Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County is peopled by an assortment of characters whose racial background, social status, gender, sexual behavior, or other characteristics relegate them to the margins of "normal" society. Some of these characters retreat even further from society by becoming cloistral individuals and thus isolating themselves from the prying eyes of Jefferson and other locales featured in Faulkner's works. From Light in August to The Sound and the Fury to Absalom, Absalom! to Go Down, Moses, these individuals, despite their differences, respond to similar patterns of external and internal stimuli in their decisions to withdraw from society, including elements of the physical structures and space surrounding them, approaching urbanization, and social exclusion. Faulkner's inclusion of such a high number of these individuals in his work provides a powerful commentary on the complexities of othering.

One of the uniquenesses of Faulkner's world is the very fact that it is a single world, in which characters traverse the boundaries of his works, weaving in and out of multiple stories and establishing multi-faceted connections with one another. Despite this inter-work boundary breaking, however, many of the realms in which Faulkner's characters actually live, whether in terms of physical space or mental space, are quite small. Characters who enclose themselves within a cloistered physical environment such as their home are the most readily apparent of these figures within Faulkner's works at first glance. However, Faulkner's cloistered individuals fall at various points on a spectrum that extends to encompass not only the physically cloistered, which includes characters such as Gail Hightower, Rosa Coldfield and her father, Mrs. Hines, Joanna Burden, Caroline Compson, and Uncle Buddy, but also those who could be deemed hybrid cloistral characters, including Joe Christmas and Byron Bunch, who participate in society to an extent but display a degree of physical cloistering and are highly mentally cloistered.

It is also important to distinguish between those whose cloistering is compulsory versus those who enter into self-imposed seclusion. A seemingly inconsequential demonstration of this distinction is Faulkner's frequent use of the word "apotheosis," or the elevation to divine status, in describing cloistered atmospheres, whether religious or secular, thus linking together his cloistral figures. Even seemingly minor characters such as the mixed-race courtesans of New Orleans profiled in Absalom, Absalom! are given the cloistered treatment and described with this word: selected from the ranks of slaves to be subjected to what was essentially sexual slavery, they are made to grow up in isolation, as if they are hothouse flowers. They are described as "a row of faces like a bazaar of flowers, the supreme apotheosis of chattelry, of human flesh bred of the two races for that sale--a corridor of doomed and tragic flower faces walled … " (Absalom 89). Although they are marginal characters who can be said to be cloistered from the reader, these women bring to the fore significant racial elements of Faulkner's treatment of cloistered figures.

In addition to the distinction between compulsory and self-chosen seclusion, Faulkner's cloistered figures enter into cloisters in response to a complicated web of intertwining factors, both environmental and internal. Although perhaps the most obvious motivation for cloistering is the desire for religious or sexual purity, the impetuses for the cloistered individuals of Yoknapatawpha County extend beyond these boundaries. One way to visualize characters' cloistral existences and their motivations is along the lines of spatiality, which is especially interesting considering the geographic interconnectivity made possible by Faulkner's use of a single well-defined geographical space, and which encompasses the sexual and religious factors mentioned above along with a host of other intertwining factors.

One highly spatial precursor to cloistral seclusion is the repudiation of what can be deemed a profane space. Rosa Coldfield and her father, of Absalom, Absalom!, clearly demonstrate this type of cloistering. In secluding themselves within their home, both reject the violently masculinized physical spaces that surround them, Rosa in reaction to plantation owner Sutpen in particular and the malevolence he represents, and Mr. Coldfield in response to the space of the Civil War, with which he vehemently disagrees. When Rosa is still a young woman, Mr. Coldfield locks himself in their attic and starves himself to demonstrate his stance against the war, with Jason Compson III claiming that Mr. Coldfield "had long since drawn in his picquets and dismantled his artillery and retired into the impregnable citadel of his passive rectitude" (Absalom 49). Mr. Coldfield's seclusion also has a religious element, as he spends the time before his death "behind one of the slightly opened blinds like a picquet on post, armed not with a musket but with the big family bible" (64).

