Study Guide

The Reivers The Winton Flyer

By William Faulkner

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The Winton Flyer

Could you imagine having to hand-crank your car each time you wanted to use it?

Cars back in 1905 were quite different from cars as we know them today. Boss Priest's Winton Flyer has kerosene lamps for night driving and a roof that takes fifteen minutes to set up. And you have to wear special clothes to keep off the dirt flying up from the road.

And, believe it or not, this was considered progress.

Automobiles like Boss Priest's were noisy, dirty, and very inconvenient. At that time, it was much simpler to unhitch your horse and ride that around town instead. People believed cars were a fad that wouldn't last very long—though one glance at the roads today reveals how wrong they were.

The subject of much fascination, Boss Priest's Winton Flyer symbolizes modernity coming to an otherwise sleepy South. Specifically, it symbolizes modernity for the Priest family, as Boss professes that his bank will soon enter a new era by buying bonds for automobiles.

The transition to modernity isn't always smooth in this novel, as the Southern roads haven't yet been paved for cars, and chickens and other animals seem to always be getting in the way. However, as Lucius reveals in hindsight, cars would continue to frequent Jefferson well after his four-day adventures with Boon, and by the 1960s, almost all Southern roads would transform and modernize to accommodate cars.

But more than just a symbol for modernization, Boss Priest's automobile is also an object of desire, one that means something different to each character. For Boss himself, the automobile is a smart business move that will keep him in good standing with the powers that be in Jefferson. For Boon, the car is his soul mate, something that he never knew existed but now cannot live without. For Ned, the car is an opportunity to barter for financial gain. And for Lucius, the car is his passage to adventure and his vehicle into adulthood.

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