Study Guide

The Reivers Foolishness and Folly

By William Faulkner

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?