Study Guide

The Reivers Quotes

  • Coming of Age

    I'm sure you have often noticed how ignorant people beyond thirty or forty are. I don't mean forgetful. That's specious and easy, too easy to say <em>Oh papa </em>(or grandpa) <em>oh mama </em>(or grandma), <em>they're just old; they have forgotten</em>. Because there are some things, some of the hard facts of life, that you dont forget, no matter how old you are. (1.5)

    Lucius provides this insight as an adult looking back on how, as a child, he probably viewed adults as forgetful. But he realizes now that adult ignorance is deceptive. In the years that have passed between his adventure and his telling the tale, he has learned that some things are just too great to be forgotten.

    He [Boon] already had a certain way…with horses and mules; your great-great grandfather always said, not so much because of his size as because of his innocence since the only other domestic animal that big and that uninformed was a horse. (2.13)

    The childish Boon exudes a certain innocence, which perhaps suggests that he has just as much growing up to do as the story's narrator, Lucius.

    When grown people speak of the innocence of children, they don't really know what they mean. Pressed, they will go a step further and say, Well, ignorance then. The child is neither. There is no crime which a boy of eleven had not envisaged long ago. His only innocence is, he may not yet be old enough to desire the fruits of it, which is not innocence but appetite; his ignorance is, he does not know how to commit it, which is not ignorance but size. (3.10)

    Classic Faulkner, leading us in circles and circles. And classic Lucius, understanding now as an adult how adults viewed him as a child. There's a logic here: adults think kids are innocent and ignorant. But kids are actually quite the opposite (as we well know).

    You see? I was doing the best I could. My trouble was, the tools I had to use. The innocence and the ignorance. I not only didn't have strength and knowledge, I didn't even have time enough. When the fates, gods—all right, Non-virtue—give you opportunities, the least they can do is give you room. (3.36)

    As a child, Lucius believed that he was not responsible for his choice to sin; he thought it was fate (or what he calls Non-virtue) that prodded him along. His childish logic reveals that he wished he had more time to weigh the pros and the cons of his choices, but he thinks Non-virtue didn't give him that time. Hmm, is fate entirely to blame for bad decisions?

    It was like any other hall, with a stairway going up, only at once I smelled something; the whole house smelled that way. I had never smelled it before. I didn't dislike it; I was just surprised. I mean, as soon as I smelled it, it was like a smell I had been waiting all my life to smell. I think you should be tumbled pell-mell, without warning, only to experience which you might well have spent the rest of your life not having to meet. But with an inevitable (ay, necessary) one, it's not really decent of Circumstance, Fate, not to prepare you first, especially when the preparation is as simple as just being fifteen years old. That was the kind of smell it was. (4.20)

    Welp, plain and simple: Lucius has just learned about sex. Only he's coming to terms with it—well—on his own terms. Whether it's a literal stink that he's smelling, or more of a dirty feeling that's coming from what he's seeing in the brothel, Lucius is learning more about the birds and the bees than he was prepared to learn.

    "Just listen to me a minute, will you? I aint talking about mudholes. I'm talking about the things a fellow—boy can learn that he never even thought about before, that forever afterward, when he needs them he will already have them. Because there aint nothing you ever learn that the day wont come when you'll need it or find use for it—providing you've still got it, aint let it getaway from you by chance or, worse than that, give it away from carelessness or pure and simple bad judgement. Do you see what I mean now?" (5.42)

    So Boon is telling Lucius that he'll use trigonometry again someday, right? Or maybe he's just telling Lucius that the things he's learning on this trip are things that he'll never forget. In fact, they're things he <em>shouldn't</em> forget. Why? Because one day they'll certainly come in handy, so it's best not to forget them. Got it.

    It was after ten now; there were few lights, these only in the other boarding houses (I was experienced now; I was a sophisticate—not a connoisseur of course but at least cognizant; I recognized a place similar to Miss Reba's when I saw one). (7.15)

    At the beginning of his adventure, Lucius may not have known what a brothel was. But in just one day, he's become a self-professed expert on what a "boarding house" looks like at night.

