"Father to no one": gender, genealogy, and storytelling in go down, Moses

Barbara Ladd


"Was", the first story of Go Down, Moses, opens with the
disclaimer that the protagonist Isaac McCaslin is "father to no one" and that the story to follow:

was not something participated in or even seen by
himself, but by his elder cousin, McCaslin Edmonds,
grandson of Isaac's father's sister and so descended
by the distaff, yet notwithstanding the inheritor, and
in his time the bequestor, of that which some had
thought then and some still thought should have been
Isaac's, since his was the name in which the title to
the land had first been granted from the Indian patent
and which some of the descendants of his father's
slaves still bore in the land. But Isaac was not one of
these... (3).

What is almost immediately clear is that the hook opens with issues of gender, genealogy, and inheritance foregrounded, and that these issues concern not merely the transmission of land from generation to generation but the transmission of stories, a kind of "naming" of one's relationship to the past that echoes the assigning of family names in the above passage.


English Language; English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5007/%25x

Copyright (c) 1993 Barbara Ladd

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