Yoknapatawpha County and Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy

“The author himself once referred to it as ‘my apocryphal county.’ A Frankensteinian creation of two very real regions, Yoknapatawpha County is home to a number of William Faulkner’s most famous novels and stories, including the famed Snopes family trilogy, which features the novels The Hamlet (1940), The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959). Faulkner’s fictional county is a landscape fraught with struggle and conflict, a place of drifters and vagrants, the morally apathetic and the socioeconomically disenfranchised. It’s a region of extreme racial tension and inequality, with a storied history of slavery, succession, KKK activity, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination. Which is perhaps why it makes perfect sense Faulkner chose to set so much of his work in this invented-yet-wholly-reflective-of-real-life setting, particularly his Snopes family novels. But to truly understand the choice of Yoknapatawpha for the Snopes, one must understand more clearly how the county came into being and the ways in which Faulkner pulled from history — and his own life — to create such a haunting, mythic place. Literary scholars have long held Yoknapatawpha County is Faulkner’s combination of LaFayette and Oxford counties, two neighboring, rural areas of Mississippi where Faulkner spent a considerable amount of time. The name of the county is derived from the language of the Chickasaw Indians, meaning ’split land,’ which is already rife with the kind of irony Faulkner would appreciate given the manner in which the Chickasaw were driven from their land by settlers and the decades of intense conflict that followed over slavery, Reconstruction, and segregation. Faulkner drew heavily on the real-life residents of both counties for the characters that would make up Yoknapatawpha, especially for the Snopes family — Ab (the patriarch), his wife, daughter, and Flem, his only son. As evidenced in an interview with The Paris Review*, Faulkner had a contentious relationship with the regions on which he based Yoknapatawpha, which may very well account for the dreary, somewhat hopeless way he portrays the fictional place and those who reside there. …”
Books Tell You Why
W – Snopes trilogy, W – Yoknapatawpha County, W – William Faulkner
The Snopes Family Trilogy
New Republic – Faulkner: End of a Road
Top 100 Novels #71: Snopes
The Nation – Ragged, Unkempt, Strange: On William Faulkner

Yoknapatawpha County is a fictional area of Mississippi that William Faulkner invented to make as a setting for almost all of his texts.

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