William Faulkner and the Southern Tradition
The American south includes the southeastern states and the southern states along the Gulf of Mexico. American south is a unique region with its distinctive culture, tradition and history. Essentially speaking, American south was an agrarian society, where people had strong sense of the past, the tradition. They attached great importance to family ties, to the rural way of living, and had deep roots in the earth, a harmonious relationship with the land, the natural world. Compared with people in other parts of the country, the southerners were more conservative and more religious. The South is known as the Bible Belt, the region of the country where the Bible still has a great influence. Some southerners were the fundamentalists, who read the Bible literally as if every word in it is absolutely true and factual. Also, the southerners are known as a hot-blooded people. They are a violent people, fond of guns and hunting. They are always ready to defend their honor. When one family is angry with another, they would fight till every member in the other family is killed. And the feud might last for generations.
- Chevalier heritage: the southerners held that their ancestors were not Puritans but noble chevaliers who came from England to settle down in the New World. In reality, there were many southerners who came to settle down in the South. There were indeed some aristocrats who had settled in some southern states. But the southerners held that everyone who came to the south was a chevalier. This myth created a pride in the region.
- Plantation aristocracy: the chevalier society that settled down in the South developed into a plantation aristocracy. The aristocrat was a gentleman who owned the land, the plantation. The myth gradually developed. As southerners tended to believe, every southern white farmer owned hundreds of slaves on a big farm when in reality, there were also many poor whites in the south with neither slaves or much land. There is the myth of white supremacy White masters were superior to the black slaves. Blacks were considered to be an inferior and animal-like race.
- Southern belles: women in the South are described as gracious, refined belles. They should know how to paint, sing and play the piano. They were believed to be weak, vulnerable, delicate and pure. (think of Gone with the Wind, faint excited) Men considered it their duty to protect and take care of their women. They were chivalrous, gallant and gentlemanly towards southern women.
William Faulkner (1897-1962)
“[I] discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and that by sublimating the actual into the apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top. It opened up a gold mine of other people, so I created a cosmos of my own.” – WF
Winner of the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, Faulkner’s recognition as a writer came years after he had written his best work. Today he is regarded as an important interpreter of the universal theme of “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself.” He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, which became the prototype of Jefferson, in the mythical county of Yoknapatawpha, the setting of many of his works. Sometimes difficult to read, Faulkner experimented in the use of stream-of-consciousness technique and in the dislocation of narrative time. His fiction discusses issues of sex, class, race relations, and relations with nature.
Born to an old southern family, William Harrison Faulkner was raised in Oxford, Mississippi, where he lived most of his life. Faulkner created an entire imaginative landscape, Yoknapatawpha County, mentioned in numerous novels, along with several families with interconnections extending back for 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 outcasts, children, and illiterates), and a rich and demanding baroque style built of extremely long sentences full of complicated subordinate parts.
The best of Faulkner’s novels include The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930), two modernist works experimenting with viewpoint and voice to probe southern families under the stress of losing a family member; Light in August (1932), about complex and violent relations between a white woman and a black man; and Absalom, Absalom! (1936), 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 tell 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 or Fitzgerald; each novel reflects upon itself, while it simultaneously unfolds a story of universal interest. Faulkner’s themes are 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).
Read and analyze A Rose for Emily
Summary of “A Rose for Emily” by Fatima
This story is narrated through a third person’s point of view. The story is told from the townspeople. The story starts off with Ms. Emily’s funeral. It states that “the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant–a combined gardener and cook–had seen in at least ten years.” As we can see, Ms. Emily was sort of like a mystery to citizens of the town. The author continuously uses symbolism in the story. When the deputation came to her house for her taxes, Faulkner describes how the house and Ms. Emily looks. “only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores”, this statement explains how the house gives off such a depressing mood. “Her skeleton was small and spare;”, this line shows us how her appearance showcases death also.
When Ms. Emily was younger, her deceased father used to force away all the young men that was in love with her. The summer after her father death, she fell in love with a Yankee by the name of Homer Barron. Everyone in the town was whispering about their relationship and wondering if they were married. After a while they stop seeing Homer and decided that they got married. The townspeople then proceeds by saying that Ms. Emily then died a while after. They didn’t know she was sick.
After they buried her, they knew that there was one room that wasn’t opened. So after they decently buried her they went to see upon the room. When they opened the room they was greeted by great amounts of dust. They also explain that the “room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man’s toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured.” They also saw a man’s collar, tie, suit, shoes, and discarded socks. “Then shockingly, laying right there in the bed was the man. For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace. What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust. Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.