    I was having to learn too much too fast, unassisted; I had nowhere to put it, no receptacle, pigeon-hole prepared yet to accept it without pain and lacerations. (7.81)

    Sheesh, growing up just sort of hits you all at once, doesn't it? Lucius doesn't really know where to put all of the information that's coming at him in rapid fire. And it doesn't help that Boon keeps telling him not to forget any of it.

    You have to learn too fast; you have to leap in the dark and hope that Something—It—They—will place your foot right. So maybe there is after all something besides just Poverty and Non-virtue who look after their own. (7.103)

    Maybe Peter Pan was on to something. Perhaps growing up is like taking a leap in the dark. Who or what helps you to fly? Is it guys like Boon, who help guide you through the process? Or is it fate itself, helping you to learn all that you need to know about surviving adolescence? Lucius's advice is that you have to learn it all quickly, because when it's time to leap, it's time to soar.

    Because I couldn't now. It was too late. Maybe yesterday, while I was still a child, but not now. I knew too much, had seen too much. I was a child no longer now; innocence and childhood were forever lost, forever gone from me. (8.62)

    Lucius finds himself in a very adult situation: he's literally holding the reigns to a horse that has huge sums of money bet on him. There's no going back to yesterday, when Lucius was a child. He's an adult now, and he has no choice but to act like one.

  • Men and Masculinity

    ...telling us how the pistol was the living badge of his manhood, the ineffaceable proof that he was now twenty-one and a man; that he never intended, declined even to imagine the circumstance in which he would ever pull its trigger against a human being, yet he must have it with him; he would not more have left the pistol at home when he came away than he would have left his manhood in a distant closet or drawer when he came to work. (1.7)

    Everyone knows how John feels about his pistol. His wife has even stitched a pocket exactly fitting the pistol on the inside of the bib of his overalls. John keeps it with him at all times; it's a public statement of his masculinity.

    It's not men who cope with death; they resist, try to fight back and get their brains trampled out in consequence, where women just flank it, envelop it in one soft and instantaneous confederation of unresistance like cotton batting or cobwebs, already de-stingered and harmless, not merely reduced to size and usable but even useful like a penniless bachelor or spinster connection always unable to fill an empty space or conduct an extra guest down to dinner. (3.11)

    Upon learning of the death of his grandfather, Lucius offers the wisdom that men and women cope with death differently. While men try and combat death, women welcome it with open arms.

    "They are house rules," Mr Binford said. "A house without rules is not a house. The trouble with you bitches is, you have to act like ladies some of the time but you don't know how. I'm learning you how."

    "You cant talk to me that way," the older one said.

    "All right," Mr Binford said. "We'll turn it around. The trouble with you ladies is you don't know how to quit acting like bitches." (5.74-76)

    We hope Mr. Binford angers you as much as he does us, as this isn't a nice thing to say to women. Even Lucius is uncomfortable around Mr. Binford, and he's not a guy that Lucius wants to be like at all.

    "Why don't you take these boys on back home to bed, if you're all that timid about strangers?" Miss Corrie said.

    "Why don't you take them back home yourself?" Boon said. "Your old buddy-buddy there has already told you once you aint got no business here."

    "I'll go with him to get the crow-bars," Miss Corrie told Sam. "Will you keep your eyes on the boys?" (7.38-40)

    Boon believes that gender roles are quite clear: women take care of the children, and men play with the tools. Except Miss Corrie challenges Boon's sense of what it means to be male, suggesting that <em>he</em> tuck the boys in to bed and <em>she</em> go and get the crowbars.

    Because the other half was chivalry: to shield a woman, even a whore from one of the predators who debase police badges by using them as immunity to prey on her helpless kind. (8.66)

    As an adult looking back on the situation between Butch and Miss Corrie, Lucius now realizes that Butch used his status as a cop to prey upon women. He recognizes that this was wrong, and he understands why Boon was so angered by the situation.