Rosa's rejection of the brutal plantation master Sutpen as a husband and her subsequent removal to her home until her death can be seen as both a continuation of the isolation that was modeled for her as a child and a reaction to the profane space of Sutpen's Hundred. Perhaps Rosa is repudiating the permeating sense of oppressive possession that Sutpen and his land radiate, as he owns everything, including the people and the "landscape" of female bodies, within the space of Sutpen's Hundred in addition to the land itself. William T. Ruzicka notes that Sutpen "has appropriated all of it to his own being, to the extent that he has become its possession, and its physical deterioration reveals Sutpen's own moral dissolution" (54). Thus, Sutpen and Sutpen's Hundred are one and the same. Rather than having a freeing effect, it seems that the more expansive these spaces, the more oppressive they can be.

Bunch, of Light in August, is a hybrid cloistral character of sorts; although he works at Jefferson's planing mill, he likewise spends much of his off-time, and even his Saturdays, during which he works at the mill alone, in solitude. This solitude has a spatial character, as Bunch believes that his geographical distance from the hustle and bustle of Jefferson on Saturdays places him safely outside the margins of meaningful contact with others. After his first encounter with Lena Grove on just such a Saturday, he tells Hightower, his sole confidante and a fellow Jefferson recluse, "It was a strange thing. I thought that if there ever was a place where a man would be where the chance to do harm could not have found him, it would have been out there at the mill on a Saturday evening" (Light 77).

Many particular spatial elements of Faulkner's cloistral spaces are of interest. The specter of the plantation, whether during or after the time of slavery, looms large in Faulkner's works. The significance of the spatial reorganization that Uncle Buddy and Uncle Buck implement on their plantation and the social implications this restructuring has, for instance, cannot be understated. Go Down, Moses's Amodeus McCaslin, known to most as Uncle Buddy, lives in seclusion alongside his brother, Uncle Buck, in what is initially a one-room cabin on the margins of their plantation after moving their slaves into the plantation house in which they once lived, thus taking on an aspect of the marginalization their slaves experience, if only in a superficial way. Ruzicka also emphasizes the remoteness of the McCaslin plantation, highlighting its distance of 17 miles from Jefferson. Furthermore, whenever their neighbor Sophinsiba visits Buddy and Buck, she takes over Buddy's room, whereupon Buddy "moved clean out of the house, sleeping in one of the cabins in the quarters where the niggers used to live in his great-grandfather's time," thus further cloistering himself (Moses 6). Like Bunch, Joe Christmas is another hybrid cloistered individual. In a reflection of his possibly mixed-race heritage, although Christmas does participate in Jefferson's workforce and is highly mobile, a wanderer who travels freely from place to place, he is also trapped within a mental cloister engendered by the prejudiced society in which he lives. In terms of spatial isolation, Christmas lives on the property of an old plantation owned by Joanna Burden, an isolated, white, Northern "spinster" with whom he develops an intense sexual relationship. Joanna and Christmas's continuation of the plantation spatial arrangement reiterates society's racial hierarchies within what should be an escape from such strictures, thus creating a cloister within a cloister in which Christmas resides. Also interesting in Light in August in terms of spatial arrangements is the simultaneous proximity to and farness from Jefferson that prefigures Hightower's cloister. Hightower wishes to be both within and outside Jefferson because although he longs for isolation, he does not desire it to such an extent that he will not be able to hear the goings on at the church at which he once presided.

