William Faulkner

Major Works and Themes

William Faulkner is considered to be the most prominent writer among the representatives of the Southern literature not by chance. Having created an imaginary country, Yoknapatawpha, in Mississippi State, Faulkner used it for discussing different problems connected with the life of people in the South of the country.

The author considered numerous themes devoted to the social problems and personal characteristics of people who used to live in the southern part of the USA. It is important to note that most works written by Faulkner are different and sometimes they are too complicated for simple readers.

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There are many different stories and novels which may be considered. Taking into account social problems and characteristics of a person, A Rose for Emily short story should be considered.

The main idea which is discussed in the story is the irrelevance of the personality to what the whole society thinks about this person. Matthew DeMartino writes that the story “explores the notion of complete individuality paired with an over-watchful community” (par. 2).

It is impossible to be independent in the dependent society where everyone is connected to someone. Moreover, people are tightened by traditions, social and moral principles. Emily Grierson was one those who managed to remain free and independent while others thought her to be like all.

One of the main focuses of the story is morale and traditional vision of social relations which “reflect history’s unwillingness to advance, evolve, or progress” (Aboul-Ela 18). Emily Grierson and Homer Barron used to be a couple, but when Homer made a note that “he was not a marrying man” (Faulkner and Cowley 398) all Emily’s hopes seemed to be ruined, but, still, she created a plan which worked.

The whole city thought that she was a pretty good citizen as the whole city went to her funeral, but as it came out she killed her lover and slept with his remains for several years. The theme the author considers is related to the inability of a person to cope with the ideas implemented in the society but still the desire to be the part of that society.

One more specific feature of the story is that the story became possible only after the death of the main character. People lived their lives and only when Emily Grierson died (the beginning of the story) people began to talk about her. The material in the story is presented in a specific way, first person plural.

This is one more feature which makes the stories written by Faulkner different. It is also reflects the main themes discussed in the story. People did not talk about each other, they were not interested in the life of people while they were alive. It may be concluded that only the death of a person could cause people become interested in his/her life.

Wolmart says that Faulkner “assimilated and expanded upon the aesthetic and philosophical breakthroughs of the early twentieth century… and depicted the South’s cultural redefinition in the post-Reconstruction era” (Wolmart 409). The post-Reconstruction era is the war and after war period as the author thinks.

There are a lot of works devoted to the problem of war. Faulkner writes Soldiers’ Pay as the description of the life of a wounded aviator who returns home after the World War I. The same plot has the story Sartoris, where after war South is the focus of attention and the same aviator who returns home after the war.

The consideration of this topic may be explained by the personal desire of the author to go to the war. The authorities refused him and then he decides to enter flying school, but the war is finished and the author does not have an opportunity to go to the war. Still, the dreams follow the author and he decides to discuss those in short stories and novels.

All the themes Faulkner dwells upon touch social problems on the background of life of people in the South. There are a lot of other stories and novels written by the author which deserve attention. It should be noticed that Faulkner began his career as a writer much earlier before her got a Noble Prize, but the he became popular only after this prominent event.

Critical Reception and Reputation

Dwelling upon the perception and the reputation of William Faulkner, it is impossible to omit the fact that the main works the author wrote were published in 1920s-1930s, but the population among readers came to Faulkner after he had received the Noble Prize in 1949. Nevertheless, critics have been always interested in the works presented by the author.

Ted Atkinson, for example, has created the whole book which he had devoted to the expression of aesthetics, ideology, and cultural politics in the works by Faulkner.

Atkinson states that the most productive years of the author were those when the whole country was deepen into Depression. This tendency is definitely seen as there had been too many social and ideological problems which had to be reflected. Faulkner managed to cope with the task and show the ideology of the South from different angles (Atkinson 2).

It is important to notice the fact that Faulkner’s Absalon is considered to be “a counterpoint to the romanticized narratives of the war, grappling intensely with issues of historiography and race ideology in ways that anticipate the textual anxieties of poststructuralism as well as the vexes historical consciousness of postmodernism” (Atkinson 226).

Searching for the information devoted to the criticism of Faulkner’s works, it may be noticed that critics and scholars pay more attention to Absalon rather to other stories and novels written about Civil war. One of the main explanations of this fact is that this piece of writing is devoted to the Depression but it is referred to historical and cultural narration (Atkinson 227).

Aboul-Ela categorizes Faulkner as a modern writer who presents his vision of colonization in the South. However, he states that the works written by the author should be better related to historical category as Faulkner fails to face fully “how thoroughly the Mississippian’s life and work were implicated in a network of spatial inequalities highly comparable to those characterizing the contemporary dynamic globalization” (Aboul-Ela 3).

