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As I Lay Dying is one of my favorite Faulkner novels, but I always come back to the thought: "Who on earth names their kid Vardaman?"

Don't get me wrong, I love the name, and Vardaman is my favorite character in the novel, just wondering where it comes from, or what may have inspired Faulkner to choose it.

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    There were a couple of US politicians with Vardaman as a surname. – Rand al'Thor Aug 9 '17 at 22:30
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    FWIW, there's a Hindi (and presumably Sanskrit) word वर्धमान (vardhamān), also the name of the 24th Jain Tirthankara and I wouldn't find it unusual to see an Indian male named Vardhaman. But I suppose Faulkner might not even have known what Hindi or Jainism are, so presumably he got the name from somewhere else, making it unusual. – muru Aug 10 '17 at 10:22
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There is a town named Vardaman in Mississippi, about 40 miles southeast of Oxford. Faulkner could have borrowed the name because he liked the sound of it.

What's more likely, however, is that he used the name of James K. Vardaman (1861-1930), who was governor of Mississippi from 1904 to 1908. They called him "Great White Chief," because like other Southern politicians of the time, he validated the racism of the white citizenry. By using that name for a child of questionable intelligence, Faulkner is also questioning the intelligence of the governor.

  • Great answer. Racism was certainly a theme in Faulkner. (Light in August comes to mind.) – DukeZhou Aug 11 '17 at 16:01

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