The Reivers Summary
Lucius Priest invites us to listen to a story about some stuff that went down he was an eleven-year-old boy living in Jefferson, Mississippi, back in 1905. The action kicks off when his grandfather, a prominent banker known as Boss Priest, purchases a car that fascinates the members of the town, especially Boon Hogganbeck, the family's retainer. We learn right away that the thirty-year-old Boon is large in size, but has the playfulness of a child.
One day, Lucius's other grandfather in St. Louis passes away, and his parents and grandparents have to go off for a week to attend the funeral. Boss Priest leaves the car in Boon's care, and Boon convinces Lucius to drive with him to Memphis, Tennessee in it. Lucius, who has never told a single lie in his life, finds himself swayed by Non-virtue and agrees to help steal his grandfather's car.
The adventure kicks off, and the two are barely ten miles from town when they discover a stowaway in the back of the car. The sneaky traveler, Ned, is related to Lucius's grandfather, but because he is half-black, he has no legal claim to any of the guy's property. Though clearly angered by Ned's presence, Boon reluctantly agrees to allow Ned to travel to Memphis with them.
We soon discover that the purpose of Boon's trip is to visit his girlfriend Miss Corrie, a prostitute who lives in a brothel in Memphis. This is clearly Lucius's first time in a place like this, and he begins to feel his innocence slowly slip away as he learns more about the inner workings of the adult world. His self-discovery is great and all, and we know he's about to get some really deep insight, but Lucius is quickly interrupted by Ned hollering outside for Boon. Everyone runs out to find that Ned has traded Grandfather's brand new car for a racehorse. And not just any horse: a stolen one.
Boon, who considered the car to be his soulmate, is fuming. But Ned quickly reveals his plan: they are going to race the horse to win back the car. Huh? Then why did you trade the car in the first place? Okay, Ned, let's see how this all pans out.
Ned, Boon, Lucius, Miss Corrie, and a railroad worker manage to smuggle the racehorse, called Lightning, onto a train headed for the racetracks in Parsham. Ned is apparently really good at training horses, so he works with Lightning and trains Lucius as jockey, just in time for race day.
But tragedy strikes. Lightning loses his first race, and before he can race again, Lightning, Ned, and Boon all wind up in prison. (Apparently, you can imprison horses in 1905.) Next day, Ned shows up to the tracks with the horse.
Here's what happened, according to Ned: a bad cop named Butch tried to seduce Miss Corrie, and when she refused, he threw everyone in jail. She finally succumbed to his wishes, and then everyone was released. Boon beats Miss Corrie for getting with the cop, even though she did it in an effort to save him, and then he goes and beats the cop. Unsurprisingly, he winds up in jail a second time.
Meanwhile, back at the racetrack, Lucius rides Lightning as jockey, and the horse wins. And guess who is there on the sidelines to watch? Grandfather Priest. Uh oh.
Ned steps in to explain: a relative of his named Bobo was in huge financial trouble, owing the owner of horse—who is actually named Coppermine—a lot of money. So in an effort to help pay off his cousin's debt, Ned traded the car for the stolen horse so that he could make money. Okay, we guess that makes sense.
So what happens now? Well, all the horse needs to do is win the final race, and then Ned will have the money to make everything right. So everyone, including Grandfather, bets on the horse.
Great plan. Except Ned fixes the race so that the horse will lose, because he's bet against it. So Ned—sneaky, sneaky Ned—comes out with everyone's money. He did it all in order to get back at Grandfather Priest for not treating him like family.
After lots of talks about life and growing up, Lucius accompanies Boon, Miss Corrie, and Grandfather Priest in the car as the four head back up to Jefferson. Miss Corrie and Boon are married and have a baby, and they name him Lucius Priest Hogganbeck.
- Lucius Priest tells us all about his childhood world. Now an older guy in the 1960s, he tells us a story from when he was eleven years old, which was back in 1905.
- Lucius's grandfather is a prominent banker in Jefferson, Mississippi. He owns a large farm property that employs lots of people, including Boon Hogganbeck.
- Oh, Boon, how does one even begin to describe you? Boon is large in size—about six feet tall—but he has the mentality of a child.
- Boon is playful and irrational—so much so, in fact, that he steals John Powell's pistol and chases Luster, another farm worker, all around town for calling him mean names.
- However, with Boon chasing Luster around, everyone knows Luster is safe. Boon can't shoot a pistol to save his life.
- Okay, so some shop windows are shattered, and a little girl takes a bullet to the buttocks. But other than that, everything turns out fine, and Boon and Luster get over their little disagreement.
- Welcome to Lucius's world. Welcome to Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County.
- We learn a little more about Lucius's family, as well as a bit about the history of the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. But most importantly, we learn about Boon Hogganbeck.
