The Impacts Of William Faulkner On American Literature

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William Faulkner is regarded as one of the best and most influential authors of the 20th century. Noted for his excellent technique and styles, Faulkner’s effects on literature are immeasurable. In 1949 Faulkner won a Nobel Prize for his advances in literary techniques of American writers. Almost all of Faulkner’s works are affected by his upbringing and origins in the south.

Faulkner’s original interest was Victorian era literature (Ward 55). However, in his twenties while living in New Orleans (which was seen as “an oasis for artist in the land of Jim Crow” ) the vibrant and “Avante Garde” atmosphere led him into modernist writing (Ward 55-56). His time spent living in New Orleans manifests itself in his early works, mostly poetry, such as Portrait which was published in “the double dealer” a New Orleans magazine in 1922 (Ward 56). In his twenties, Faulkner dwelled in New Orleans and wrote his first fiction book there and “laid the groundwork for his transformation from Victorian dilettante to modernist genius”. Singal argues that Faulkner is much more than what the Nobel board recognized him as, and they ignored his “Victorian urge toward unity and stability he had inherited as a child” (Ward 55). Faulkner, through his works, hoped to spread his world view of modernist ideology : no simple morality, no fixed truths (Ward 56) . Faulkner’s time in New Orleans helped evolve Faulkner into a modernist genius, pushing him away from his “Victorian oxford” (Ward 56). He learned from the new and dandy of New Orleans “Avante garde” arts (Ward 56). New Orleans in the 20s was considered the “bohemian paradise” (Ward 56). Cities like Paris of course and New York were hotspots for modernism but for Faulkner New Orleans was “an oasis for artists in the land of Jim Crow” letting him stay connected to his southern roots while at the same time learning new techniques and writing styles (Ward 56). Robert Crunden classified New Orleans in the 20s as an “American saloon” where “ both the residents and the city fostered the spirit of modernism” (Ward 56). There were many salons in New Orleans and a rich history which fostered growth for Faulkner's literary styles (Ward 56).

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By no accident Faulkner does not avoid writing about land. His works are closely related to his views of philosophy and natural law (Breaden 344). Faulkner was heavily influenced by philosophers such as John Locke (Breaden 345). John Locke proposed that all the worlds problems come from land ownership, and this view is present in Faulkner’s writings (Breaden 345). According to Breaden, Faulkner’s opinion on the southern land is that it is “ cursed by the origins of its land titles and that the land is owned by all” (Breaden 345). Faulkner often alluded to his beliefs that land ownership was communal in his works (Breaden 347). In Faulkner’s Unvanquished, for example, a character states “People don’t own the land, it’s the land that owns the people” (Breaden 347). According to Faulkner in “A justice”, collected stories of William Faulkner land titles are “legal fiction” (Breaden 348). Faukkmers story’s are very vocal of his opinions. Faulkner’s Shingles for the Lord demonstrates the evils of land ownership and in Fox Hunt he shows his contempt with the actions of the whites to the natives (Breaden 352-354). According to Breaden “he loves the south and because he loves it, he abhors its injustices and cruelties” (Breaden 356).

Faulkner is famous impart for his unique narration style. His most well known style is called stream of consciousness. According to stream of consciousness is “narrative technique in nondramatic fiction intended to render the flow of myriad impressions—visual, auditory, physical, associative, and subliminal—that impinge on the consciousness of an individual and form part of his awareness along with the trend of his rational thoughts.” This writing style was used and transformed by James Joyce ( Parvathi and Harinath 3). Faulkner’s biggest example of stream of consciousness narration is The Sound and the Fury (bowling 552). Bowling states:

On the basis of the author's use of the first person and the past tense, the reader assumes that the story is going to be an ordinary first-person, objective rendering of a past experience, similar in technique to Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. In the first two pages of the book, there is nothing to contradict and everything to support this assumption, until the reader encounters the italicied paragraphs on page three. This passage introduces the first main hurdle in the book and requires detailed consideration, for without a clear understanding of what is taking place here, the reader can never hope to get even to first base with The Sound and the Fury (Bowling 553).

While using stream of consciousness Faulkner often changes speakers and thus it can be confusing to the readers. An integral part of stream of consciousness narration is insight into characters minds, for this reason Faulkner changes his writing styles when writing as different characters (bowling 552). In Williams use of Stream of consciousness he shows the readers both “the graveness of the situation and exposes the unspoken thoughts of his characters” (Parvathi and Harinath 4).

William Faulkner’s is most famous, by far, for his southern Gothic writing. William is regarded by many as the best southern Gothic writer. In the southern Githuc genre “irrational, horrific, and transgressive thoughts, desires, and impulses; grotesque characters; dark humor, and an overall angst-ridden sense of alienation” are present (Bjerre 2017). The wrongdoings if the south: “slavery, racism, and patriarchy” are very prevalent in southern Githuc (Bjerre 2017). Faulkner’s made up Yoknapatawpha County is the perfect example of southern Githuc literature (Bjerre 2017). It is upset about the civil war, and includes the “following social, racial, and economic ruptures in the lives of its people. These transformations, and the resulting anxieties felt by Chickasaw Indians, poor whites and blacks, and aristocratic families alike, mark Faulkner’s work as deeply Gothic.” (Bjerre 2017). In this context readers can see the presence of the fight between “the old and new south” (Bjerre 2017). Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily highlights the old south vs new south. Bjerre writes

The story, narrated from a plural point of view by inhabitants of the small town, tells of the spinster Emily Grierson, who after her father’s death scandalizes the community when she takes up with the northern carpetbagger Homer Barron. When Homer disappears shortly after Emily has purchased arsenic, rumors abound in town. Decades later, after living a reclusive life, Emily dies. When the townspeople break open the door to an upstairs room, they discover a man’s “fleshless” corpse on the bed, the remains of him “rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt.” Next to the corpse is a pillow, with “the indentation of a head” and “a long strand of iron-gray hair.” The story’s themes of necrophilia, sin, and secrecy mark it as obviously Gothic, yet Richard Gray argues that it also “offers an unerring insight into repression and the revenge of the repressed.” Emily’s actions should be seen as “a perverse reaction to the pressures of a stiflingly patriarchal society,”.

(Bjerre 2017). Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! Is another great example of southern Githuc. In this story Faulkner places tons of gothic characteristics (Baehl 2010). Two of these characteristics are southern decay, and a dysfunctional family model (Baehl 2010). Richard Gray called Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! Was Faulkner’s “greatest and most seamlessly gothic narrative” (Bjerre 2017). Thomas Stupen, the main character of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, is gothic in nature are he is “emerges as an elusive but tragic figure” (Bjerre 2017).

Williams southern heritage deeply effects his writing. Ms. M. Parvathi and Dr. P. kusuma Harinath write: Faulkner seems to produce his best work when writing about his imaginary Yoknapatawpha County which is a mythical county in Northern Mississippi, the author's own locale, is inhabited by characters that Faulkner has created in the image of the people who actually live there, or who have lived there. Several characters of Faulkner are archetypal folk types - as the Southern plantation owner, the peddler or drummer, the country storekeeper, the tenant farmer, the farmer's wife, the moonshiner, the horse trader, and the Negro servant. Tall tales, anecdotes, and yarns are another form of folklore used by Faulkner, and in colorful local dialect, these characters make wisecracks, quote proverbs, and make humorous conversations. He created his characters based on factors such as history, family, race, class, gender relations of American South that was presented, in contrast to its historical picture based.

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The Impacts Of William Faulkner On American Literature. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
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