Eleven-year-old Lucius Priest's adventures with his friend Boon indoctrinate him into a world of sex, corruption, and rock 'n' roll (okay, more like ragtime). In other words, he enters adulthood, a reality that before his trip with Boon was far off on the horizon.
Part of what makes Lucius's narration of The Reivers so enlightening is the fact that he's telling the tale from the vantage point of an adult looking back. He inserts a kind of analysis and wisdom about growing up that can only come with the hindsight available with age. His choosing to tell us about his life back then, and how it shaped him into the adult he is now, reveals that the adventure told in this novel marks a turning point in his life. It's how he came of age.
Lucius is more of an adult than the actual adults around him because he thinks things through and does not make impulsive decisions.
Compared to the actual adults around him, Lucius is still a child of eleven who has a lot of growing up to do..
Like most dudes, Lucius learns how to be a man from the guys who surround him. In <em>The Reivers</em>, he goes through the process like osmosis, absorbing masculine qualities from Grandfather and Boon and learning to associate objects like guns with masculinity. Throughout his adventures, he also meets guys whose masculine qualities aren't so nice—we're looking at you, Otis, Mr. Binford, and Butch. A big part of Lucius's growing-up process is figuring out which kind of man he'd most like to be.
In The Reivers, male characters use their masculinity as an excuse to make poor choices.
Male characters make poor choices in The Reivers for reasons beyond their control, such as Non-virtue.
What makes Boss Priest, well, such a boss? Answer: he's old, he's rich, and he has a car.
Patriarchal status goes far in Faulkner's South, especially during a time that valued hospitality and decorum. But respect and reputation also have ties to customs outside of the household. There are certain traditions that garner respect, too, such as proper treatment of women and knowledge of horseracing etiquette. The Reivers features Southern reverence for both people and tradition, and it offers examples and scenarios that challenge Lucius's understanding of the status quo.
Characters like Butch and Mr. Binford are judged in large part for their lack of respect towards women.
Characters like Butch and Mr. Binford are judged in large part for their reputations in their respective communities.
The only wisdom to be gained in <em>The Reivers</em> is the wisdom that adult-Lucius drops throughout in order to make things a little more respectable. Otherwise, it's all foolishness and folly—especially where Boon is concerned. The entire adventure our characters go on is somewhat of a farce—total horseplay from start to finish. Faulkner does hit us with some pretty heavy themes, but the burlesque actions that propel the plot make those weighty themes much more palatable.
Grandfather Priest is the only character who does not embody foolishness.
Grandfather Priest is the most foolish of all the characters for leaving his car in the care of Boon in the first place.
<em>The Reivers</em> takes place in a time when it was the almighty automobile that brought folks into the modern era. In fact, Faulkner offers an interesting look at how the landscape in 1905 was not actually that friendly to automobiles. Not only were roads unpaved and muddy, but people also didn't believe the automobile was a change that was going to have any lasting effects. To Boon, Boss Priest's car is a vehicle for introducing modernization into an otherwise sleepy town in Mississippi.
Modernization is synonymous with sin, for bad things happen to otherwise good people, like Boon and Lucius, only after the automobile is introduced to Jefferson.
Modernization is synonymous with good. Characters like Boon and Lucius transform for the better only after the automobile is introduced to Jefferson, Mississippi..
Peer pressure, folks—it's a thing. Just ask Lucius, our hero, who's constantly finding himself manipulated by the big boys. Well, okay, but is he really that naïve? Or does he allow himself to be swayed? Temptation comes in many forms, whether we're prodded by others or seduced by the exciting possibilities that accompany risk and sin. The Reivers offers an interesting look at manipulation, and at just how easy it can sometimes be to let yourself go off in a dangerous, though enticing, direction.
Lucius allows himself to be manipulated by Boon and Ned and deliberately chooses to act against his own better judgment.
Boon and Ned completely manipulate Lucius into lying, stealing the car, and racing the horse.
Can we get a Big Mac with a side of lies?
Anyway, lies, lies, and more lies: that's what we've got in The Reivers. From the moment he agrees to help Boon sneak Boss Priest's car out of town, Lucius covers his lies with more lies. He's quite conscious of all of the lies he's telling; he even claims he's never told so many in his life. But are all lies bad? Lucius's lies kinds of cause him to embark on the most transformative adventure of his life, after all, right? Is anyone harmed by his lies?
When Boss Priest's automobile arrives in town, it brings along with it sin and temptation, which in turn cause Lucius to lie for the first time.
Lucius has always been capable of lying, and the introduction of the Boss Priest's automobile into Jefferson brings out what he was always capable of doing.
Well, folks, most of the women we meet in The Reivers work in a brothel, so you can bet your behinds there's going to be some questions raised about the role of women here. The women in this novel are often seen as objects to be used and then disposed of—although, as we'll see, the women themselves have some opinions about this attitude.
In his transition to adulthood, Lucius learns that men's treatment of women is an important issue, so when he doesn't like what he sees, he takes action. He gets into a physical brawl with Otis when he objectifies Miss Corrie, and he lashes out when he learns what she had to do to free Lightning, Ned, and Boon from prison. All part of growing up, we guess?
Women drive the action in the story: it's Miss Corrie and the brothel that cause Boon to take the car in the first place, and it's Miss Reba who helps get Lightning on the train.
Women only react to the action in the story; they don't cause it.