The sensory elements apparent upon entering one of these cloistered spaces have significance as well. These aspects are perhaps most apparent in Rosa's shuttered home. Upon his first visit to Rosa, Quentin observes "a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers" that "became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them" (Absalom 3). Quentin also observes the following of the cloistered space occupied by his mother Caroline, The Sound and the Fury's dramatic, reclusive, and possibly hypochondriac mother of the disintegrating Compson family who rarely leaves her sick room: "a face reproachful tearful an odor of camphor and of tears a voice weeping steadily and softly beyond the twilight door the twilight-colored smell of honeysuckle" (Fury 95). In the case of Light in August's Hightower, his own deteriorated physical state merges with the decaying atmosphere surrounding him, although he has become accustomed to the mustiness encircling him. These spaces exude the sufferings that their inhabitants have endured within and without them, making these hardships apparent to hopefully sympathetic visitors while being simultaneously hostile to these outsiders.

Related to the spatial element of cloisters is the specter of approaching urbanization, specifically in the form of cities such as Memphis and New Orleans, characterized as places of sin and pleasure to which many Yoknapatawpha residents travel. As Irene Visser notes, Bunch fails to join his fellow workers when they travel to Memphis on the weekends to engage in seedy activities. Instead, he further rejects this encroaching citified existence through, in addition to his work at the mill, retreating even further from this menace by attending church in the countryside outside Jefferson on Sundays (279). Hightower's deceased wife, who spent much time in Memphis and then fell to her death from a building in the same city, perhaps contributed to Hightower's controversial decision to remain secluded within his home in Jefferson after the scandal of her death shakes the town.

On a smaller scale than the spatial elements described above is the achievement of sexual purity that isolation can facilitate. Interestingly, Faulkner uses the word "impregnable" more than once in reference to his cloistered characters, including both men and women, indicating the significance of the pursuit of both sexual and other types of purity. Rosa, for example, is referred to as remaining cloistered within the "impregnable solitude" of her house (Absalom 70). Philip Weinstein connects this aspect of cloistering to Caroline, viewing her seclusion in terms of her possible desire to escape motherhood and regain her virginity (68). Those around her, such as her brother Maury, help to reinforce her enshrinement in the cloister of southern womanhood (Weinstein 68). Go Down, Moses's first story, "Was," in which Uncle Buddy is in clear focus, provides a view into possible motivations for his seclusion. At the close of the story, instead of being met with the tranquil seclusion of his home after returning from an exhausting excursion to their neighbors Siphonsiba and Mr. Hubert's estate, Buddy enters upon the sight of their pet fox, usually confined to a box, running loose among their dogs inside the cabin. Buddy confronts this sight with a torrent of anger: "'What in damn's hell do you mean,' Uncle Buddy said, 'casting that damn thing with all the dogs right in the same room?,'" possibly indicating discomfort with this display of energies, which can be construed as sexual, especially after witnessing the flirtatious display put on by Siphonsiba and Uncle Buck earlier that day (29).

Christmas, based on his numerous assignations with prostitutes, clearly does not wholly subscribe to the notion of sexual purity, and he has misogynistic tendencies, indicated by his incredulous disgust with the notion of menstruation and the fact that he engages in sex with primarily prostitutes. Even the transactional nature of these interactions is not sufficiently distant for Christmas, however, as he routinely attempts to scare these women away by abruptly revealing to them his possibly mixed-race background. These behaviors indicate that he may have constructed a mental barrier between himself and the women he consorts with in order to avoid emotional intimacy, revealing a contradictory repudiation of profane spaces and simultaneous indulgence in them.

Racial purity motivates others, including even Christmas, into cloistral solitude. It seems that Christmas aims to deny his possible mixed-race heritage by withdrawing from society and hiding this secret except when it can be used strategically to further isolate himself, as noted above. The seclusion of Light in August's Mrs. Hines, Christmas's grandmother, by her husband and Christmas's grandfather, Doc Hines, seems to result partially from the demented racism of her husband. To Doc Hines, although women's sin is beneath God's notice, racial mixture is the true scourge of the earth. In a perversion of the religious motivations that provoke some cloistered figures in Faulkner's texts, Doc Hines lives with his wife in an African American neighborhood but engages in maniacal rants against African Americans and cloisters his wife within their home, in effect marginalizing himself and his wife within their neighborhood: "The town looked upon them both as being a little touched--lonely, gray in color, a little smaller than most other men and women, as if they belonged to a different race" (341).

