Wiliam Faulkner: More Than a Strong Author

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Faulkner: More Than a Strong Author

“Absalom, Absalom!” was my first experience reading William Faulkner and is surely will not be my last. I know that I will be forever mesmerized and indebted to Faulkner for the way that his writing has intrigued and informed me. The only time I have ever been so confounded by the way an artist could imagine, conceptualize and execute such and articulate and stimulating piece of work was when I first got a chance to delve into the sonnets of William Shakespeare. What Faulkner has accomplished in this work leaves him on a level that could possibly rival that of the Bard himself. An invention of language, storytelling, history, and reality itself is what William Faulkner has accomplished in this novel. There are several ways in which this book is mystical and mystifying which I will, in the course of this paper and in the course of my life, try to hash out what they have meant to me.

William Cuthbert Falkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi on September 25th 1897. After a course of moves around Mississippi, due to his father’s search for suitable occupation, his family settled in Oxford, Mississippi in September of 1902. Oxford is where William Faulkner would be raised through his adolescents and would continue to live on and off for the rest of his life. Faulkner’s father would teach him how to hunt which became a favorite pastime for his entire life. His art, however, was most greatly influenced by his mother Maud, maternal grandmother Lelia, and a black woman who raised him “Mammy” Callie. Maud and Lelia were accomplished readers, painters, and photographers, while Callie was the story teller in William’s life who shared stories of the civil war, slavery, and the Ku Klux Klan. These three women fostered Faulkner’s artistic imagination and pushed him to excel in education; which he did for the first five years of elementary school (skipping the second grade) until he began to loaf off and play hooky. Faulkner showed an independent interest in the history of Mississippi in his adolescents but eventually dropped out of high school after having to repeat the eleventh grade. Faulkner tried a stint at the University of Mississippi where he left after three semesters, failed to get into the United States Army (too short), enlisted as a reservist in the British Armed Forces, and claimed (unsubstantiated) to have been in the British Royal Flying Corpse. His writing during these times was mostly poetry influenced mainly by the Romantics of England during the late 18th and early 19th century. William Faulkner was not, of course free from the anxiety of influence. One of Faulkner’s many great quotes is: “If a man has a great deal of talent he can use Shakespeare as his yardstick”, and another quote: “We yearn to be as good as Shakespeare and the only way we can get better is through study”. Much of Shakespeare’s work can be found in Faulkner as well. The Sound and the Fury, the title of Faulkner’s novel written in 1929, is a quote from a speech by Macbeth. Some writers, like Duncan McColl Chesney, have also asserted that Absalom, Absalom! is Faulkner’s tragedy like that of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Chesney makes this claim when he states “Faulkner takes recourse to a model of the tragic provided by Shakespeare that involves many of his themes of predilection (incest, fratricide—Hamlet—and race—Othello)” (Chesney p.155). An early critic of Faulkner’s work, Cameron Shipp, wrote in an article in the Charlotte News, “Through all of Mr. William Faulkner’s novels, violence speaks dreadfully out of a muffled past, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father mumbling under the boards, and his characters walk a dark stage, where kingly and terrible things are curtained and half revealed in dark, rich rhetoric” (p. 8-b). Also like Shakespeare, Faulkner wrote about history as a way to contemplate and analyze the present. While Shakespeare was the writer that Faulkner thought of most highly he...
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