The Hamlet is the first of the "Snopes" trilogy, completed by The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959).
The novel follows the exploits of the Snopes family, beginning with Ab Snopes, who is introduced more fully in Faulkner's The Unvanquished. Most of the book centers on Frenchman's Bend, into which the heirs of Ab and his family have migrated from parts unknown. In the beginning of the book Ab, his wife, daughter, and son Flem settle down as tenant farmers beholden to the powerful Varner family.
As the book progresses, the Snopes move from being poor outcasts to a very controversial, if not dangerous, element in the life of the town. In contrast, V.K. Ratliff stands as the moral hero of the novel. Faulkner uses the eccentricities of the Snopes to great comic effect, most notably in his description of Ike Snopes and his carnal inclinations towards livestock.
A section towards the end of this book, detailing Flem's return from Texas and the auction of several horses, has also been published as the short story "Spotted Horses".