    "A man that never had nothing in it nohow, one of them little badge goes to his head so fast it makes yourn swim too," Ned said. (8.114)

    Ned tries to explain to Lucius why Butch thinks he's so important: it's because he thinks that having a badge and a pistol somehow makes him better than everyone else. So for a cop like Butch, it's a badge and a gun provide him with a sense of masculinity.

    "[Miss Corrie] is the reason me and Lightning are free right now. That Butch found out he couldn't get to her no other way, and when he found out that me and you and Boon had to win that race today before we could dare to go back home, and all we had to win it with was Lightning, he took Lightning and locked him up. That's what happened." (12.17)

    Ned reveals to Lucius that Butch used the horserace as an excuse to get Miss Corrie to do, well, you know, exactly what he wanted. In other words, Butch used his masculinity as leverage not only to imprison Lightning, Ned, and Boon under false circumstances, but also to subjugate Miss Corrie. Not a very good guy.

    "No!" I said. "No! It wasn't her! She's not even here! She went back to Memphis with Sam yesterday evening! They just didn't tell you! It was something else! It was another one!"

    "No," Ned said. "It was her." (12.19-20)

    Lucius reacts with disbelief when he learns that Miss Corrie submitted to Butch's advancements in an effort to free Lightning, Ned, and Boon from prison. His reaction reveals his discomfort with Butch's actions.

    "Why didn't somebody else help her? a man to help her—that man, that man that took you and Lightning, that told Sam and Butch both they could be whatever they wanted in Memphis or Nashville or Hardwick either, but that here in Possum he was the one—" I said, creid: "I don't believe it!" (12.22)

    Lucius continues to react with disbelief. Yet he also affirms his belief that masculinity should protect femininity when he calls for a man to help Miss Corrie out of her tricky situation with another man.

    "Boon went and whupped that gal and then come straight back without even stopping and tried to tear that Butch's head off, pistol and all, with his bare hands…" (12.22)

    Ned reveals the actions Boon took once he found out how Butch used his masculinity to subjugate Miss Corrie. His actions toward Miss Corrie are far from admirable, but can we justify his decision to attack Butch?

  • Respect and Reputation

    Grandfather said: This is the kind of a man Boon Hogganbeck was. Hung on the wall, it could have been his epitaph, like a Bertillon chart or a police poster; any cop in north Mississippi would have arrested him out of any crowd after merely reading the date. (1.1)

    And that's what we learn about Boon from the book's opening lines: he's the kind of guy who stands out in a crowd—and he's one who gets the cops' attention. Classic Boon.

    Obvious (the pistol) not only to us but to Father himself. Because Father knew about it too. He had to know about it; our establishment was too small, too intricate, too closely-knit. So Father's moral problem was exactly the same as John Powell's, and both of them knew it and handled it as mutual gentlemen must and should: if Father were ever compelled to acknowledge the pistol was there, he would have to tell John either to leave it at home tomorrow or not come back himself. And John knew this and, a gentleman too, he himself would never be the one to compel Father to acknowledge the pistol existed. (1.9)

    Lucius's father and John Power have a tacit, unspoken understanding of the pistol. John knows he's not supposed to have it, but he knows that Lucius's father knows about it. Lucius's father also knows that John knows that he knows, yet acknowledging it would get John in trouble—something it seems that everyone wants to avoid. So the two remain silent.

    John and Father looked at each other for about ten seconds while the whole edifice of entendre-de-noblesse collapsed into dust. Through the noblesse, the oblige, still remained. (1.10)

    Basically, when Boon runs off with John's pistol, the Gentlemen's Agreement vanishes.

    "Ludus the safest man there. I seen Boon Hogganbeck"—he didn't say Mister and he knew Father heard him: something he would never have failed to do in the hearing of any white man he considered his equal, because John was a gentleman. But Father was competent for noblesse too: it was that the pistol which was unforgivable, and Father knew it, - "shoot before. Say the word, Mr Maury." (1.13)

    So in the respect hierarchy, which ranks highest? The tacit understanding of the pistol, or understanding of racial customs? It seems that John's pistol threatens respect more than John's leaving out the "Mister" from Boon's title.

