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Literature / The Reivers

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The Reivers is a 1962 novel by William Faulkner.

Lucius Priest is an 11-year-old boy, son of a well-to-do family in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, in the first decade of the 20th century. His grandfather is rich enough to buy an automobile, one of the first ever seen in the county. The automobile becomes crucial to the plot when protagonist Boon Hoggenbeck, employed by the Priests as a stablehand, steals it while most of the Priest family is away following the death of Lucius's grandfather. Boon's goal is to drive the car from Jefferson to Memphis to see one Miss Corrie, a prostitute whom Boon occasionally patronizes. Boon hopes to get Corrie to marry him.

Boon enlists Lucius to help him steal Grandfather Priest's car and go off on the joyride to Memphis. They are surprised to find that Ned McCaslin, a black man and another employee of the Priests, has stowed away in the back of the car. A madcap adventure ensues.

William Faulkner's last novel, published just a month before his July 1962 death. Drolly humorous in tone, recalling Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn more than the dark, heavy Southern Gothic dramas that formed most of William Faulkner's work.

Winner of the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1969 it was adapted into a film directed by Mark Rydell and starring Steve McQueen as Boon.


  • Curse Cut Short: Miss Reba gets annoyed at Boon for insulting Sam, when they need Sam's help to smuggle the horse out of town. She says "You bas—", then realizes there are children present.
  • Double Take: "I saw McWillie do what you would nowadays call a double take", when rival jockey McWille glances behind him and then takes a second, shocked look back after realizing that Lucius and Lightning the horse are not alongside him but in fact are far behind.
  • Dumbass No More: Boon first appeared in Faulkner's story The Bear, where he was described as barely sentient, and a proficient dog handler and hunter because he's more beast than man himself. In The Reivers, Boon is of normal intelligence, and indeed quite clever at times.
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire: The man who gives Ned a horse in exchange for the car starts it by simply reaching behind the ignition switch and turning it by hand.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Corrie, whose true name turns out to be Everbe, is a kind and decent person. She's also ashamed of what she is and wants to get out of the life.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The novel opens with a scene in which Boon is chasing after Ludus, another stablehand, with a gun, threatening to kill him. Lucius says that meant that Ludus was the only man in town safe from Boon with a gun, because Boon is a terrible terrible shot. Sure enough, Boon gets off five shots from 20 feet away and misses Ludus completely.
  • I've Come Too Far: Boon, sensing Lucius wavering as time comes to take the car out of town, says "We done gone through too much to let nothing stop us now."
  • Miss Kitty: Miss Reba, the madam at Corrie's warehouse, who is a good soul and willing to let Lucius stay there. She also sticks up for Corrie when Butch the evil sheriff starts getting rapey.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: The curse word Otis likes to use is rendered as "—-t."
  • Picaresque: The madcap adventure of a rascally stablehand who steals a car so he can ask a hooker to marry him.
  • Roadside Wave: Sort of. Grandfather Priest takes the automobile out for a drive. He spits his tobacco out the side, neglecting to consider how the car is moving a lot faster than a horse ambles. The tobacco spit promptly splatters Grandmother Priest, sitting behind him, in the face.
  • Second-Person Narration: You are Lucius's grandson. Lucius, in 1962, is telling you about his childhood adventures with Boon.
  • Starbucks Skin Scale: Ned calls Minnie, Miss Reba's maid, "high brown".
  • The 'Verse: Just one of many Faulkner stories set in Yoknapatawpha County. Boon previously appeared as a character in Faulkner short story collection Go Down, Moses.