THEMATIC PATTERNING AS A STRUCTURING DEVICE IN WILLIAM FAULKNER'S "GO DOWN, MOSES"
AuthorCorrick, James A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study shows that William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses is a unified prose narrative. The various themes in this book are patterned so that they tie the work's seven chapters together into a coherent whole. Because of the thematic complexity of this book, only one set of themes, the acceptance or rejection of love and understanding, is examined. Characters demonstrate their acceptance of these values through their association with traditionally successful families. Characters reveal their rejection of these values through their association with unsuccessful families, if they are connected with families at all. Since literary criticism has no terminology for describing thematic patterning, this study employs terms used in musical composition. By constructing a model similar to the fugue form in music, we can show how the acceptance or rejection of love and understanding functions as one of the unifying elements in Go Down, Moses. The musical fugue has two parts, the exposition and the development. In the exposition, the fugue's major theme, called the subject, is introduced. In counterpoint to the subject, the fugue's minor theme, the countersubject, is also introduced. The full exploration of the subject and the countersubject's thematic possibilities is the province of the fugue's development. Between the sections of the development are short passages called episodes, in which portions of the subject and countersubject are used to shift the fugue's thematic emphasis. Finally, fugues often have a short, concluding section, the coda, in which there is a thematic summation. In the fugue-analog model for Go Down, Moses, the rejection of love and understanding corresponds to the subject, the major theme of the fugue. The acceptance of these values corresponds to the countersubject, the minor theme of the fugue. The fugal counterpoint is achieved through the actions of the book's characters in relation to successful and unsuccessful families. We can describe "Was," Chapter One of Go Down, Moses, as the exposition of the fugue-analog. The subject is developed through the actions of the McCaslin twins and Sophonsiba Beauchamp and through the initial three paragraph description of Isaac McCaslin. The countersubject appears through the actions of Tomey's Turl. "The Fire and the Hearth," Chapter Two, becomes the first section of the fugue-analog's development. The subject is seen through much of Lucas Beauchamp's activities as well as those of Roth Edmonds. The countersubject arises out of Lucas's loyalty to his family. This developmental section ends on the countersubject. "Pantaloon in Black," Chapter Three of Go Down, Moses, corresponds to the episode of the fugue-analog. Rider's strong attachment to his dead wife presents the countersubject, while the portrait of the marriage of the deputy sheriff develops the subject. The fugue-analog's episode shifts the thematic emphasis from countersubject to subject in preparation for the second section of development. The Isaac McCaslin chapters, "The Old People," "The Bear," and "Delta Autumn," are the fugue-analog's second development sections. Isaac's unsuccessful relations with his wife, his black cousins, and Cass Edmonds develop the subject, while Isaac's successful relationship with Sam Fathers presents the countersubject. The emphasis of this section of Go Down, Moses is on the subject. The book ends with "Go Down, Moses," the last chapter, which corresponds to the fugue-analog's coda. By ending with the description of the successful "family" of Miss Worsham and Molly Beauchamp, Go Down, Moses ends on the countersubject.
Degree ProgramGraduate College