    "Can't you see? And I aint even got any choice. Me, a white man, have got to stand here and let a damn mule-wrastling nigger either criticise my private tail, or state before five public witnesses that I aint got any sense." (1.30)

    Boon doesn't like that Ludus insulted him by calling him a "narrow-asted son of a bitch". But what seems to be even more irksome to Boon is the lack of respect he feels from Ludus, a black man—and therefore, according to Boon, his subordinate.

    Ned…was a McCaslin, born in the McCaslin back yard in 1860. He was our family skeleton; we inherited him in turn, with his legend (which had no firmer supporter than Ned himself) that his mother had been the natural daughter of old Lucius Quintus Carothers himself and a Negro slave; never did Ned let any of us forget that he, along with Cousin Isaac, was an actual grandson to old time-honored Lancaster where we moiling Edmondses and Priests, even though three of us—you, me, and my Grandfather—were named for him, were mere diminishing connections and hangers-on. (2.25)

    Ever heard of a skeleton in the closet? Lucius has grown up with the notion that Ned is his family's "skeleton". In other words, he's the family's secret, perhaps not someone they go about praising on their high horses. His reputation? Well, he's the illicit child of a white relative and a slave. The kicker is that he would have more of a right to Boss Priest's inheritance than Lucius if it weren't for the color of his skin.

    "When is Boon Hogganbeck coming for yawl?"

    "Pretty soon now," I said. "And you better not left Father of Boss hear you calling him Boon Hogganbeck."

    "I calls him Mister in plenty of time for him to earn it," Ned said. "Let alone deserve it." He said, "Hee hee hee." (3.33-35)

    Ned enjoys defying convention, referring to his white superiors, like Boon, by first name. And he doesn't really seem to care now, does he? Hee hee hee.

    "Your coachman's in the kitchen, sir," [the waiter] said. "He says it's important."

    "My coachman?" Boon said. "I aint got no coachman."

    "It's Ned," I said, already moving (9.65-67)

    In Parsham, the hotel staff assumes that the black Ned is the coachman. But Ned is far from being so low on the totem pole of respect; we all know the important role Ned plays in the horserace that ensues.

    "What's it for, Whitefolks?" Ned said.

    "It's for jail, son," the other man said. "That's what we call it here. I don't know what you call it where you come from." (11.1-2)

    Butch and the other cops spout some racist sentiments and therefore show no respect for Ned. Toto, we're not in Jefferson anymore.

    But a mule is a gentleman too, and when you act courteous and respectful at him without trying to buy him or scare him, he'll act courteous and respectful back at you—as long as you dont overstep him. (11.41)

    Apparently mules are brilliant creatures, and even they are deserving of the same respect humans give other humans. The odd thing is that the mules seem to get more respect than some of the African American characters in this place.

  • Foolishness and Folly

    We all knew Boon's marksmanship, and with Boon shooting at Ludus, Ludus himself was safe. (1.15)

    At Boon's height, he should be able to hit almost anything with a gun. Except he isn't able to even scrape an object twenty feet away. Everyone knows Boon will be unable to shoot at Ludus, and they're right: the only things he shatters are store windows by total accident.

    Nor could we figure this: how Mr. Bullock, a meek mild almost inarticulate little man in a constant condition of unworldly great-coated dream like somnambulism—how, by what means, what mesmeric and hypnotic gifts which until now even he could not have known he possessed, he had persuaded the complete stranger to abandon his expensive toy into Mr. Bullock's charge. (2.18)

    Mr. Bullock, Jefferson's resident mechanic, isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Yet it's pretty funny that he's able to convince a total stranger to leave his fancy new car in his care so that he can tinker around with it.

    Oh yes, maybe he wasn't a negotiable paper wizard like Grandfather, and there were folks in Jefferson that would say he wasn't much of anything else either, but for this skirmish anyway he was a skirmish fighter of consummate skill and grace. (2.49)

    We're talking about Boon here. He's certainly no Boss Priest, and in fact <em>nobody</em> is quite sure who or what he is exactly. But there's one thing everyone can agree on: dude's a good fighter, poised and everything.

