Summary Pantaloon in Black Summary A huge, strong negro named Rider is sent sprawling by grief when his young wife, Mannie, dies. He digs with a frenzy at her funeral, and his aunt is worried about him. The next morning he goes to work at the sawmill but leaves after hurling an unbelievably large log down the hill. He buys a jug of alcohol, drinks profusely, and finally goes to the tool room at the mill, where a security guard named Birdsong runs a crooked dice game for negroes. Rider drunkenly accuses Birdsong of cheating--a just accusation--and cuts his throat.
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Heyde III Where romantic comedy says: these aggressions can be transcended, and realistic comedy says: these aggressions will be punished, tragic-comedy. The peculiar, unparalleled ruthlessness of the genre suggests a wrestling match with no holds barred. Bentley In these few words Eric Bentley, an eminent literary critic, points out the power, the purpose, and the effect of mixing tones in literature.
Comedy alone, Bentley argues, creates an unreal world either where man transcends evil or where evil men face certain punishment. Therefore, when an author chooses to delve deeply into the complexities of modern man, he should consider mixing tones, as William Faulkner does in "Pantaloon in Black.
Mourning the sudden unexplained death of his wife Mannie, Rider, distorted with grief, buries her in an almost violent way. After all, she has caused him to change, to become a better man. After failing to kill himself at work, he runs wildly on to a bootlegger where he fights to keep a gallon of moonshine. After another confrontation with his aunt, he rushes to a dice game where he tangles with Birdsong, a crooked white man, whom he kills with a razor.
Though Rider has made no attempt to escape, the deputy tells us, Rider tears apart the cell, only to be beaten by members of a black chain gang all for naught for the next day, persons unknown take him from the jail and lynch him. Such a plot summary emphasizes the tragic elements, but it hardly captures the essence of the story, for the comic undertones make all the difference.
The title gives the reader the first hint. Rider represents this absurdity, this chaos, for as a fool he must face the vicissitudes of life. Virtually all he can do is laugh for life allows little else. After all, she has saved him from self-destruction. A successful man, he makes "good money" working at a sawmill, "the head of the timber gang itself," a gang that moves "a third again as much timber between sunup and sundown as any other moved" Faulkner Because of her he has, after their marriage, given up his Saturday night and Sunday dice and whiskey.
After their marriage he has rented a cabin, fixed it up, and built a fire on the hearth as his Uncle Lucas Beauchamp had done, a symbol of the permanence of the family and marriage. But because of a disease or an accident the story never says , Rider finds himself suddenly, absurdly without a wife.
He has, through his own discipline, his own small choices, his own volition, changed his life to keep the fire on the hearth going and now life has cheated him of the woman who has made the difference. Such a situation seems like a cruel joke.
In the commedia dell arte one of the principal sources of comedy is mime, acting without words Mobley 91 , and the story makes great use of mime. If one thinks of the wasted energy, the mad swings, and the little dirt, he cannot help but laugh as he will when he sees that that grave lies in a barren garbage heap full of "shards of pottery and broken bottles and other objects insignificant to sight but actually of a profound meaning and fatal to touch.
She tells him, "You come home and eat," meaning her home, but he has a home, one of his own, one with a fire on the hearth. Later, she will call him Spoot, his childhood name, in a preposterous attempt to bring him back to childhood. Humorous mime also underlies the tragedy throughout the story when Rider eats. As he:. The congealed and lifeless mass seemed to bounce on contact with his lips. Not even warmed from mouth-heat pease and spoon spattered and rang upon the plate; his chair crashed backward and he was standing, feeling the muscles of his jaw beginning to drag his mouth open, tugging upward the top half of his head.
Faulkner In the midst of such grief, he presents a comical picture as food spatters and his chair overturns, but the words cold, lifeless, not even warmed represent the appalling world in which he exists. After he leaves home, he goes to the sawmill where he aggressively forces a sympathetic fellow worker to give him his lunch. Sitting on the ground, Rider eats:. Faulkner In this case he eats what looks like garbage in the manner of an animal, a wolf, again a funny scene if one thinks of the mime involved.
