Study Guide

The Reivers What's Up With the Title?

By William Faulkner

What's Up With the Title?

"Reivers" is an old Scottish word for "robbers." Which makes sense, since there's a lot of robbing and stealing throughout the story.

Let's see if we can get them all:

  • Boon steals John's pistol.
  • Boon and Lucius steal Boss Priest's automobile.
  • Ned steals the car and trades it for a horse.
  • Ned's cousin stole the horse in the first place.
  • Butch steals Miss Corrie.
  • Otis steals Minnie's gold tooth.
  • Ned steals Boss Priest's money in a rigged horserace bet.
  • Boon and Miss Corrie steal Lucius's name for their baby. (Okay, maybe this last one isn't so bad.)

Wow, that's a whole lot of stealing. And we're not even talking about the abstract stuff, like the stealing of Lucius innocence, or the stealing of Miss Corrie's dignity. Basically, the act of taking what doesn't belong to you drives this entire story.

Do all characters participate in stealing in some way or another? Is there anyone who is truly innocent of it?

The slight stylization of the title—we've got reivers here, not thieves or robbers—gives the title a whimsical, old-timey feel, though. We can sort of tell, just based on the title, that nothing we're going to find in this novel is going to be that bad. This is a story about childhood and memory, and both the childhood and the memories are pretty sweet. Nobody ends up dead or in jail here (at least for long), so it's appropriate that our title is also a little innocent.

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