    It meant in fact what Boon had already told me twice by exuberant and still unbelieving inadvertence: that the owner of that automobile, and everyone else having or even assuming authority over it, would be three hundred miles from it for anywhere from four days to a week. So all his clumsy machinations to seduce and corrupt me were only to corroboration. They were not even cumshaw, lagniappe. (3.10)

    Lucius feels a bit like a hostage, understanding now in hindsight that Boon's clumsy attempts to persuade him to help steal the car had more of an effect on him than he realized at the time.

    You see, how easy it was going to be. It was too easy, making you're a little ashamed. It was as if the very cards of virtue and rectitude were stacked against Grandfather and Grandmother and Mother and Father. All right then: against me too. (3.12)

    Lucius, Lucius. Are the cards really stacked against you? Or are you just being a foolish little boy? We're gonna go with the latter, but nice try.

    But, although Grandfather had owned the car almost a year now, not one of them—Grandfather or Grandmother or Father or Mother—had either the knowledge about how cars operated or the temerity (or maybe it was just the curiosity) to questions or challenge Boon. (3.12)

    Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, and Mother are pretty foolish to think that they should not learn how to drive. In fact, it's because of such foolishness that they rely upon Boon, of all people, to do all of the driving. Joke's on them.

    "I discovered, realised that at once at myself, who should have known, anticipated this, having known (I realised this too now) all my life that who dealt with Boon dealt with a child and had not merely to cope with but even anticipate its unpredictable vagaries; not the folly of Boon's lack of the simplest rudiments or common sense, but the shame of my failure to anticipate, assume he would lack then, saying, crying to Whoever it is you indict in such crises (3.39)

    Who's the real fool here? It could be Boon, since he's basically a grown child. But it could also be Lucius, for failing to anticipate what Boon could be capable of doing. Is anybody in this novel not foolish in some way?

    So why didn't I take it, who was already a lost liar, already damned by deceit, so why didn't I go the whole hog and be a coward too? be irrevocable and irremediable like Faustus became? (3.47)

    Oh, we love a good <a href="https://www.shmoop.com/doctor-faustus-marlowe/" target="_blank"><em>Doctor Faustus</em></a> reference. Like Faustus, Lucius feels that his naïve foolishness is taking him down a path that cannot be reversed. Is he, too, becoming irremediable, unable to be saved? Why does he feel this way?

    Because we—he and I—were so new at this, you see. We were worse than amateurs: innocents, complete innocents at stealing automobiles even though neither of us would have called it stealing since we intended to return it unharmed; and even, if people, the world (Jefferson anyway) had just left us alone, unmissed. (3.50)

    In the comedic scene when Boon and Lucius steal the car, neither has any clue what he is doing. They're not expert robbers; they're complete and foolish amateurs. They don't even know what they don't know.

    "You give away Boss's automobile for a horse that cant run, and now you're fixing to give the horse back providing I can scrape up enough boot to interest him—." (6.14)

    The foolish Boon scolds the foolish Ned for trading a basically stolen car for a stolen racehorse. So who's more foolish, in that case?

  • Technology and Modernization

    Boon finally found the shape of his dream in the automobile your great-great grandfather bought in 1904, finding it not with humility and passion and joy as Ike found his, but with a kind of outrage that nobody had even told him it existed until he was already past thirty years old. (2.11)

    Grandfather buys the automobile; Boon finds his soulmate. Except Boon isn't overjoyed at the opportunities the car affords. Rather, he's angered that he has gone the first thirty years of his life without a vehicle. Gosh, and we thought waiting until we were sixteen to drive was tough.

