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Racial Debts, Individual Slights, and Sleights of Hand in Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust

Racial Debts, Individual Slights, and Sleights of Hand in Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust

Chapter:
(p.186) Racial Debts, Individual Slights, and Sleights of Hand in Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust
Source:
Faulkner and Money
Author(s):
Mary A. Knighton
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496822529.003.0013

William Faulkner's novel Intruder in the Dust (1948) thematizes racial debt as a form of racial reparations. Racial debt and its repayment emerge as the white boy Chick Mallison's obsession with defining and ridding himself of a debt he owes Lucas Beauchamp, a black man. When a lynch mob threatens Lucas, it becomes Chick's responsibility to save his life. Guided by Lucas in how to do so, Chick learns about cross-racial family ties and the collective profits and debts of history. Contemporary civil rights and anti-lynching movements, the actual lynching of Ellwood Higginbotham, as well as the shooting of the film version of Intruder in Faulkner's own Oxford, Mississippi in 1949 amplify the novel's debt and reparations theme. Despite publisher and studio warnings, Faulkner and director Clarence Brown render lynching central to Intruder's story while Kauffer's cover art encodes artists' resistance to censorship and marketing demands.

Keywords:   E. McKnight Kauffer, Clarence Brown, Ellwood Higginbotham, Reparations, lynching, censorship, Random House

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