Go Down, Moses: The McCaslin Family

      Go Down, Moses begins with a 3 paragraph introduction, set off from the rest of the story "Was" by being written in Faulkner's high style (it contains only one period, for example, so the entire passage has to be considered as two sentences). The chart below represents the McCaslin family as we get a sense of it from that introductory:




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      By the end of "Was" we have a larger, though not necessarily a clearer understanding of the family. The name "Tomey's Turl" implies that the slave who runs away from the McCaslin plantation to visit Tennie on the Beauchamp plantation must have had a mother named "Tomey," and the fact that Hubert Beauchamp thinks of him as "that damn white half-McCaslin" means that the father of "Tomey's Turl" must have been one of the McCaslin men on the chart below, which is my attempt to represent the way we see the family by the end of "Was":




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      The central character of "The Fire and the Hearth" is Lucas Beauchamp, but in the course of this long story we also hear about the following members of the McCaslin family, "black" and "white":



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      In "Pantaloon in Black" readers are told that Rider rents his cabin from Carothers (Roth) Edmonds, "the local white land owner" (133), and that he built an undying fire on his hearth in imitation of "Uncle Lucas Beauchamp, Edmonds' oldest tenant" (134) — these are the story's only mentions of the McCaslins. In "The Old People," readers meet "Tennie's Jim," the son of Tomey's Turl and Tennie Beauchamp who is called "James" in "The Fire and the Hearth," but his place on the McCaslin family tree is not specifically noted. In section 4 of "The Bear," however, Ike McCaslin discovers much more about his familial past than he ever wanted to know — including the fact that Tomey's Turl is actually three-quarters McCaslin, not just half. That knowledge leads Ike to repudiate his place as heir to Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin, his grandfather. The genealogical relationships explored in that section are indicated on this chart:




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      The final two stories — "Delta Autumn" and "Go Down, Moses" — bring the McCaslin family story up to almost the date of the novel's 1942 publication. In "Delta Autumn" Ike, now over 70 and again on a hunting trip in November, meets the woman who has been having an affair with Roth Edmonds, Ike's cousin Cass's grandson and the owner of the McCaslin property. Much to Ike's surprise and dismay, this unnamed young woman turns out to be the grand-daughter of Lucas Beauchamp's brother James ("Tennie's Jim"), whom Ike had traced into Tennessee and then lost in "The Bear." This means she is a "black" McCaslin, and also means that her relationship with Roth is technically both incest and miscegenation, just like Old Carothers McCaslin's sexual relationships with Tenney one hundred years earlier. It also means that the infant son she carries into Ike's tent is Ike's youngest living relative. She wants Roth (who does not know about her McCaslin roots) to marry her. Ike tells her that "maybe" in a thousand more years an interracial marriage will be possible. Until then, he passes on the answer Roth gave him (along with money, perhaps as much as the $1000 Old Carothers left Tomey's Turl in his will). The answer, Roth says, is No. Ike also gives her son the silver-chased hunting horn General Compson left him in his will. As of this story, the McCaslin family tree looks like this:



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      The final story must be set in 1940, a census year. In it we learn that Lucas and Molly had at least one other child, besides Henry and Nat: a daughter whose son is named Samuel Worsham Beauchamp, who like the young woman in "Delta Autumn" has been living in the North. (Molly's name is spelled "Mollie" in this story, and Lucas is referred to as "Luke.") The story opens on the day Samuel is executed in Chicago for killing a policeman, and ends as the funeral procession arranged by Gavin Stevens and other leading white citizens of Jefferson so that Mollie can bring the body home goes out of sight on its journey to the McCaslin estate. Since it seems unlikely that Roth will marry, and since his illegitimate son disappears at the end of "Delta Autumn," it seems the McCaslin genealogy looks like this at the end of the line:



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      It's interesting to compare the McCaslin story as Faulkner wound up narrating it with the genealogy he made for himself when he began revising the various short stories that make up the novel into the larger Go Down, Moses text. According to Joseph Blotner's biography, it was "probably" in the spring of 1941 that "Faulkner sketched out in pencil a genealogical chart" (Volume 2, page 1077). As you can see, there are major differences between this chart and the family history as the novel tells it, including the fact that here Lucius' daughter is given a name. The original chart is in UVA's Faulkner Collection, but I confess I haven't seen it myself. Here's my copy of Blotner's copy of Faulkner's outline (as Blotner notes, the "N." must mean "Negro"):



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