The OF Blog: This Faulkner passage troubles me

Sunday, May 08, 2011

This Faulkner passage troubles me

From Intruder in the Dust, Ch. 7:

"And as for Lucas Beauchamp, Sambo, he's a homogeneous man too, except that part of him which is trying to escape not even into the best of the white race but into the second best - the cheap shoddy dishonest music, the cheap flash baseless overvalued money, the glittering edifice of publicity foundationed on nothing like a card-house over an abyss and all the noisy muddle of political activity which used to be our minor national industry and is now our national amateur pastime - all the spurious uproar produced by men deliberately fostering and then getting rich on our national passion for the mediocre:  who will even accept the best provided it is debased and befouled before being fed to us:  who are the only people on earth who brag publicly of being second-rate, i.e., lowbrows.  I dont mean that Sambo.  I mean the rest of him who has a better homogeneity than we have and proved it by finding himself roots into the land where he had actually to displace white men to put them down:  because he had patience even when he didn't have hope, the long view even when there was nothing to see at the end of it, not even just the will but the desire to endure because he loved the old few simple things which no one wanted to take from him:  not an automobile nor flash clothes nor his picture in the paper but a little of music (his own), a hearth, not his child but any child, a God a heaven which a man may avail himself a little of at any time without having to wait to die, a little earth for his own sweat to fall on among his own green shoots and plants.  We - he and us - should confederate:  swap him the rest of the economic and political and cultural privileges which are his right, for the reversion of his capacity to wait and endure and survive.  Then we would prevail; together we would dominate the United States; we would present a front not only impregnable but not even to be threatened by a mass of people who no longer have anything in common save a frantic greed for money and a basic fear of a failure of national character which they hide from one another behind a loud lip-service to a flag."

Can you see why this passage (which in turn is but an excerpt from a longer, three page character commentary) from a 1948 novel can be troublesome in 2011?  Keep in mind Faulkner's 1950 speech upon receiving his Nobel Prize in Literature for 1949.  Still a moving passage, although it'll haunt my thoughts for a while.

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