Study Guide

The Reivers Women and Femininity

By William Faulkner

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.