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William Faulkner’s Spotted Horses.

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William Faulkner’s Spotted Horses

                In Spotted Horses William Faulkner produces a story filled with humor, misguided pride, tragedy and social evils. Throughout the narrative the townspeople fit into three groups, foolish people who, the innocent, and the evil. Faulkner tells the tale of a horse auction orchestrated by the infamous Flem Snopes and another man from Texas named Buck. Flem Snopes takes a backseat in the story but is the driving force behind the events that take place his motives are based on acquiring wealth and he does not care who gets hurt by his actions. Snopes is the embodiment of greed and wherever he goes his evil follows.

                The story starts with a scene where many of the men from Frenchman’s Bend are hanging out at a store front, they see a large caravan heading towards them in the distance. “A little while before sundown the men lounging about the gallery of the store saw, coming up the road from the south, a covered wagon drawn by mules and followed by a considerable string of obviously alive objects which in the leveling sun resembled… circus posters.” (433, Faulkner) From the very start of the story Faulkner hints at what the idea of the horse auction is. Comparing the caravan to a circus lets us infer that the whole thing is a charade much like how a circus might fool and entertain people with false figures of bearded women, zebras, and lions. Like a circus the caravan will leave just as fast as they came, leaving with money co course. From the very beginning the men of the town are skeptical of what is heading in their direction, “What in the hell is that” one said. “It’s a circus,” Quick said.” Their suspicions are but to rest when the caravan gets closer and they can see that the objects are horses and there are two men leading on a wagon. When it reaches the town Flem is greeted by the men that he knows but the horses dominate the scene that are being looked over by everyone. Faulkner describes the horses, “They huddled, gaudy motionless and alert, wild as deer, deadly as rattlesnakes, quiet as doves.” This description of the animals describes the wild nature that they possess, hinting that they aren’t stable raised horses and should be given respect. This line of text explains that these horses are not to be taken lightly and you are around them it is best to error on the side of caution. Horses are notoriously dangerous and wild ones are especially dangerous because their spirits haven’t been broken yet and they do not serve humanity only themselves. By saying that they are quiet as doves and deadly as rattlesnakes Faulkner is portraying the horses as docile but with the ability to end someone’s life in a few short instances. This is confirmed in the story. “The nearest animal rose on its hind legs with lightning rapidity and struck twice with its fore feet at Varner’s face.” Even being near these horses can be costly to one’s life, if either of the horse’s hooves struck Varner he could have been severely injured. In the short amount of time that the horses been in the town they have already almost fatally injured one of the townspeople. In this instance Varner represents one of the innocents that may be in harms way as a result of Flem Snopes and the Texan’s horse auction.

                After the instance where the horse kicks at Varner the Texan says, “keep away from them, boys, they’ve got kind of skittish, they aren’t been rode in so long.” This statement by the Texan is met with some suspicion by some of the smarter men in town and they ask if the horses have ever even been riding. Even more evidence to the claim that the horses are not fit it sell is found when the man from Texas is described. “Across the left side of his head, obliterating the tip of that ear, was a savage and recent gash gummed over with a blackish substance like axle-grease.” Initially the townspeople assume that Flem and him got into some trouble on the way over, but what really happened was that while the Texan was trying to stake them out he got too close to the horses and one of them hit him. To downplay the injury the Texan says that it could have happened to any man that gets careless around a horse. Being that he is trying to sell these horses he cleverly adds that the reason that the horses are so lively is because they have been lazing around and that once the horses get put to work, they will calm down and be good workers. To demonstrate that the horses are gentle the Texan attempts to grab on to one of them but instantly has to dig his heels into the ground and fights the horse into submission. The Texan is obviously a very strong man that is able to control a horse he uses his ability to ease the minds of the townspeople about buying one of his horses. He says,” See? All you got to do is handle them a little and work the hell out of them for a couple of days.” (435,Faulkner) after he tells the men this, he asks them to stand back a bit and quickly lets go of the horse and jumps away, the moment he lets go of the horse it strikes at him ruining his vest. Even after the man tries to scow that the horses are okay the horse acts the opposite of how its supposed to.

                The story continues with the men leading the wagon and horses to the barn where they will hold the auction the next day. While they are trying to get the horses into the barn it is a crazy scene with horses running in each direction testing the barbed wire that is holding them all together. At this point in the story the Texan takes complete control of all the other men and asserts himself as a dominant male figure. The Texan takes some wire cutters and jumps down to cut the horses free so that they may run into the barn. He shows bravery and skill with his quick movements and ability to not get trampled by the horses. ‘He vanished, broad hat, flapping vest, wire-cutters and all, into a kaleidoscopic maelstrom of long teeth and wild eyes and slashing feet.” One by one the horses are set free from each other taking off in the direction of the barn. Faulkner does an excellent job of describing the situation that the man is in, disappearing into the swarming horses and coming out no worse for wear other than his cloths being ruined. The Texan is a capable man who again makes it seem like the wild horses can be controlled. After all the horses are in the barn townspeople settle down for supper and discuss who the horses belong to and one character who has already show skepticism by moving his team of horses to a barn half a mile away asks if any of the men are actually going to buy the horses tomorrow. Ratliff says, “A fellow can dodge a Snopes if he just starts lively enough. In fact, I don’t believe he would have to pass more than two weeks before he would have another victim… You folks aint going to buy them things sho enough are you?”(438, Faulkner) Ratliff is one of the only characters up until this point to show distrust for Flem Snopes. In this story Ratliff is considered one of the innocents that is in harms way as a result of Flem and the Texans actions. Being a voice of reason Ratliff begins to question Eck about the horses and how much that they cost to get but Eck continues to say that Flem hasn’t told him anything about them. This section shows that Eck and Flem have an agreement and Eck is not willing to share information about Flems business ventures. Relating back to the beginning of the story where the wagon that was approaching looked like a circus on its way Ratliff says, “You folks can buy them horses if you want to. But me, I’d just as soon buy a tiger or rattlesnake. And if Flem offered me either one of them, I would be afraid to touch either of them for it would be a painted dog or a piece of garden hose when I take possession of it.” (440, Faulkner) Ratliff has deep distrust for Flem and compares his horses to how a circus might paint a dog with tiger stripes and call it a tiger to attract people to their show. All of this is further evidence that Flem is not trusted and he is usually up to no good trying to scam his fellow citizens. After Ratliff tries to reason with the men and trying to convince them not to buy the horses he goes to bed and the story picks up the next day with the auction.



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