William Faulkner Essay, Research Paper
Faulkner grew up in Mississippi in the beginning of the twentieth century ( William Faulkner 699). He was the son to Murray C. and Maud Butler Faulkner (Hoffman 13). Growing up in the South in the early 1900 s meant being exposed to harsh racism. He watched the blacks endure unbelievable amounts of cruelty and was amazed at how the blacks conducted themselves with such dignity. He witnessed, first hand, what discrimination is and could not comprehend why this goes on. In many of Faulkner s works I found that he portrayed blacks as quite,easy-going, well-tempered people. He attempted to show them as heroes. It is my belief that Faulkner writes about the south because that is the subject that has affected his life most.
Faulkner s Barn Burning takes place in the late nineteenth century South. Primarily a story about the relationship between father and son, the story presents itself through the use of symbolism. The most vital sign being fire. The fire is much like the main character in the story, Abner. Both Abner and the fire are uncontrollable and destroy anything in its way, having respect for nothing. Sarty, Abner s son, dislikes what his father does out of acts of hate and tries to stop it (Faulkner Barn 23). He attempts to put out the fire inside his father. He is sick of his family s way of life and is ready for a change no matter what it takes, even if it means going against his own blood. No matter what is done, they can not stop Abner from lashing out and burning buildings. Through his sheer enjoyment of the negative sides of his anger and power, Abner rips his family apart. He does so by forcing his family to put up with the consequences of his actions. In a way, Faulkner writes as a moralist. He demonstrates, through his character Abner, why a reasonable approach to adversity and letdowns is necessary, to avoid allowing one s problems to get so bad that they can engulf the subject like an inferno. In this story Mrs. DeSpain s nigger acts loyally and tries to save his owner s animals from the fire that were in the barn. Faulkner s book Intruder in the Dusk, is the story of a Negro, Lucas Beauchamp, who is wrongfully accused of murder by many whites in the town of Jefferson Mississippi. Instead of telling everyone that he not the murderer, he actually pretends to be the killer and wishes to be innocently lynched to add his own blood to the disgrace of the south (Hardwick 227). Lucas, or the mass Negro, once the slave of slave of any white man within range of whose notice he happened to come, now tyrant over the whole countries white conscious (228). He was never put to death because he was proven innocent by a young white boy named Charles Mallison. This boy had been bothered for years because he had eaten part of Lucas s supper once. Charles tried to repay the Negro but Lucas wanted nothing in return. The boy thought he had finally repaid Lucas by proving his innocence until he learned that Lucas had given two dollars to the boy s uncle for saving his life. Here Faulkner shows the humbleness of the black man in the old south. In this novel, Charles comes of age and realizes that the game of life is not always fair. Edmund Wilson states, It is his loyalty to the old Negro that leads to the discovery of evidence that the crime has been committed by someone else; and his emergence, under the stimulus of events, out of boyhood into comparative maturity is as much the subject of the book as the predicament of the Negro (Edmund 219).
Another story of Faulkner s that contains the maturing theme and has a Southern setting is A Rose for Emily. This one, like most of his others, takes place in the southern part of the United States. It takes place after the Civil War during the south s transition from the Old South to the New South. All we know is that she lives in Jefferson, but we can assume it is in the South for a couple of reasons. The first clue is the style of her house. It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies (Faulkner Rose 502). Another dead giveaway is that Miss Emily had a black servant. Above all else is the fact that Mr. Faulkner makes the settings of most of his pieces of literature in Jefferson, Mississippi. Faulkner s underlying theme throughout his works are the coming of age type theme. What makes this story so different and unique is the fact that he has Miss Emily not changing and not maturing throughout the story. There are quite a few examples of Miss Emily not adapting, or maturing, to the New South. One of these examples is observed when the sheriff sends a notice to have Mrs. Emily pay her taxes (503). In the past she never had to pay so why should she start now. She also refused to accept him as the true sheriff, she stated that Perhaps he considers himself the new sheriff. As far as she was concerned, the sheriff was still the same one it had years ago (Bronson 511). Another example of her reluctancy to change is shown when she kills Homer and has him kept in a bed upstairs (Faulkner 509). This displays how she was unwilling to give up her Old South mentality and marry a northerner. It was in this fashion that she could keep close to the one she loved whenever she wished without compromising her dignity.
In Faulkner s The Bear , the placement is once again Jefferson, Mississippi. It is a story of a young boy, Ike McCaslin, who is taken with a group of men on their yearly hunting trip into the wilderness of Stupen s hundred. He is taught to be a good hunter by an old guide named Sam Feathers who is half-Indian and half-Negro (Faulkner Bear 65). The theme of this particular story is Ike maturing and following his southern traditions. He grew up to become an excellent hunter that showed respect for his fellow hunters as well as the wilderness. As John Lyndenberg wrote, The hunters from Jefferson are gentlemen and sportsmen, representing the ideals of the old order at its best, the honor,dignity, and courage of the South (Lyndenberg 385).
As hard as it may be at times to read Faulkner s writings, I believe that it is well worth the effort. I found some of his writings, particularly his early ones, difficult to understand because he sometimes changes tense in the middle of a sentence and he also seems to enjoy writing with a Southern accent which does not make his writings any easier to read. For example in The Bear and in “Barn Burning, Faulkner consistently uses hit instead of it. He has a very down to Earth theme throughout his works: The theme being the coming of age type issue. All the stories I wrote about contain this maturing theme in one way or another. Faulkner is both a writer and a teacher-there is much to learn from his works.