- Nobody knows where Boom came from. He sort of just showed up one day, already giant in size at age ten or eleven. (Nobody even knows how old he is, including himself.)
- Anyway, we learn that Grandfather has bought an automobile, the second vehicle purchased in the county. You see, the roads at this time were all dirt, and cars, which didn't really serve any purpose other than looking pretty, were merely considered a fad that would eventually blow over.
- But Boon is fascinated by the car. In fact, Boon has been fascinated by cars since one passed through the town in the year prior.
- Boon falls head over heels for Grandfather's car, considering it to be his "soul's lily maid, the virgin's love of his rough and innocent heart" (2.22). Right.
- Boon goes to great lengths to ensure Grandfather that the car is safe in his care. He spends a couple of months driving everyone around.
- The following May, Lucius learns that his other grandfather (his mother's father) has passed away in St. Louis.
- Lucius is working in Grandfather's bank when Boon enters to tell him that his other grandfather has died and that his family will be leaving to attend the funeral in St. Louis. He says that he has a plan, and that they need to leave quickly.
- Whoa, what? Let's sort this one out.
- Boon says he doesn't have time to explain, but he needs Lucius's help to steal Grandfather's car in order to drive to Memphis.
- Lucius finds himself in a bind, spewing pages of monologues about lies, innocence, and virtue.
- Lucius says, "If Non-virtue still wanted either of us, it was now her move. Which she did" (3.50-51)
- In the end, Non-virtue takes its hold on Lucius, as it does for Doctor Faustus, and he agrees to help Boon. We guess the call to adventure was just too enticing.
- Boon and Lucius watch the family depart on the train bound for St. Louis, and then they make the necessary preparations to leave town that same hour.
- For a split second, Lucius has the opportunity to run and abandon Boon. But Non-virtue wins out in the end when an unforeseen distraction, in the form of his cousin returning to town, makes their getaway all too easy. So we guess Lucius has no choice but to continue on with the journey.
- Lucius and Boon barely get ten miles from town when Boon smells something stinky and lifts up a tarpaulin which had filled the back of the car.
- And what do Lucius and Boon find? Er, rather, who do they find? Why, none other than Ned McCaslin, Lucius's black relative, who works on Grandfather's farm but has no claim to any property or inheritance because of his race.
- "I wants a trip too," Ned says. "Hee hee hee" (3.77).
- All righty, then.
- Boon is furious, but that's mainly because Ned wants to drive. Boon is very possessive of the vehicle.
- Ned explains that he has more of a right to a trip than Lucius does because he is family, after all. Boon reluctantly agrees to let Ned go with them.
- The three dudes stop by the Ballenbaugh property for some food, then continue on their journey.
- Hitting Hell Creek bottom, our heroes have to pass through a swampy, muddy plot of land. The vehicle gets stuck.
- Boon and Lucius jump in to push the car, but Ned refuses. They eventually convince him to help.
- All the while, a man sitting on his porch watches from afar.
- The man and his mules come over, and the man offers to help rescue the car for a small sum of money.
- Boon acknowledges that this man has helped for two dollars in the past, and he agrees to pay him the same amount.
- The man's mules pull the car out of the mud, and the man demands six dollars. What? No way.
- Here's the man's reasoning: he used to charge one dollar per passenger. Since there were two men last year, that was two dollars. Now, however, he's doubled the price. So it's two dollars per passenger, and there's three passengers. There, six dollars.
- Boon is up in arms, but he pays and moves on towards Memphis.
- The boys finally make it to Memphis. Lucius is confused as to why they're not staying at the Gayoso Hotel, as he always has every time he's gone to Memphis.
- "We're going to a kind a boarding house I know," Boon says. "You'll like it" (5.6).
- Boon hands Lucius the key to the car to make sure that Boon himself doesn't lose it. Ned goes off somewhere unknown, and Boon and Lucius enter the boarding house.
- Lucius slowly learns that the boarding house is actually a brothel, and he learns what goes on in there. Loss of innocence? Check.
- Boon meets Miss Reba, the head of the brothel, who quickly recognizes that Lucius is learning all this for the first time. She sort of jokes around with Lucius but shows him great kindness.
- Lucius also meets Miss Corrie, who turns out to be Boon's girlfriend, and her nephew Otis, a big meanie who is ten years old.
- Even worse than Otis is the brothel's landlord, Mr. Binford, who is dirty, racist, and sexist. It's through Mr. Binford that Lucius learns that some people are just downright rude.
- Lucius pauses to reflect on his loss of innocence, but his lamentations are quickly interrupted by Miss Reba insisting they go outside to figure out why a man is yelling Boon's name.
- Everyone runs outside, and Lucius tells us what he saw then: Ned yelling and standing next to a beautiful horse.