Despite Rosa's thrusting aside of Sutpen's shrewd control over those in his life, her concern does not appear to extend to fully include the slaves under his power. To Rosa, the hybridity of the world of Sutpen's Hundred, particularly as represented in Clytemnestra (Clytie), the daughter of Sutpen and one of his female slaves, is of a menacing nature, as made clear in the thoughts accompanying her interaction with Clytie on the grounds of Sutpen's Hundred after Henry murders Bon: she describes with seeming horror the "...hand on my white woman's flesh" (Absalom 111). She then meditates on the "touch and touch of that which is the citadel of the central I-Am's private own: not spirit, soul; the liquorish and ungirdled mind is anyone's to take in any darkened hallway of this earthly tenement" (Absalom 112; my emphasis). This scene makes clear the power imbalances troubling the practice of cloistering in Faulkner's world. Perhaps as a result of being cloistered herself by her own family, Rosa in turn attempts to cloister Clytie in an effort to bleach out her mixed racial background.

Connected to the above discussions of spatiality and purity is the gaze, in all of its iterations, including the social gaze, the male gaze, and so on, which makes its presence known throughout Yoknapatawpha County. Ruzicka zeroes in on the Yoknapatawpha County Courthouse as the focal point of the county, both in a spatial sense and due to the fact that it is "the embodiment of its [Jefferson's] communal order" (55). In this sense, the courthouse can be thought of as the epitome of the panopticon. This figure of the courthouse overshadows multiple scenes in which Mrs. Hines and Christmas are present after he has been arrested for Joanna Burden's murder. More particularly, Christmas is subject to the "discriminatory gaze," as Irene Visser refers to it, as employed by Christmas's own grandfather, who, in disguise as a janitor at Christmas's orphanage, plants the seed in his extremely young mind that there is something different about him, sending him on the road to seclusion (Visser 279).

This preponderance of cloistered figures brings to light an interesting paradox of cloistered, feminized men and roaming, masculinized women in Faulkner's world. Although they restrict themselves spatially and otherwise, Faulkner's cloistered men often become more expansive in terms of gender expression as they retreat to the domestic sphere, thus increasing their marginality on multiple levels. Similarly to other cloistered men in Faulkner's world, Go Down, Moses's Uncle Buddy engages in the necessary homemaking activities for his household. There are numerous mentions of Buddy cooking during "Was," such as when Buck orders him to revert to these homemaker duties after they return to the scene of the loose fox in their home: "'Damn the fox,' Uncle Buck said. 'Go on and start breakfast'" (29). Hightower is feminized in the sense that he acts as a midwife of sorts for multiple women in childbirth, but he also retains aggressively masculine characteristics such as his obsession with the violence associated with his grandfather's death during the Civil War. Even as he is dying while looking out of the window through which he routinely gazed at the outside world, "it seems to him that he still hears them: the wild bugles and the clashing sabres and they dying thunder of hooves" (493).

Although she does so in relation to Lucas Beauchamp in Go Down, Moses, Jennie Joiner introduces an interesting explanation for Faulkner's feminization of men in the shape of a turn toward domesticity that can perhaps be applied to these cloistered, feminized men. She suggests that, when men such as Beauchamp are marginalized within the outside, male sphere, they recede into "an inward struggle to identify with the domestic space," a process she refers to as "domestic masculinity" (54).

