A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier

A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier

A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier

A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier

Synopsis

In this text, Joan Cashin explores the profoundly different ways that planter men and women experienced migration from the Southern seaboard to the antebellum Southern frontier. Migration was a family venture in the sense that both men and women took part. But they went to the frontier with competing agendas: many men tried to escape the intricate kinship networks of the seaboard, while women worked to preserve them if they could. Drawing on archival sources and using the perspectives of several disciplines, Cashin explores the effects of the migration experience on sex roles, the nature of slavery, race relations and a variety of other issues.

Excerpt

William Faulkner explored some of the themes in this book in Absalom, Absalom!, published in 1936. The protagonist of that magnificent novel, Thomas Sutpen, came to Mississippi in the 1830s because he was fleeing his past, his family, and the hierarchical society of Virginia, which was so old and decaying that its thick muddy rivers seemed to stand still or even flow backwards. He had a "design," which he pursued relentlessly: he wanted to be a rich planter and master at any cost. He was a brutal slaveowner, driving his slaves without mercy, and his ambitions were so consuming that he worked with his slaves in the field--something that few planters, especially in old Virginia, would have done. He also exploited his female slaves in the most intimate way, fathering at least one mulatto child with a slave woman.

Sutpen wanted to found a dynasty in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, so he married a white woman, Ellen Coldfield Sutpen, and they had children together. (He already had one son from a brief marriage in the West Indies to Eulalia Bon.) Yet his driving ambition destroyed his wife and children in ways that he never seemed to comprehend. Sutpen dominated the household, which was insistently masculine in tone, lacking proper carpets and curtains, and it remained curiously unaffected by a woman's presence. He mistreated his wife, whose misery was compounded by . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.