White exploitation, dehumanization and racial identity : the history of slavery and race relations in William Faulkner’s Go down, Moses.
Through seven interrelated stories, Faulkner explores in Go Down, Moses the effects of slavery and the changing relationship between blacks and whites as he traces the different branches of the McCaslin family tree through three generations of whites and four generations of blacks, from the Civil War and into the 1940's. In my thesis I want to explore the relationship between the black and white characters of Go Down, Moses, and I have chosen to focus my reading of the book on the two novellas that in my view serve as its core: “The Fire and the Hearth” and “The Bear.” My analysis is primarily focused on how the black and white descendants of the McCaslin family relate to each other; how the racial conflict affects life at the plantation; and how the social economy of the South disrupted the family structure of both blacks and whites. I will argue that the tradition of keeping mammies, the social economy of the plantation system and the strong belief in patriarchy serves to aggravate the already existing racial tension and contributes to an increasingly difficult relationship between the black and white characters of Go Down, Moses. A primary point of my study, however, is to show that the racial division creates a division within all the McCaslin descendants, regardless of colour, as they are struggling to find the balance between their racial heritages and their social conditioning. The history of the South and the development in the lives of Faulkner’s characters serve to complement and support each other and consequently, the relationships between the black and white descendants of McCaslin grow increasingly worse after the Emancipation in the Jim Crow South.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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