    My grandfather didn't want an automobile at all; he was forced to buy one. A banker, president of the older Bank of Jefferson, the first bank in Yoknapatawpha County, he believed then and right on to his death many years afterward, by which time everybody else even in Yoknapatawpha County had realized that the automobile had come to stay, that the motor vehicle was an insolvent phenomenon like last night's toadstool, and like the fungus, would vanish with tomorrow's sun. But Colonel Sartoris, president of the newer, the mushroom Merchants and Farmer's bank, forced him to buy one. (1.16)

    Grandfather bought the car after Colonel Sartoris officially banned automobiles from Jefferson, before they got there. However, Grandfather's purchase of the automobile is a deliberately considered violation of Colonel Sartoris's decree. Take that, Colonel.

    So he bought the automobile, and Boon found his soul's lily maid, the virgin's love of his rough and innocent heart. (2.22)

    The stars are aligned, and Boon feels the vehicle is his soulmate. 'Nuff said. How much do you love your car?

    It was a Winton Flyer…You cranked it by hand while standing in front of it…it had kerosene lamps for night driving and when rain threatened five or six people could readily put up the top and curtains in ten or fifteen minutes…also, all of us, grandparents, parents, aunts cousins and children, had special costumes for riding in it, consisting or veils, caps, goggles, gauntlet gloves and long shapeless throat-close neutral-colored garments called dusters. (2.22)

    Modernization is accompanied by other changes, such as changes in proper riding attire. That's a good example of the way a change in one kind of technology can inspire changes in other kinds of technology, or even in everyday things like clothing. It's like a domino effect.

    "I don't think nothing about it," Ned said, "Boss Priest could a bought the best two-hundred-dollar horse in Yoknapatawpha County for this money.

    "There aint any two-hundred-dollar horse in Yoknapatawpha County," Boon said. "If there was, this automobile would buy ten of them." (2.37-38)

    People like Ned still don't quite understand the value of the automobile. He, like others in Jefferson, believes that horses are more beneficial than cars. He'll stick with what he knows, thanks. Also, we're getting a bit of foreshadowing here, since we all know that Ned will end up trading a car for an expensive horse.

    It was as if the automobiles themselves were beating the roads smooth long before the money they represented would begin to compel smoother roads.

    "Twenty-five years from now there wont be a road in the county that you cant drive an automobile on in any weather," Grandfather said. (2.63-64)

    Grandfather is a man of long vision, as Lucius claims. He can foresee the value of the automobile, and he goes on to explain how his bank will buy bonds for automobiles to stay on top of the market.

    "People will pay any price for motion. They will even work for it. Look at bicycles. Look at Boon. We don't know why." (2.67)

    Grandfather likens the automobile to the bike, explaining the mesmerizing effect vehicles of motion have on some folks, such as Boon. So is all this modernization being done out of necessity, or is it being done to hypnotize people and make them buy more things they don't need?

    [Miss Ballenbaugh] told us that thirteen automobiles had passed there in the last two years, five of them in the last forty days; she had already lost two hens and would probably have to begin keeping everything penned up, even the hounds. (4.16)

    The fact that Miss Ballenbaugh has seen more vehicles in recent days means that modernization is accelerating. It's also physically maiming remnants of a pre-modern era, such as those farm animals. Symbolism alert, folks.

    "You said you aint acquainted with automobiles yet. That's one complaint you wont never have to make again for the rest of your life. All right"—to me—"ease her ahead now and whenever she bites, keep her going." (4.60).

    Boon teaches Lucius how to drive the Winton Flyer, and there you have it: it's Lucius's initiation into the modern era. He's becoming a pretty tech savvy dude. For 1905, that is.

    "Boss says that when I get old enough to own an automobile, there wont be any more mudholes to get into. That all the roads everywhere will be so smooth and hard that automobiles will be foreclosed and reclaimed by the bank or even wear out without ever seeing a mudhole." (5.39)

    Lucius further elaborates his grandfather's vision to Boon, claiming that the roads, and thus society, will transform to accommodate the advance of the automobile. Some of the characters in the novel think that's silly, and that things will keep on going as they've always been going. But we know that Gramps is right—that's exactly what happens.