When considered alongside these feminized cloistered men, the wandering women of Faulkner's universe are especially striking. These women include Light in August's Lena and The Sound and the Fury's Caddy as well as The Unvanquished's Granny and Drusilla and cross multiple borders, both gender-related and geographical, within Yoknapatawpha County and beyond. Ruzicka addresses this phenomenon, stating that "the most surprising aspect which Faulkner's people exhibit is that those who dwell most fully are those without dwellings" and includes Lena Grove in his short list of such characters (113). Lena is among a group of women in Faulkner's world who are arguably able to wander in the way that they do because they retain at least a semblance of femininity that allows them to toe the line in terms of gender while transgressing on other dimensions. Lena fits neatly fits within this category; even as a highly mobile, single, young pregnant woman, she wins over all who meet her with her sweetness and naïveté. Armstid's first glance at her reveals a woman who "looks up at him quietly and pleasantly: young, plesantfaced, candid, friendly, and alert" (Light 11). Furthermore, Ruzicka notes that although in her wanderings, Lena is "searching not only for her husband, but for a home, a dwelling," she "is at home anywhere she is" since she is "a catalyst for community" (113). Thus, "the stance and response of Joe Christmas and Joanna Burden within her house and in her room, even the image of the old Burden place itself, are not as meaningful as Lena's presence within the small group of structures she inhabits" (Ruzicka 113). Furthermore, Visser claims that Lena simply pays no heed to any instances of the male gaze to which she is subjected, by not looking directly at any of the men she encounters during her journey and thus becoming invulnerable to it (282). It is perhaps this strategy that allows for her freedom of movement.

Ulrike Nüssler also contrasts the classically feminine Caroline with her ahead-of-her-time, gender role-shedding but still beautiful daughter Caddy and their associated degree of mobility, firmly placing Caddy alongside the itinerant women profiled here (578). Other female characters of this type similarly subscribe at least somewhat to societal expectations for femininity. Although she spearheads a daring scheme during the Civil War in order to provide for her family as well as her community, Granny is also a classic example of the southern belle, and Drusilla, despite her cross-dressing soldiering, eventually returns to a highly performative form of femininity. It seems then that the men and women of Yoknapatawpha County are able to assume a more highly gender-bending makeup once ensconced within the sphere usually peopled by those of the opposite sex.

Interestingly, the cloistered women who demonstrate more androgyny, such as Mrs. Hines, who seems to bloom and strengthen once leaving behind her cloistered existence, only appear to achieve such androgyny after such a cloistral exit. Those remaining within their cloisters, such as Caroline, demonstrate heightened femininity. Burden is an exception, as she essentially acts as a business owner even within her limited sphere. She does travel outside her cloistral home, although she does so in a shrouded manner, as these journeys do not seem to occur within Jefferson's view. Furthermore, perhaps some women avoid cloistering altogether in Faulkner's world because of the possible misogynistic interpretation that others will lend it. Rosa is a prime example, as Jason III refers to her as "the spinster doomed for life at sixteen" (59) and as having "eyes like (as you put it) pieces of coal pressed into soft dough and prim hair of that peculiar mouselike shade of hair on which the sun does not often shine" (51).

As hinted at above, the borders separating these cloisters from the outside world are permeable. Whether by force or through their own choice, cloistral border interactions occur, with varying results. As Erin Pearson notes regarding the various hidden secrets and people dwelling within Absalom, Absalom!, "the act of hiding assumes the shape of hiding itself" (Pearson 341). This notion of the paradox of hiding is useful for thinking about the degree to which Faulkner's cloistered characters are able to successfully enshroud themselves from the world around them. In Pearson's way of thinking, hiding something (or oneself) only serves to highlight the absence of that thing or person in regular society.

