Page 103. " A liar and a scoundrel Caddy was dropped from his club for cheating at cards "

This refers to the Final club to which Sydney belonged (see note at page 65). Being thrown out was a great indignity.

Page 103. " got sent to Coventry "

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. 

Page 103. " caught cheating at midterm exams "

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. 

Page 105. " Land of the kike home of the wop "

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.


Star-Spangled Banner
Public DomainStar-Spangled Banner - Credit: Francis Scott Key (lyrics)
Page 108. " Because women so delicate so mysterious Father said. Delicate equilibrium of periodic filth between two moons balanced. "

Creative Commons AttributionMenstruation - Credit: æ¬ æˆ‘å…©åƒå¡Š
It was traditionally believed that women’s menstrual cycles were guided by the waxing and waning of the moon. Ovulation was thought to coincide with the full moon and menstruation with the new moon. The idea that menstruation is a curse which renders women unclean is ancient and widespread. See, for instance, Leviticus 15.19-30.

Page 108. " getting honeysuckle all mixed up in it "
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeHoneysuckle - Credit: Varekai97X

Honeysuckle is a traditional symbol of love. With its heady fragrance and clinging vines, it takes on a distinctly erotic significance in the novel.

Honeysuckle printed fabric
Public DomainHoneysuckle printed fabric - Credit: William Morris

Page 109. " I bet you live close to the station, where the trains are. "

Waltham railroad crossing
Creative Commons AttributionWaltham railroad crossing - Credit: the(?)
Prior to the introduction of railways, well-off families tended to live in town centres whilst the less prosperous (and non-white) were driven out to the margins. When train-tracks were laid down, they provided a physical demarcation of this social divide, giving rise to the expression ‘the wrong side of the tracks’. Those on the poorer side were disproportionately affected by soot and smoke from trains and the industry that sprang up around stations, which had the effect of keeping house prices low and the neighbourhoods undesirable. 

Page 109. " Must be one of them new Italian families "
Poor Italian immigrant family pictured in 1912
Public DomainPoor Italian immigrant family pictured in 1912 - Credit: Lewis Hine

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.

Page 112. " I didn’t let him I made him "
The biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife highlights the evil associated with female sexual agency
Public DomainThe biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife highlights the evil associated with female sexual agency - Credit: Orazio Gentileschi

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.



Lil'l Southern Belles
Public DomainLil'l Southern Belles - Credit: Hamilton Hamilton
Page 112. " Say calf rope say it "

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.

Page 117. " He wore a vest but no coat. Upon it was a metal shield. "

c.1877 Town Marshal's badge
Creative Commons Attributionc.1877 Town Marshal's badge - Credit: Trader Chris
Prior to 1941, when a national issue marshal’s badge was introduced, each district had its own design. These usually incorporated a star or eagle emblem. 

Page 120. " a one-storey building of brick trimmed with white "
Phil Stone's Law Office
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePhil Stone's Law Office - Credit: Joseph A

This building seems to have been based on the Law Office of Phil Stone, Faulkner's close friend and mentor. The building still houses a legal firm today, being that of Freeland & Freeland.

Google Map


Page 121. " His father’s a congregational minister. "

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”.

Page 123. " If that isn’t just like these ignorant low class Yankees. "
Illustration from Harper's Weekly, 12 Jan, 1867
Creative Commons AttributionIllustration from Harper's Weekly, 12 Jan, 1867 - Credit: Illustration courtesy of

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.



Mark Twain's
GNU Free Documentation LicenseMark Twain's "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" typified popular imaginings of the Yankee - Credit: Chordboard
Page 124. " He had been in the army had killed men "
The 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, or Rough Riders, in the battle of Las Guasimas during the Spanish-American War.
Public DomainThe 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, or Rough Riders, in the battle of Las Guasimas during the Spanish-American War. - Credit: W. A. Rodgers

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.


Othello wooing Desdemona
Public DomainOthello wooing Desdemona - Credit: Théodore Chassériau

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.

Page 125. " the beast with two backs "
Title page from the 1630 edition
Public DomainTitle page from the 1630 edition - Credit: William Shakespeare

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)



Page 125. " the swine of Euboeleus "
The abduction of Persephone
Public DomainThe abduction of Persephone - Credit: Circle of Josef Anton Koch

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.




Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeEuboleus - Credit: Marsyas
Page 125. " He was crotchety about his julep as an old maid "

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.

Mint julep
Creative Commons AttributionMint julep - Credit: bhamsandwich

Page 125. " the secret surges the breathing locked drinking the wild breath the yes Yes Yes yes "

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.

James Joyce
Public DomainJames Joyce - Credit: Djuna Barnes