Faulkner Again he eats like a hungry wolf, blinking, as sticky syrup trickles over him. But the tragic remains omnipresent as his eyes show his sincere sorrow. The picture Faulkner paints shows us a man who comically acts like an animal to the casual human observer but who has a depth of feeling most cannot and do not have. While Rider eats in a disordered, chaotic manner like the world in which he finds himself, he still retains a spiritual love well above the instinctual pull exhibited by animals.
With the meal the uncle brings a message to put his faith in God a potential sense of order in the morass surrounding him. But as he stands there dripping with pie juice, Rider answers: Whut faith and trust? Whut Mannie ever done ter Him? Whut He wanter come messin wid me and-? Faulkner The absurd universe emerges in his response, for Rider understands that "bad things happen to good people" and he rejects a God who allows such to happen.
Freud points out in "Jokes and the Comic" that comedy makes people "contemptible to deprive him of his claim to dignity and authority" And he does it again when he tries his next comic stunt. In this case he takes a huge log from the truck into his hands and "tosse[s] it onto the skidway. Certainly his throw, this amazing physical accomplishment, caused each of his peers to think that "hit gonter to kill him. But instead of killing himself, he succeeds, ironically, in moving the log which "seem[s] to leap suddenly backward over his head of its own volition, spinning, crashing, and thundering down the incline.
As we laugh lightly in amazement at his fear, we feel the disorder around him and shed a tear, for we can guess what will come. Next he runs madly, like a clown, to a bootlegger, a white man, who refuses to sell him a gallon but offers to give him a pint.
Rider again acts irrationally, insisting that he has purchased the jug and taking it by force amidst some racial slurs from the bootlegger who exhibits a paternalistic, superior attitude one hardly logical for an outlaw Faulkner Now drunk himself, Rider fits into the wild universe surrounding him as he talks madly to the jug: "Come on now. Come on now. Prove it" He then connects both with the white man whose dominance in throwing the dice and in organizing the game seems especially contrived.
Rider realizes his own insignificance, his own inability to cope with the absurdities surrounding him a world controlling him and his race with illegal liquor and crooked crap games. In the midst of his drunken realization, he meets his aunt who appeals to him to talk to God. Efn He God, He awready know hit. Awright Hyar Ah is. Leff Him come down Hyar and do me some good. Faulkner God, he will accept, only if God will come now and help him, and he knows little chance exists that that will happen.
Then, in a totally irrational, totally absurd way he forces his way into a crap game, run by a white man who has cheated the blacks of their hard-earned money for fifteen years. The muted voices, the mute click and scatter of the dice he hears before he enters to find seven or eight people playing a ridiculous game which they can never win, setting up the central metaphor of the story that life is a crooked crap shoot.
The characters sitting around from the timber gang, the mill crew, and the night watchmen represent comic stock characters from the commedia dell arte probably the zannis buffoons McGraw-Hill as they lounge around the circle, losing their money like fools.
Though the story does not describe their actions, in keeping with their role, they mime their actions, never talking. To their center comes Rider, playing the pantaloon, another fool who, according to Skei can rip off masks and rage at others Rider, the comic fool who has ranted and raved throughout the story, has unmasked the cheat before he kills him with a razor Faulkner In this maze of violence, so typical of comedy and farce, the protagonist has killed a racist cheat, the stuff a tragedian can use as well, but this story does not turn to tragedy but to a comi-tragedy.
Throughout the entire scene Rider has smiled, like a fool, who adapts to his absurd surroundings. The last portion of the story, seen through the eyes of a racist deputy sheriff, tells us that the Birdsong family and their friends all good voters needed to reelect the highly ineffectual Maydew have hanged Rider, stolen him from jail, and lynched him, from the bell-rope in a Negro schoolhouse Faulkner They have done so to impress upon the blacks all of whom they consider stupid though they themselves are the real fools , that they need to learn a lesson, hence their use of the school.
The deputy, who tells the story to his indifferent wife, cannot understand: Them damn niggers. Because why? Because they aint human. Faulkner So religious that he must use the minced form, godfrey, for God, he still cannot love his fellow man, especially if they happen to be black.
