Go Down, Moses
One of the most confusing aspects of the complicated family tree of Go Down, Moses is the tendency of male children to be named after their ancestors or to be given their mother's maiden name as a first name. These traditions lead to a number of characters with similar names: Carothers McCaslin, McCaslin Edmonds, and Carothers Edmonds, for instance. What effect does this have on the novel, thematically, stylistically, or both?
Think about Isaac's long argument with McCaslin Edmonds about inheriting the plantation in "The Bear"? What does Isaac believe about man's relationship to nature? How does he think the concept of land ownership has affected the South?
One of the main characteristics of Faulkner's South--and of his fiction--was the ugly, violent racial divide that had not healed since the Civil War. How does Faulkner explore this divide in Go Down, Moses? How does he connect it to the idea of patrimony and property? What is the significance of the revelation in "Delta Autumn" that Carothers Edmonds's lover is Tennie's Jim's granddaughter?
Go Down, Moses is very concerned with the idea of inheritance, specifically patrimony--the tradition of sons inheriting from their fathers. How does this idea manifest itself in terms of property throughout the novel? How does it manifest itself in terms of personality traits and temperament? Isaac McCaslin exempts himself from the first kind of patrimony; is he exempt from the second kind, as well?
How does Faulkner handle the novel's important symbols--the fire in Lucas's hearth in "The Fire in the Hearth," Old Ben in "The Bear"? Do these symbols have fixed meanings in the novel or are they more ambiguous? Thinking especially about "The Bear," what might the important symbols represent?
Think about the character of Rider. Why is he uniquely unable to handle his grief? How does the story of Rider, which does not relate to the McCaslin family except in that Rider rents a house from Carothers Edmonds, fit in to the work as a whole?
Go Down, Moses is not quite a novel, and it is not quite a book of short stories. How would you classify the book? Why? Does it remind you of any other books?
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