Go Down, Moses | Study Guide

William Faulkner

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Course Hero. "Go Down, Moses Study Guide." February 24, 2018. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Go-Down-Moses/.


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Go Down, Moses | Plot Summary




When brothers Buck and Buddy McCaslin's slave, Tomey's Turl, runs away from their plantation, they know he has gone to see his lover, Tennie, at the neighboring Beauchamp plantation. Despite Buck's confidence, he is unable to recover Tomey's Turl and manages to get into a compromising position—one that could lead to a forced marriage—with the lady of the house, Sophonsiba Beauchamp, who wants to marry him. Buddy arrives to save the day by playing cards with Hubert Beauchamp, her brother, and winning his brother's freedom and the chance to unite Tomey's Turl with Tennie for good, so that he will not run away again.

The Fire and the Hearth

Fearing his whiskey still will be discovered, Lucas Beauchamp attempts to hide the still in a Native American burial mound and discovers a stash of gold coins. He commences a treasure hunt with a "divining machine," a portable metal detector. His obsessive nighttime searches drive his wife, Molly, to seek a divorce with the help of Roth Edmonds, whom she helped raise after Roth's mother died in childbirth. Lucas remembers how Molly left him for months and lived in the main plantation house with Roth's father, Zack. Before the divorce is final, Lucas comes to his senses and decides to abandon his treasure hunting to save his marriage.

Pantaloon in Black

A worker on a sawmill crew, Rider, buries his wife, Mannie, only six months into their marriage. Inconsolable, Rider leaves the funeral despite his aunt's repeated requests he come home with her to recover. He goes back to work, where his enormous strength allows him to throw trees around like toothpicks. That night he gets a jug of whiskey and gets roaring drunk. He returns to the mill where he disrupts a card game and kills the night watchman, Birdsong, who cheats the workers. Rider is arrested for the murder and placed in a jail cell, where the sheriff and his men have trouble restraining him. In his rage Rider loosens the door from its hinges, making himself vulnerable to the Birdsong family's vigilante justice and an indifferent sheriff. Rider's body is found lynched, hanging in a schoolhouse.

The Old People

Young Isaac McCaslin takes his first hunting trip with his cousin Cass Edmonds and a few high-profile men from Jefferson. Chickasaw descendant and carpenter Sam Fathers has taught Isaac to hunt, but this is Isaac's first time hunting in the wilderness away from the plantation. Isaac kills a deer, and Sam anoints the boy's face with the deer's blood. Later Sam takes him into the woods where they encounter another deer Sam addresses as "grandfather." When Isaac tells Cass about this encounter, Cass says he had the same experience with Sam after killing his first deer.

The Bear

Isaac McCaslin continues to accompany Cass Edmonds, Sam Fathers, and the rest of Cass's usual hunting party on expeditions each November. Their hunting comes to center around an old bear known to all as Old Ben that has eluded them for years. Using a semi-wild dog named Lion, the party eventually kills Old Ben, but the dog and Sam Fathers die bloodily as a result.

After the event Isaac refuses to return home with Cass. Five years later Isaac informs his cousin he plans to renounce his claim to the family plantation. Cass tries to dissuade Isaac, but Isaac's investigation of the plantation's ledgers exposes the old scandals of Carothers McCaslin's life, tainting, for Isaac, the land and the family legacy. Isaac becomes more resolute in his decision and chooses to live simply and let Cass keep the property.

Delta Autumn

Now in his old age, Isaac McCaslin accompanies Cass's grandson Roth Edmonds on a hunting trip into the Mississippi River delta. They must travel for hours by car to access the kind of wilderness previously found just a few miles from the McCaslin plantation. Isaac stays behind in camp on the first hunting day. A young woman with an infant comes to the camp looking for Roth, and Isaac learns she is Roth's lover. She is also the mixed-race long descendant of Carothers McCaslin and one of his slaves, making her Roth's distant cousin. Isaac sends her away with some money Roth has left for her.

Go Down, Moses

Samuel Worsham Beauchamp, grandson of Lucas and Mollie (spelled this way in "Go Down, Moses"), is executed in Chicago after killing a police officer in a robbery gone wrong. Mollie is determined to bring his body home to Jefferson for burial. Gavin Stevens, the local lawyer Mollie consults, and a local newspaper editor feel for Mollie, now very old, and collect money from the town to bring Samuel's body home in a coffin for a proper funeral.

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