  • Manipulation

    He had managed to get the decks cleared and me in his power, at least until Aunt Callie began to wonder where I was to eat my dinner. I mean, Boon didn't know he didn't have to say anything, other than perhaps to tell me where we were going, and even that—the destination—didn't matter. He had learned nothing since about human beings, and apparently had even forgot what he once must have known about boys. (3.13)

    When Boon sets his mind to do something, he usually does it. And in this case, he sets his sights on involving Lucius in his plan, and that's exactly what he makes happen. The funny thing Boon isn't actually even very good at this; it's just that Lucius is easy to manipulate.

    Because Boon licked me in fair battle after all; evidently he hadn't quite forgot all he remembered from his own youth about boys. I know better now of course, and I even knew better then: that Boon's and my fall were not only instantaneous by simultaneous too: back at the identical instant when Mother got the message that Grandfather Lessep was dead. But that's what I would have liked to believe: that Boon simply licked me. (3.21)

    We're loving it: Lucius is being pretty candid here. Sure, maybe it was Boon who came up with all these ideas, but Lucius himself was easy prey. Licked him in fair battle? Not really: there wasn't really any battle at all.

    So you see what I mean about Virtue? You have heard—or anyway you will—people talk about evil times or an evil generation. There are no such things. No epoch of history nor generation of human beings either ever was or is or will be big enough to hold the unvirtue of any given moment, anymore than they could contain all the air of any given moment; all they can do is hope to be as little soiled as possible during their passage through it. (3.25)

    Manipulation isn't a good thing; it can even "soil" the manipulator a bit. Since Lucius feels manipulated by Boon, is it fair to say that he's been a little soiled, too, though? Does it take two to do the manipulation tango? Or is the manipulator just worse?

    I realised, felt suddenly that same exultant fever-flash which Faustus himself must have experienced: that of we two doomed and irrevocable, I was the leader, I was the boss, the master. (3.25)

    Has Lucius been manipulated, after all? Or is he the one calling the shots? Sure, Dr. Faustus was manipulated by the devil, in a way, but he also chose to sell his soul. It seems that Lucius is entertaining a second possibility here, that it's he who is giving Boon permission to manipulate him.

    We stood in the back yard. He blinked at me. Quite often, most of the time in fact, his eyes had a reddish look, like a fox's. (3.27)

    Lucius is talking about Ned, and we find it interesting that our antagonist has red eyes. Quite devilish. It's also interesting that he is like a fox, which we know can be a quite cunning creature. Very fitting for a guy like Ned.

    "Maybe we're wasting something, just spending it on a automobile trip," he said. "Maybe I ought to use you for something that's got money in it." (3.59)

    Hmm, looks like Boon is thinking of using Lucius again, but this time for a bank robbery or something. He seems to think he and Lucius are pretty bad partners in crime. Is Lucius really breaking bad? Is it just a phase? Does he really know what he's doing?

    Back there in Jefferson I had thought that the reason corruption, Non-virtue, had met so puny a foeman in me as to be not even worthy of the name, was because of my tenderness and youth's concomitant innocence. (6.88)

    Lucius feels that he was unable to be manipulated by Non-virtue back in Jefferson because he was young and innocent then. Well, okay, fair enough. But then why all of a sudden does he jump the chance to go with Boon? Is it just time for him to grow up? Is breaking bad a little bit just an aspect of coming of age?

  • Lies and Deceit

    Because I knew, realised now that it had only begun; there would be no end to it, not only no end to the lies I would continue to have to tell merely to protect the ones I had already told, but that I would never be free of the old worn-out ones I had already used and exhausted. (3.60)

    If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. And then he'll ask for a napkin. And so on and so on. The moment Lucius gives a little tug on the thread of lies, the whole thing starts unraveling, since lies have been built upon lies upon lies.

