This refers to the Final club to which Sydney belonged (see note at page 65). Being thrown out was a great indignity.
A colloquial expression for a punishment which involves treating the transgressor as though he or she is absent. British in origin, it comes from the English Civil War: Royalist soldiers were so ill-regarded in Parliamentarian Coventry that those captured and sent there would be cut off from all social contact.
At Harvard, midterm exams are taken as part of regular class time midway through the academic term. Grades from midterms are combined with those from final exams to determine a student’s overall result.
This is a bastardization of “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, the line which ends each verse of America’s National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Kike and wop are offensive slang terms for Jews and Italians respectively: both groups had migrated in large numbers to the US in the late 19th century, the former as a result of the persecution they experienced in Europe and the latter to escape economic hardship.
Listen to a recording of The Star-Spangled Banner by Duke Ellington.
Honeysuckle is a traditional symbol of love. With its heady fragrance and clinging vines, it takes on a distinctly erotic significance in the novel.
The main period of Italian immigration into the US was ushered in by the unification of Italy in 1861. The new constitution heavily favoured the North, and southern citizens were plunged into severe economic hardship. Many chose to flee the country, with 4 million migrating to America between 1880 and 1920. In keeping with Faulkner’s portrayal, a lot of these new arrivals were ill-equipped for life in the US and consequently found themselves relegated to substandard living conditions and poorly-paid employment.
The fact that the Italian families are described as ‘new’ corroborates the idea that the location is based on Waltham, for 1910 marked the arrival of large numbers of Italian immigrants in that city.
At the time, such sexual assertiveness on the part of a woman, let alone an unmarried one, would have been considered scandalous. The female ideal, the Southern Belle, was desirable and flirtatious, but she also guarded her chastity with her honour. She was expected to challenge a man in a way that piqued his interest whilst also subtly flattering his superiority — bright, but not intellectual; she could chatter entertainingly but serious discourse was outside her realm. In other words, she did not trespass on male territory: Caddy's assumption of the sexual prerogative is the ultimate defiance of this code.
In rough and tumble children’s games, one would cry ‘calf rope’ to signal an acceptance of defeat. The origin of this practice is uncertain.
It’s difficult to think of a more unlikely profession for the nihilistic Mr Compson. According to the appendix to The Sound and the Fury which appeared in The Portable Faulkner (1946), he did nothing of the kind — did, in fact, not much of anything. He was “bred for a lawyer and indeed he kept an office upstairs above the Square, where entombed in dusty filingcases some of the oldest names in the county...faded year by year”. His decline becomes a full-time occupation and his days are spent “with a decanter of whiskey and a litter of dogeared Horaces and Livys and Catulluses, composing (it was said) caustic and satiric eulogies on both his dead and living fellowtownsmen”.
Though the meaning of Yankee shifts depending on the origins of the speaker, for Southerners it means any Northerner. Characteristics with which they were generally credited were cunning, practicality, materialism, coarseness and lack of manners. Because of the imposition of northern-led policy on the South during the years of Reconstruction, hostility towards Yankees was high.
The most recent conflict in which America had been involved was the Spanish-American War of 1898. Though the event was triggered by the mysterious sinking of an American battleship for which Cuba’s Spanish colonists were blamed, the underlying causes were economic. Cuba was at that time engaged in a violent revolt against Spanish misrule. As America had invested a great deal of money in Cuba, there was a vested interest in its bid to gain independence. After ten months of fighting, the Cuban, American and Philippine troops were victorious. December 10th 1898 saw the war formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris which ceded the remains of the Spanish Empire to American control.
As Caddy would have been roughly seven at the time of the war, Dalton Ames is clearly her senior. As Noel Polk points out, her love for him resembles that of Desdemona for Othello, with both women being seduced by tales of martial daring. See note below.
This monstrous description of sexual coupling comes from the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Othello (c.1603), a play dominated by themes of jealousy and women’s sexual behaviour. Intent upon destruction, the duplicitous Iago announces Desdemona and Othello’s love affair to the girl’s father in terms calculated to engender his wrath.
Brabantio: What profane wretch art thou?
Iago: I am one, sir, that comes to tell you, your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. (Act 1, Scene 1)
In Greek mythology, Euboeleus is a swineherd who tends his pigs at the entrance to the Underworld. When Pluto, the king of the Underworld, abducts Persephone as his bride, the swine disappear into the chasm which opens up to admit the fleeing deities. Euboeleus’ fate is assuaged by the casting of piglets into sacrificial pits dedicated to Persephone and her mother Demeter, the goddess of harvest and fertility. The decaying remains were recovered by women who, after a purity ritual, mingled the flesh with seeds to ensure fecundity for both the land and its inhabitants.
Mint julep — a blend of bourbon, mint, sugar and water — is so esteemed in Gerald’s native Kentucky that it's almost a state mascot. Such is its prestige that matters such as from whence the water is sourced, whether or not the mint should be bruised and in which vessel it should be served are fiercely debated.
The Kentucky Mint Julep (2003) by Joe Nickell contains a range of recipes.
Faulkner is perhaps thinking of the end of Ulysses by James Joyce, a writer whose innovative stream-of-consciousness technique, with its temporal shifts, neologisms and anarchic eschewal of grammatical conventions, had a profound impact on his own writing style. The final 30-odd pages of the novel are given over to Molly Bloom’s masturbatory soliloquy which culminates in the lines:
I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
You can listen to a beautiful reading of the end of Molly Bloom's soliloquy here.