William Faulkner: Contribution as American Author

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      Born in New Albany into an old southern family, William Harrison Faulkner was raised in Oxford, Mississippi, where he lived most of his life. His family played an important role in the history of the south. His grandfather was served as a colonel in the Confederate Army and came home to pursue the career of a lawyer, politician, rail builder, and civic benefactor. The strict code of conduct of honor, in its sense of white social status and its often violent exploits would provide a good deal of material for Faulkner’s fiction. When he was five, the family moved to Oxford, Mississippi that became his permanent home. He left high school 1915 and took a clerical job at his grandfather’s bank. In 1918 after being rejected by the US military because he was too short, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, but the war ended while he was still in training and he returned to Oxford he enrolled a special student at the University of Mississippi, and published poems and drawings in student magazines. His first book, a collection of poems entitled The Marble Faun, was published in 1924.

      The first novel Soldier’s Pay written in New Orleans and published in 1925. The story centers on the return of the a soldier who has been physically and psychologically disabled in World War I and whose subsequent illness and death change the lives of his family and friends. The second novel, Mosquitoes (1927) set in New Orleans, is satirical tale about a group of south-western artistes and intellectuals. His next move was first to be set in the fictional Mississippi country of Yoknapatawpha which was to provide setting to many if his best-known works. Originally called Flags in the Dust, it was rejected for publication but later accepted in an edited version re-titled Sartoris and published in 1929. With original title, it reappeared in 1973.

      The best of Faullmer’s novels include The Sound and Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930). The Sound and Fury is a complex account of the history of the Compson family, and it is divided into four sections, largely reliant on ‘stream of Conscious technique. The first (7 April, 1928) is narrated by Benjy the youngest member and an ‘idiot’. Like his brothers Quentin and Jason, he is chiefly preoccupied with his sister Caddy. Fro Benjy, her disappearance amounts to the loss of the center of his universe. The second section is told by Quentin, a Harvard freshman, on a day (2 June 1910) he commits suicide. In the third section (6 April 1928) Jason, the eldest son, reveals his bitterness and anger at the opportunities he has lost because of the irresponsibility and selfishness which he foe is predominant in his family. The final section (8 April 1928 Easter Sunday) concentrates on the Comp sons’ black servant, Dilsey and her grandson, Luster. An appendix which Faulkner added in 1946 reviews the history of the Compson family from 1699 to 1945 and ends with this assessment of the black servants who served the Compsons: ‘They endured.

      As I Lay Dying (1930), the modernist work experimenting with viewpoint and voice to probe southern families under the stress of losing a family member. Light in August (1932) is about man and Absalom, Absalom! (1936) is perhaps his finest about the rise of a self-made plantation owner and his tragic fall through racial prejudice and a failure to love. Most of these novels use different characters to tall parts of the story and demonstrate how meaning resides in the manner of telling, as much as in the subject at hand. The use of various viewpoints makes Faulkner more self-referential or reflexive than Hemingway upon itself, while it simultaneously unfolds a story of universal interest.

      Faultaier’s themes are of southern tradition, family, community, the land, history and the past, race and the passions of ambition and love. He also created three novels focusing on the rise of a degenerate family the Snopes clan: The Hamlet (1940), The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959). The Mansion (1959) completes the Snopes family trilogy, penetrating examination of the social fabric of the south. His final novel The Revivers (1962), which won a Pulitzer Prize for him, is a mildly comic portrait of some of the characters introduced in his earlier novels. He died in the year of its publication. His other works include Knight’s Gambit (1949), a collection of detective fiction; Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner (1979) and a collection poems originally written for his wife, Vision in Spring (1984).

      Thus, the last is one of several books which Faulkner wrote to present as gift; it is an allegorical story, Mayday (1926) republished in 1976, about the adventures of a medieval knight. Faulkner created an entire imaginative landscape, Yoknapatawpha County, mentioned in numerous novels, along with several families with interconnections extending back for the generations. Yoknapatawpha county, with its capital, “Jefferson,” is closely modeled on Oxford Mississippi, and its surroundings. Faulkner re-creates the history of the land and the various races-Indian, African-American, Euro-American, and various mixtures - who have lived on it. An innovative writer, Faulkner experimented brilliantly with narrative chronology, different points of view and voices (including those of out casts, children, and illiterates) and a rich and demanding baroque style built extremely of long sentences full of complicated subordinate parts.

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