Michel Gresset and Patrick Samway, S.J. , eds
A Gathering of Evidence: Essays on William Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust
Philadelphia: Saint Joseph's UP, 2004, xiii+260pp.


This book is the first critical anthology exclusively focusing on Intruder in the Dust. After the novel's detective story style, the book of twelve essays attempts to gather methodological evidence for evaluating Intruder.

Cleanth Brooks's "Community in Action," an opening article, in this light, is the first evidence as well as a guidance of the anthology. The comprehensive discussion released in 1963 can also be seen the novel's fifteen year critical history, for it revises often-discussed questions, such as the coherency of the plot as a detective story, Lucas Beachamp's position in the novel, and Southern patriotic ideology presented by Gavin Stevens. While viewing the novel as Bildungsroman, Brooks, a Southern critic, declares to "the cosmopolitan reader" that Chick Mallison's alienation from the Northerners still exits. Self-definition like Brooks's is observed in some of the following articles.

The best successor of Brooks's text analysis is probably Ikuko Fujihira's "Eunice Hebersham's Lessons in Intruder in the Dust." Analyzing family bonds from the act of eating, Fujihira vividly illustrates how ideologies shared by women and blacks, the marginalized in the society, awaken the child to realities of the South. Through this process are revealed essentialities and limitations of Southern white male ideologies not vociferously but with the eyes that warmly watch over the growth of the boy.

If Fujihira's view is attributed to the relativism of the South, so is Richard C. Moreland's "Contextualizing Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust: Sherlock Holmes, Chick Mallison, Deocolonization, and Change." Moreland, however, places the novel in a larger context of Western history and develops an argument in three overlapping historical changes – end of the age of Europe as the center of world power marked World War I and II, U.S. ascent to a similar position form about 1945, and the Third World's decolonization throughout this century.

Brooks's discussion on community is developed with a different and insightful perspective in Donald M. Kartiganer's "Faulkner's Comic Narrative of Community." Referring to Northrop Frye's New Comedy, Kartiganer points out that Faulkner has chosen to embed the story in a thoroughly idealized fictional representation of a homogeneous society with the narrative mode of social comedy, which resolves the conflicts, reforms the society, and incorporates a central character (Lucas and Chick in this novel) into it.

In comparing Intruder with "The Fire and the Hearth," Keith Clark's "Man on the Margin: Lucas Beachamp and the Limitations of Space" argues that both works leaves Lucas dislocated and marginalized, because the  acquisition of manhood of black male characters is achieved by distancing themselves from the black community and entering the white community but the latter is impossible. Furthermore, Clark points out, since Lucas is not given voice in Intruder, he is pushed back to a familiar position of enduring Sambo. This interesting argument could have been wonderfully developed if Clark had dug into nonnegligible factor that Lucas is also descended from a distinguished white family.

Faulkner's works are often discussed in historical context and some of the articles collected in this book are no exceptions. Charles Hannon's "Race Fantasies: The Filming of Intruder in the Dust," for instance, analyses the novel with Clarence Brown's film and newspaper articles on an actual lynching of a black man. Joe Karaganis's "Negotiating the National Voice in Faulkner's Late Work" considers Intruder with its contemporary "Shall Not Perish" and points out Faulkner's attempt to seek more realistic response to an ethical and political dilemma that the South faced in the Forties.

Neil Schmitz's "Faulkner and the Post-Confederate" is especially marked by his thought-provoking discussion on Southern writing and writers in relation to publishers and literary world in the North. Schmitz suggests Intruder should be considered not as a work born in the social circumstances in the Forties but as a re-writing of pos-confederate writing.

Both Evelyn Jaff Schreiber's "The Sum of Your Ancestry": Cultural Context and Intruder in the Dust" and Robert W. Hamblin's "Teaching Intruder in the Dust Through Its Political and Historical Context" are presented in the style of teaching report. Incorporating discussions of linguistic philosophers such as Bakhtin and Volosinov, Schreiber exemplifies that social structures which support and sustain racism are penetrated in Faulkner's text and shows how ideologies are embodied through language. Hamblin's method to make students think about racial problems, on the other hand, is to make students relive the novel—making sure that students learn Chick is in dilemma, giving them historical background of the novel, and making them face the literary text again.

Patrick Samway, S.J. and Noel Polk are successors of Cleanth Brooks in that both of them argue against those who identify Gavin's ideology with that of Faulkner. Samway's "Intruder in the Dust: a Re-evaluation" examines Chick's growing up process by analyzing each character in the story and draws a notion that Faulkner's emphasis is on action to creatively bring about justice and not a reliance on abstract thoughts. Polk's "Man in the Middle: Faulkner and the Southern White Moderate," sharing the same view, argues that what Faulkner writes is not "The Negro," an abstraction, but black men and women as individual human beings. Polk's feverish retort with such noting as "I, a male Mississippi WASP" reveals the fierceness of criticisms that have avalanched against Faulkner as well as the problems of these criticisms.

It is of course a meaningful act to observe time and place by analyzing literary text. Is it, however, always necessary to use a specific novel to examine them? Or can any novel do if it reflects the time and place?  Polk insists that Faulkner, like the rest of us, is a complex combination of historical, economic, psychological, and social forces. We probably need to step out of the stage in which such a normal statement as Polk's is being insisted. In that sense, twelve articles in the book seem to suggest, in their own ways, the importance of the reader to face the text and communicate with it.


Copyright (c)2006 TAMURA Rika


Contract Teacher, Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts

"Voice of the South, Voice of Light in August" Strata 15, 2000.