he does not come out well. He is greedy and always looking out for the main chance. Indeed, as Faulkner fills in the gaps, this is more apparent than it had been in the previous novel. He is also much disliked. Again this comes out more in this novel and is particularly apparent as regards his family. The whole novel is narrated by three characters whom we have met already – Chick Mallison, the narrator of Intruder in the Dust, Gavin Stevens, Chick’s uncle and a lawyer and V K Ratliff, the peripatetic sewing machine salesman. Only Gavin Stevens plays a major role as far as the plot is concerned, with Chick and Ratliff actually mainly as observers. This is not a bad novel but, unless you really need to know the details of Flem’s rise (and the seeds of his fall), this is one of the less essential Faulkner novels.

Publishing history

First published 1957 by Random House