When I think of Faulkner, I have always thought of the Bundrens or the Compsons or the Sutpens, but the saga of the Snopes clan is likely what Faulkner is most famous for. The Town is the second book in the Snopes trilogy and is often bound together with The Hamlet and The Mansion and published as Snopes.
That’s not to say you can’t just ready any of the three. They all stand alone. Perhaps some literary nerd out there has a Machete Order version you could follow, but I would suggest you read them in the order of The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion.
I can’t say much about The Town. It’s classic Faulkner. The story of the Snopes family moving into Jefferson is told from the point of view of several unreliable narrators—all of whom we’ve met before. This is a technique Faulkner knows and loves, and at this point has mastered.
The country sewing machine salesman, Ratliff, the erudite lawyer Gavin Stevens, the young Charles Mallison, all take turns telling the story of Flem Snopes taking over the town bank. They watch and conjecture–each from their own perspective–Flem’s motives. Sometimes they’re wrong, sometimes they’re right.
The symbolism is plain. Jefferson (representing the Southern United States) is changing (in the aftermath of the civil war). More and more Snopeses are moving in. The white aristocrats of the town are losing their position–much to the chagrin of the white aristocrats.
The plot is not important. The story telling is. Let’s face it, I’m eighteen books in, and I’m having a hard time finding something new to say. The interesting thing is thinking back on Soldiers Pay and Mosquitoes were fun but a bit rough around the edges. As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury by contrast felt wild, experimental and exciting.
Now, Faulkner is at the end of his career writing The Town. The wildness and the experimental are gone, replaced by refinement and attentiveness.
Faulkner has grown, as all writers should. This book may not have been as marvelous as The Sound and the Fury. It did not come out of the blue like Absolam, Absolam. It simply was a writer showing that he had mastered this style, and had created a fully fleshed out world in the process