Study Guide

Ned McCaslin in The Reivers

By William Faulkner

Ned McCaslin

Everyone knows someone with an annoying laugh. Well, in Lucius's story, that someone is Ned. "Hee, hee," he says after he's outwitted somebody. "Hee, hee." All the time. "Hee, hee."

But Ned is more than just his laugh: he's a key player in the actions that unfold, as it's his decisions to stow away in the Winton Flyer and trade the car for a stolen racehorse that really spice up the adventure.

So, Ned, why'd you do it?

Ned is a cousin of Grandfather's, the son of a member of the Priest clan and a black slave. Because of his skin color in 1905, Ned can't claim any inheritance from the Priest family. Yet, he continues to work on the property (he has a way with mules) and is a great help to Boss Priest.

Ned fades into the background at first, but on the day the family leaves for St. Louis to attend a funeral, Ned starts asking all sorts of questions about what Lucius will be doing in his family's absence. "His eyes had a reddish look, like a fox's" (3.27), Lucius says of their encounter. Ned knows what's up. Sneaky, sneaky Ned.

From naïve little Lucius, Ned learns everything he needs to know. He pieces together that Lucius and Boon will be going somewhere, and he leaps at the chance to go. That's when we hear that laugh—that "hee, hee"—after Ned has outwitted a member of the Priest family. A stowaway in the back of the Winton Flyer, Ned reveals himself only after it would be too difficult to turn the car around. "Hee, hee."

And this won't be the first time Ned tricks everyone. He trades Grandfather's car for a stolen racehorse, convincing everyone they'll make enough money to win the car back. Then he tricks Grandfather into betting all his money on the horse but fixes the race so that Grandfather loses it all.

Ned has struck again, this time outwitting Boss Priest himself. He walks away with Grandfather's four hundred and ninety-six dollars. But, hey, he tells Lucius he'll use it to pay off his cousin Bobo's debt. Okay, Ned, maybe you're not so bad after all?

Hee, hee.