Study Help Full Glossary for Faulkner's Short Stories


adder A type of snake, usually with a zigzag black band running along its back; the Texan's neck swelling like a "spreading adder" refers to the puff adder, a large and dangerous snake that "puffs" its body below the head when threatened.

aldermen Members of a local legislative body; city council members.

jalousies Blinds or shutters that have adjustable horizontal slats; today, similar fixtures are known as mini-blinds.

bier A stand on which a coffin is placed before burial.

booty Stolen goods.

buckboard An open buggy.

cabal A secret group.

cattymounts Wild felines: mountain lions; short for "catamountains." Here, the spotted horses are called "cattymounts" because of their wild behavior.

coffin money At the time that "That Evening Sun" takes place, few blacks could afford insurance, except for what was called "burial insurance." As explained in the story, an agent collected 15 cents every week — $7.80 per year — from a person to be used for burial expenses. Because of the high cost of coffins, people could never pay their total bill in full, and therefore they might pay 15 cents per week for their entire lives. This practice was another way the white Southern culture kept blacks in desperate circumstances.

cravat A scarf, or band of fabric loosely knotted around the neck like a tie.

crayons Sticks of colored chalk, or pastels, were called crayons in this era.

cupolas Small, domed structures on roofs.

curried A currycomb is a comb with metal teeth used to groom horses; a horse that has been combed is considered "curried."

deacon A layperson who assists the minister of a church.

diffident deprecation Timid disapproval.

a dollar pound fee A "pound" is an enclosure in which stray animals are kept. Mr. Harris charges Abner Snopes a dollar for keeping Abner's hog penned up and out of the corn.

drummer A salesman who peddles his wares in various towns.

Elks' Club A social organization that supports a variety of youth activities; persons who apply for membership must be U.S. citizens and must be sponsored by an Elks' Club member.

a fat bay A reddish brown horse.

frailed Whipped.

gilt Easel a gold, upright frame, or tripod, usually used to display a painting — in this case, Miss Emily's crayon picture of her father.

grip A small piece of luggage about the size of a gym bag.

hame One of the two curved pieces that fit around a horse's neck; straps or chains are attached from the hame to the wagon to pull the vehicle.

holp Helped.

invisible watch Miss Emily's watch is described as "vanishing into her waist"; symbolically, time has vanished for Miss Emily.

iron poles bearing clusters of bloated and ghostly and bloodless grapes In this image, referring to electrical poles with clusters of clear glass insulators that protect electrical wires, Faulkner draws attention to the sterility of the story's Southern culture.

lilliputian Meaning very small, the word comes from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, in which the Lilliputians, a race of small people, capture Gulliver.

lime Also called quicklime, this white and odorless substance has many uses, including masking foul odors.

logger-head A blockhead or a dolt; Faulkner calls Snopes' mule a logger-head to emphasize the animal's stupidity.

Malbrouck Faulkner invented many fictitious names to add flavor to his writing-as he does with "Malbrouck."

a man's toilet set A mirror, brush, and comb.

melodeon A small, musical organ.

a middle buster A type of plow used to bust up the ground before planting crops; typically, a middle buster prepares a ridge for cotton, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or other crops that are planted in ridges, not furrows.

nimbused Refers to the cloudy circle of light around a lamp, especially in fog.

noblesse oblige Honorable behavior, considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank, to members of the lower class.

pallet A term predominantly used in the Southern states, a pallet is made of several layers of sheets, blankets, or quilts, folded over and then laid on the floor.

perpetuity For an indefinite amount of time; forever.

pinwheel A toy consisting of colored paper or plastic pinned to a stick so that it revolves when blown.

pomade A perfumed ointment used to groom hair.

portico A porch with a roof supported by columns.

porticoes Roofed porches.

provost The head of a military police unit; Abner Snopes was shot in the heel by a member of a Confederate provost's unit, emphasizing his despicable character; he also stole horses from fellow Southerners during the Civil War.

quiring An archaic version of choir; a reference to the earlier mention of the "liquid silver voices of the birds."

a red runabout A red convertible.

rustling of craned silk and satin The reference is to women in high-necked silk and satin dresses, "craning" their necks to spy on Miss Emily and Homer Barron.

scoriations Derived from the word "score,' which means to make grooves on a surface; Faulkner often made up words when he wrote.

serried Tightly pressed rows.

shell corn feed Corn that has been removed from the cob.

sibilant voices Conversations containing hissing sounds, such as voicing many words with the letter "s."

skun skinned Here, meaning "bested" because of clever trading.

snag A broken tree limb.

the sons When this short story was published, the era prohibited magazines from printing "the sons of bitches."

sorrel Mare a mare that is yellowish to reddish brown.

spires Structures that taper to a point at the top; pinnacles.

spraddled Straddled, or sprawled.

tableaux A living representation of stock photographs of the era; however, in those photographs, the virginal-looking young woman in the background was usually a new bride, and the authoritarian man was usually a grim husband.

toted Carried.

tulle A finely meshed net used for veils or gowns.

valance Curtains ornamental drapery hung across the top edges of windows.

vitiated Of poor quality; debased.

voile dresses Dresses made out of lightweight fabric, such as cotton or silk.

water moccasin A venomous snake found in southern states, often around creeks and swamps.