One effect this has on the book is simply to slow down the reader's comprehension of the McCaslin family tree. It takes some time to puzzle out the fact that McCaslin Edmonds's grandmother was Isaac McCaslin's aunt, for instance, especially since the book is silent on the whereabouts or fates of McCaslin Edmonds's parents and grandparents. As the facts of the history slowly emerge from the muddle of similar names, the main effect that the names have is to reinforce the novel's idea of continuity through the generations--the idea that sons inherit certain characteristics from their fathers and certain characteristics from their mothers (the latter is especially true of the Edmonds, the "female" branch of the three-part family tree).
Isaac believes (and his belief is the closest the novel comes to a thematic center) that no man can own the land, that ownership of nature is contrary to the will of God, and that the idea that man can own nature is a curse that has blighted the human race, and specifically the white race. He traces this idea in his argument with McCaslin Edmonds through European history and into the South, where he blames the horrible conceit of slavery on the curse of land ownership. The idea that man can control nature, therefore, led directly to the Civil War and to the downfall of the South. (As Isaac grows older, he adopts a more optimistic view of humanity: in "Delta Autumn," he is no longer concerned with geopolitical history, saying simply that most people are a little better than their circumstances give them a chance to be.)
Faulkner's major technique for exploring the racial divide in