Wolmart managed to see two different people in the stories. On the one hand, Wolmart saw Victorian Faulkner who managed to “adhere to the ‘Cavalier myth’ of the Southern planter aristocracy, which is marked by entrenched hierarchies and rigid oppositions along liners of class, race, gender, and religion” (Wolmart 409).

On the other hand, Wolmart saw a Modernist who “eschewed the provincialisms of the Old South in favor of heterogeneity and liberation from rigid and oppressive cultural codes” (Wolmart 409). Having considered these two different people in one author, it is possible to say that the Modern author managed to “assimilate alterity” (Wolmart 409) in the same way as another kind of the author managed to reject.

This may be one of the explanations why people still managed to perceive the novels and short stories after so much critical works have been written. Dwelling upon the writing style of the author many critics agree that sometimes the techniques the author uses help to see the collapses of the past closer than the present events discussed in the story (Atkinson 227).

This method may explain the readers’ interest in the works written by the writer in spite of the fact that they are considered to be complicated for perception. The first short story written by the author saw the world in 1919, but the readers became interested in southern stories only after 1949 after the writer received the Noble Prize for literature.

Thus, it may be concluded that the author seemed to be too complicated to people to read his stories that is why not much readers’ attention is paid to Faulkner’s woks. Still, seeing the literary value of those pieces of writing, critics began to consider the stories and novels written by the author.

The aesthetic, ideological and cultural peculiarities have been thoroughly considered in the novels and short stories in the descriptive manner. Faulkner’s works are easy to read, still, to understand their real meaning, to comprehend them is rather difficult.

Works Cited

Aboul-Ela, Hosam. Other South: Faulkner, Coloniality, and the Mariategui Tradition. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 2007. Print.

Atkinson, Ted. Faulkner and the Great Depression: Aesthetics, Ideology, and Cultural Politics. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005. Print.

DeMartino, Matthew. “Short story reviews: A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner.” Helium.com. Helium 2010. Web 21 Dec. 2010

Faulkner, William and Malcolm Cowley. The portable Faulkner. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Wolmart, Gregory. “William Faulkner (Book).” Mississippi Quarterly 54.3 (2001): 409. Web. 21 Dec. 2010.


Works by the author:

Faulkner, William. Soldiers’ Pay. New York: Liveright, 1996. Print.

Faulkner, William. Mosquitoes: A Novel. New York: Liveright, 1996. Print.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text. London: Vintage, 1991. Print.

Faulkner, William. Sartoris. New York: Random House, 1956. Print.

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.

Faulkner, William. Light in August (The Corrected Text). London: Vintage International/Random House, 1991. Print.

Faulkner, William. Go Down, Moses. London: Vintage, 1991. Print.

Faulkner, William. Collected Stories of William Faulkner. London: Vintage, 1995. Print.

Faulkner, William. A Fable. London: Vintage, 1977. Print.

Faulkner, William. Vision in Spring. Austin: Univ of Texas Pr, 1984. Print.

Studies of the author:

Aboul-Ela, Hosam. Other South: Faulkner, Coloniality, and the Mariategui Tradition. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 2007. Print.

Atkinson, Ted. Faulkner and the Great Depression: Aesthetics, Ideology, and Cultural Politics. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005. Print.

Bauer, Margaret Donovan. William Faulkner’s Legacy: “What Shadow, What Stain, What Mark. Gainesville: Univ. Press of Florida, 2005. Print.

DeMartino, Matthew. “Short story reviews: A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner.” Helium.com. Helium 2010. Web 21 Dec. 2010.

Fargnoli, Nicholas, Golay, Michael, and Robet Hamblin. Critical Companion to William Faulkner: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008. Print.

Marius, Richard and Nancy Anderson. Reading Faulkner: Introductions to the First Thirteen Novels. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2006. Print.

Meyer Jr., William E. H. “Faulkner, Hemingway, et al.: The Emersonian test of American authorship.” Journal of American Culture 21.1 (1998): 35. Print.

Reuben, Paul P. “Chapter 7: William Faulkner.” PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. 2010. Web. 2 Nov. 2010.

Towner, Theresa and James Carothers. Reading Faulkner: Glossary and Commentary. Collected Stories. Mississippi: The University of Mississippi Press, 2006. Print.

Wolmart, Gregory. “William Faulkner (Book).” Mississippi Quarterly 54.3 (2001): 409. Web. 21 Dec. 2010.


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