Study Guide

The Reivers Setting

By William Faulkner

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The American South, 1905

Get out your maps, because we're taking a great American road trip. Lucius's adventures lead him from Jefferson, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, from his grandfather's farm to Miss Reba's brothel and Uncle Parsham's horserace track.

Let's dive in and see what this all means.

Rural Jefferson, Mississippi, where Lucius grew up, is a part of William Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County. A town known for its simple way of life—before the introduction of automobiles, that is—Jefferson parallels Lucius's own innocence before he embarks on his adventure with Boon. Lucius's family is long established in the town: they date back to the antebellum days, and Lucius's grandfather Boss Priest is a well-respected bank owner.

The sleepy town is certainly shaken up by the introduction of the automobile. Paved roads replace dirt paths, chickens are run over, and people are soon able to travel longer distances in shorter periods of time. It takes only a day for Lucius, Boon, and Ned to get to Memphis, where our setting changes from the simplistic farms to the rather complex and corrupt brothel.

Miss Reba's brothel is unlike anything Lucius has ever seen in Jefferson. It is a place where adults come to, well, do adult things. It's also where Mr. Binford is free to speak poorly of women, where Otis can have a peepshow business, and where men can treat women in ways that Lucius's father would never treat his mother.

Lucius continues to find obvious differences between his little hometown and the big city. For example, Memphis is the place where he's first introduced to greed and corruption, when Ned unrightfully trades Boss Priest's automobile for a stolen racehorse then has to smuggle the animal onto a baggage car.

Like Memphis, the racetrack is also the scene of crime, corruption, and gambling. It's an unlawful place where police like Butch use their guns and badges to abuse power in ways that those back in Jefferson, like John Powell, would never do.

The drastic changes in setting represent Lucius's journey into world of adults. Though Lucius is returns a comfortable setting back in Jefferson in the end, is he the same person he was before he left? He is not.

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