He says they resemble a herd of "wild buffaloes. Of course, such a comic fool could never understand the depth of the other fool the ranting Rider who goes to jail willingly, yet absurdly insists on being free. Because of his strength he tears his cell apart and breaks off the door. Then the sheriff uses the road gang made up of black convicts to subdue him. In a fight right out of commedia del arte:. Around him he sees hopelessness and despair; his only response can be laughter; in the fight he goes down thinking, for he understands his condition, and he takes the only way out: In order to live with his Mannie, he must die.
Such is the ultimate absurdity that man faces. The ending, with its mixture of comic and tragic, makes the story more powerful than ever. He points to the "stupid simpleton the deputy sheriff perhaps who cannot understand the meaning of the most common terms and becomes entangled in endless semantic speculations and misunderstandings," Definitely Faulkner makes good use of this ancient form to combine the comic and tragic tones.
In "Pantaloon in Black," Faulkner successfully mixes the comic and the tragic to show the absurdity man faces. Rider cannot hold hope that any relief will come from the troubles that he as a human being faces. He and the people around him will continue to suffer from illness, injury, death, fraud, slander, prejudice, irrationality, loneliness, and hope. Nothing can protect him.
Love might help for a moment but only for a moment, for, as Rider learns, the person one loves may die. Rider, of course, finds himself in a worse condition, for he must work from his blackness, one of the worst handicaps man can have. The best that any man can do: He can become a clown of life who rolls with the punches and laughs at his own tragedy- a devastating position.
As Bentley writes: Comedy with gloom which ends badly and tragedy shot through with comedy that makes the outlook still bleaker holds out the only hop we can accept. As Grimwood argues, "Pantaloon in Black refers "at a basic level to Faulkner himself" and "his guilty need to revise his own literary misperception of the Negro" Fortunately for the American Reader, Faulkner felt this guilt for in working through the absurdities of his own life, he gives us an understanding of our own.
Works Cited Bentley, Eric. Life of the Drama. New York: Atheneum, Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd.
"Pantaloon in Black" (Text Key 2089)
Was "Was" is a humorous prelude to the rest of the stories, and an introduction to the McCaslin family a few years before the abolition of slavery. Turl has run away to see his sweetheart Tennie at the neighboring Beauchamp plantation. The McCaslin twins dread going there because their neighbor Hubert Beauchamp has only one goal in mind: to marry off his sister Sophonsiba to Uncle Buck. Well, they find Turl there, but Turl knocks Buck down and escapes. She starts to scream. So Buck sends young McCaslin back home to get Buddy, the poker superstar.
Pantaloon in Black
Heyde III Where romantic comedy says: these aggressions can be transcended, and realistic comedy says: these aggressions will be punished, tragic-comedy. The peculiar, unparalleled ruthlessness of the genre suggests a wrestling match with no holds barred. Bentley In these few words Eric Bentley, an eminent literary critic, points out the power, the purpose, and the effect of mixing tones in literature. Comedy alone, Bentley argues, creates an unreal world either where man transcends evil or where evil men face certain punishment. Therefore, when an author chooses to delve deeply into the complexities of modern man, he should consider mixing tones, as William Faulkner does in "Pantaloon in Black. Mourning the sudden unexplained death of his wife Mannie, Rider, distorted with grief, buries her in an almost violent way. After all, she has caused him to change, to become a better man.
FAULKNER PANTALOON IN BLACK PDF
Zulkitilar Such a plot summary emphasizes the tragic elements, but it hardly captures the essence of the story, for the comic undertones make all the difference. In these few words Eric Bentley, an eminent literary critic, points out the power, the purpose, and the effect of mixing tones in literature. Rider, the comic fool who has ranted and raved throughout the story, has unmasked the cheat before he kills him with a razor Faulkner The title gives the reader the first hint. Though the story does not describe their actions, in keeping with their role, they mime their actions, never talking. Bentley In these few words Eric Bentley, an eminent literary critic, points out the power, the purpose, and the effect of mixing tones in literature.
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