In Faulkner's world, unwanted cloistral violations can result in violence and even death, whether literal or symbolic. The circumstances surrounding Christmas, Burden, and Hightower's interconnected uncloistering provide a tragic example. Christmas first uncloisters himself from within the larger cloistered space he shares with Burden. Although the identity of Burden's killer is uncertain, this border reaction does end in violence between her and Christmas. Once Christmas exits the joint physical cloister in which he has become enmeshed, he attempts to recreate this solitude by existing in nature while on the lam, but he is of course ultimately unsuccessful in continuing to isolate himself from Jefferson and from society at large. Hightower has simultaneously reentered life in a sense when he is called upon to deliver Lena's baby. His fate and Christmas's converge when Hightower's sacrosanct home subsequently becomes the site of Christmas's murder. Hightower's home is already literally dirty, but Grimm, Christmas's killer, and the three men who accompany him, convey the racism and hatred of the outside world into Hightower's sanctuary, bringing in the griminess of the outside world as well: "Without a word Grimm turned and ran across the yard and into the house where the old disgraced minister lived alone, and the three men followed, rushing into the hall, pausing, bringing with them into its stale and cloistral dimness something of the savage summer sunlight which they had just left" (463).

Both in the scenes that take place within her cloistral home and when she exits her home to journey with Quentin to Sutpen's Hundred, Rosa is opening and exploring what can be considered yet another type of cloister: a space that Pearson refers to as "the fusion between two spatial models of hidden knowledge--the closet and the crypt" (343). In the end, Rosa passes away, to be entombed in what Pearson would perhaps refer to as yet another cloistral container. Even while alive, Rosa lives as if dead, as indicated by the constant references in her speech to various tomblike enclosures.

Cloistral departures initiated willingly can have positive results. As Anne Hirsch Moffitt notes, for instance, although Yoknapatawpha County itself can in some ways be considered a cloister containing those living within it and repudiate the arrival of modernity from the north, this supposed cloister is penetrable (21-22). On the level of the individual, Moffitt notes that Rosa, in a reveal of her complex cloistral existence, exemplifies such a penetration as she attempts to form a bridge between the rural south and the urban north, specifically Quentin's college environment in Cambridge, when transferring the story of Sutpen (and herself) to Quentin (21-22).

The attempts of various individuals in Faulkner's universe to achieve their own form of apotheosis or impose such on others combine to create a complex web of marginalization, freedom, and absence. These interactions, among people, spaces, and cloistral borders, are informed by and subject to the racism, sexism, and other forms of subjugation that Faulkner chronicles in his works, underscoring the complicated power structures within which Faulkner's characters live.



Works Cited

Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! Vintage International, 1990.

---. Go Down, Moses. Vintage International, 1990.

---. Light in August. Vintage International, 1990.

---. The Sound and the Fury. Vintage International, 1990.

Joiner, Jennie. "The Slow Burn of Masculinity in Faulkner's Hearth and Morrison's Oven." The Faulkner Journal, vol. 25, no. 2, 2010, pp. 53-68, 89. Literature Resource Center, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=cuny_centraloff&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA258435087&it=r&asid=8fac4738517e17492b76b8af95047b12.

Moffitt, Anne Hirsch. "The City Specter: William Faulkner and the Threat of Urban Encroachment." The Faulkner Journal, vol. 26, no. 1, 2012, pp. 17-36,130. Academic OneFile, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=cuny_centraloff&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA327357621&it=r&asid=d9886088eab2bc216fcb07a0f247d193.

Nüssler, Ulrike. "Reconsidering the Function of Mrs. Compson in Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury"." Amerikastudien/American Studies, vol. 42, no. 4, 1997, pp. 573-81. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.central.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/stable/41157332.

Pearson, Erin. "Faulkner's Cryptic Closet: Forbidden Desire, Disavowal, and the "Dark House" at the Heart of Absalom, Absalom!" The Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 3/4, 2011, pp. 341-67. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=75044221&site=ehost-live.

Ruzicka, William T. Faulkner's Fictive Architecture : The Meaning of Place in the Yoknapatawpha Novels. UMI Research, 1987.

Weinstein, Philip. "'If I Could Say Mother': Construing the Unsayable about Faulknerian Maternity." William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, edited by Harold Bloom, Infobase Publishing, 2008, pp. 67-80.

Visser, Irene. "Reading Pleasure: Light in August and the Theory of the Gendered Gaze." Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, 1997, pp. 277-87. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=9712060571&site=ehost-live.