- Much to Boon's horror, Ned reveals that he has sold grandfather's car for a horse. He claims that Grandfather never wanted a car in the first place and would rather have had a horse, anyway.
- Lucius quickly touches his pocket to feel for the key, and he finds that it's still there.
- Nobody knows how Ned managed to sneak the car out.
- Boon asks what exactly Ned plans to do with the horse, and Ned reveals that he plans to race him to get Grandfather's automobile back.
- Boon is livid. "How the hell are you going to use the horse to win the automobile back from the man that has already give you the horse for it?" (6.10), he asks.
- Ned explains that the man who sold him the horse doesn't think he can race, so Ned intends to train the horse and trick him.
- Lucius finds he believes Ned, and he tells us a brief story about how Ned once trained mules and turned them into racehorses. Okay, so the guy has some pretty good cred.
- But then there's a twist: suddenly, all at once, Miss Reba, Miss Corrie, and Boon realize that the horse is stolen, and that the cops will surely come looking for it.
- So, everyone devises a plan to smuggle the horse (at this point named Lightning) to Parsham, where the racetracks are located.
- Miss Reba offers her railroad connection, Sam, and everyone soon finds that they are all becoming involved in a ploy of questionable legality.
- Sam helps the group smuggle the horse onto the railroad bound for the racetracks, and everyone returns to the brothel to sleep.
- Lucius holes up again with Otis, who tells him about his peephole business. He charges boys of the neighborhood to watch his aunt work at the brothel.
- It's here that Lucius learns what it is exactly that Miss Corrie does for a living, and he becomes enraged. So much in fact, that he fights with Otis, who then pulls out a knife.
- Boon and Miss Corrie hear the fighting next door and come out to break up the fight.
- Miss Corrie scolds Otis and forces him to leave the next day on a train. She also notices that Lucius's hand is bleeding from the knife, and she takes him into her room to care for him.
- Miss Corrie confesses that no man, much less a boy, has ever stood up for her. She vows to change her ways, give up prostitution, and live an honest life. She tells all this to Boon, who becomes upset that she has to choose right now to suddenly become reformed.
- The following morning, everyone—Miss Reba, Miss Corrie, Boon, Ned, Sam, and Lucius—meets at the train depot and heads for Parsham.
- In Parsham, the group meets up with Uncle Parsham, an older black gentleman Sam knows, who has great experience with horses.
- While Boon is arranging details at the racetrack, Ned trains Lightning to race and Lucius to ride as jockey
- A suspicious officer named Butch takes an interest in Miss Corrie, which angers Boon.
- Miss Corrie, determined to quit prostitution, fights off Butch's aggressive advances.
- Here's where we learn why Ned traded the car for Lightning in the first place.
- It turns out that his cousin Bobo owes the man who owns Lightning a lot of money, so Bobo stole the horse in order to race it, win money, and pay off his debt.
- On the day of the race, Lucius, Ned, and the Lightning are ready.
- Lucius loses the first heat, and before he can race again, he, along with Ned and Boon, is taken into custody by the corrupt cop Butch.
- Things seem to be going horribly wrong.
- Ned shows up to the racetracks with Lightning the following day, and he tells Lucius what happened.
- Butch was using the arrest to force Miss Corrie into a sexual situation, and she, against her own wishes, submitted in an effort to save Lightning, Ned, and Boon. They're all released, but when Boon finds out how and why, he strikes Miss Corrie and attacks Butch, landing himself in jail again.
- Hearing all of this, Lucius becomes angry that nobody stepped in to save Miss Corrie, and that she felt like this was the only thing she could do to save the boys.
- Looks like Lucius is developing a strong moral conscience.
- At the racetracks on race day, Lucius finds himself sitting atop Lightning and ready to go.
- Ned reveals that the reason he was able to train the mules way back when was because he used his family's secret: sardines. He figured feeding Lightning sardines would have the same winning effect.
- Oh, the things you learn.
- The race is definitely a close one, but Lucius and Lightning end up winning.
- And guess who is there on the sidelines watching?
- Uh oh.
- Grandfather isn't as mad as everyone thought he would be, especially when Ned explains that all the horse needs to do is win the next race, and he'll have all the money he needs to pay off Bobo's debt and get the car back.
- Everyone, including Grandfather, bets a lot of money on the horse, under the impression that they'll make it all back.
- Great plan, only the horse loses the race.
- Why? Because Ned didn't feed the horse sardines. In fact, he wanted Lightning to lose, and he bet against him so that he could take all of Grandfather's money and get back at him for not treating him like family all these years.
- With that, the adventure draws to a close.
- Lucius accompanies Boon, Miss Corrie, and Grandfather in the car, and the four head back up to Jefferson, with Boon, of course, driving the beloved automobile.
- Miss Corrie and Boon are married and soon have a baby. They name him Lucius Priest Hogganbeck.