DATE: 8 May 1958
OCCASION: Introductory Class in Types of Literature, Graduate Class in American Literature
This clip was created by splicing the end of T-144c and the beginning of T-144c2 together.
Play the full recording:
William Faulkner: Yes, ma'am.
Unidentified participant: Sir, I'd like some help on understanding the—what I call the bedroom scene in the fourth section of "The Bear." You made one statement, "She is lost. She was born lost." Can you help me to understand what you meant by that?
William Faulkner: Who does that refer to?
Unidentified participant: That refers to Ike McCaslin's wife. In—in that section [...]—
William Faulkner: Yes, I—I think I remember now. She—from her background, her tradition, sex was—was something evil, that it had to be justified by acquiring property. She was, ethically, a prostitute. Sexually she was frigid. I think what he meant—he knew that—that there was no warmth that he would ever find from her, no understanding, no—no chance ever to—to accept love or return love because she was incapable of it. That's probably what he meant.
Unidentified participant: And I wondered why she laughed and laughed when [...]?
William Faulkner: She realized then that he was going to give up the land. She married him because she was going to be chatelaine of a plantation. And then she found he was going to give all that away, and the only revenge she knew was to not—to deny him sexually, that was the only triumph she had. And she was going to make him suffer for that just as much as she could to get even with him.
Unidentified participant: So that she intended from the beginning of her marriage to deny him this one thing that he had requested until it was useful in blackmail [...]?
William Faulkner: Well, she assumed when they got married that she was going to be chatelaine of a plantation, and they would have children. And she was going to be as—according to the rules of the book—a good wife to him. She'd still be frigid and cold and a shrew probably, but she'd be a good wife. Then when he was going to throw the plantation away for idealistic folly, all she—the only revenge she had was that. At least he would have no children from her. He'd have no wife from her. And she hoped—
Unidentified participant: Well, Ike—[excuse me, sir].
William Faulkner: And she hoped that he would—would make him grieve.
Unidentified participant: Well Ike says here [...] Did she realize when he was saying this that he did not mean it?
William Faulkner: Did not mean what?
Unidentified participant: [...] that he would go back to the land.
William Faulkner: She must have understood he was not going to [retract and] take his heritage. Yes, I'm sure she was convinced of that, no matter what he might have said.
[end of recording]