    I said, and I believed it (I know I believed it because I have said it a thousand times since and I still believe it and I hope to say it a thousand times more in my life and I defy anyone to say I will not believe it) <em>I will never lie again. It's too much trouble. It's too much like trying to prop a feather upright in a saucer of sand. There's never any end to it. You never get any rest. You're never finished. You never even use up the sand so that you can quit trying.</em> (3.39)

    Sheesh, tell us how you really feel, Lucius. Here, our hero inserts his adult promise never to lie again, especially after what he learned from his adventures. Lying requires a lot of effort and energy. You have to keep remembering everything you've said. And once you've told one lie, you usually have to start telling other lies, just to keep your story consistent. It's too much effort.

    I didn't know what to do now; I had already told more lies than I had believed myself capable of inventing, and had had them believed or at least accepted with a consistency which had left me spellbound if not already appalled. (3.50)

    Lucius feels way out of character when he lies. Is he really capable of saying such things, he wonders? Even he's unsure. But lying's not going to help him discover himself—the only way to do that is to be honest, both with others and with yourself. As they say, the truth will set you free.

    And so it would be: the whole thing no more than a dream from which I could wake tomorrow, perhaps now, the next moment, and be safe, saved. So I closed the door and locked the padlock and opened the lot gate for Boon to drive out and closed that too and got in, the car already in motion—if in fact it had ever completely stopped. (3.70).

    Lucius can't take back his actions. Similarly, he can't take back his lies. Once he goes through with it, there's no turning back—unless you actually just up and admit you were lying about everything, which isn't a bad idea. But it isn't any easy thing to do, either.

  • Women and Femininity

    "I never knew any ladies anywhere that wasn't trying to make somebody take a bath." (5.36)

    Before his adventures into the world of brothels, Lucius's understanding of women's roles is confined to what he knows of his mother. The novel doesn't really give us any archetypes besides mothers and prostitutes, but Faulkner does have some fun here, and he refrains from serving up stereotypes.

    "By the time you've known Miss Reba a few hours longer, you'll find out you don't learned something else about ladies too: that when she suggests you do something, it's a good idea to do it while you're still deciding whether you're going to or not." (5.37)

    Basically, what Miss Corrie is explaining to Lucius is that Miss Reba is the matriarch of the brothel. Lucius may come from a patriarchal society, with Boss Priest in charge and all, but things are run a little differently in this Memphis brothel, and he'd better get used to it.

    Because Miss Reba was still fighting. Because women are wonderful. They can bear anything because they are wise enough to know that all you have to do with grief and trouble is just go on through them and come out on the other side. I think they can do this because they not only decline to dignify physical pain by taking it seriously, they have no sense of shame at the idea of being knocked out. She didn't quit, even then. (5.80)

    Miss Reba has had enough of Mr. Binfold's derogatory comments. Like a boxer in a ring, she doesn't stop fighting, even against the biggest bully of them all. This may be a patriarchal society, but the men sure have another thing coming to them if they think these women can be pushed around without a fight.

    "You fought because of me. I've had people—drunks—fighting over me, but you're the first one ever fought for me. I aint used to it, you see. That's why I dont know what to do about it" (7.103)

    Miss Corrie thanks Lucius for standing up for her when Otis objectifies her. She also doesn't know how to thank him, because she's never had anyone do that for her, much less a boy like Lucius. Um, Boon? We think it's time for you to step it up.

    "God damn it, she's a whore, cant she understand that? She's in the paid business of belonging to me exclusive the minute she sets her foot where I'm at like I'm in the paid business of belonging to Boss and Mr Maury exclusive the minute I set my foot where they're at. But now she's done quit. For private reasons. She cant no more. She aint got no more private rights to quit without my say-so too than I got to quit without Boss's and Mr Maury's say-so too." (9.37)

    Boon is frustrated that Miss Corrie has chosen <em>now</em> to quit prostitution. After all, he did come all the way to Memphis, Tennessee from Jefferson, Mississippi just to see her. Ahem, "see" her. <em>Can't she wait until after he leaves to make such a drastic life decision?</em> That's what he seems to be thinking. It seems that although Lucius's perceptions of women have evolved throughout his adventures, Boon's still clinging to a very patriarchal view of women's roles.