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William Faulkner

William Faulkner: From Jefferson to the World

Copyright Date: 1959
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    William Faulkner
    Book Description:

    Combining explications of William Faulkner's novels and short stories with thematic analysis, Hyatt H. Waggoner works from the close reading of a specific work outward to its most general meanings and relationships. By this method he has made a significant contribution to the understanding of Faulkner's career and artistic achievement.

    Waggoner examines both better and lesser-known works, which yield valuable insights into Faulkner's development when treated in relation to his whole body of work. The author also addresses the major themes which emerge from critical analyses of individual works: Faulkner's uneasy relationship with his Christian background and his unchanging conception of the role of the artist related to his changing practice as a writer. Waggoner concludes that Faulkner's artistic career reflects a creatively productive, but tortured and ambiguous, relationship with his community.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6490-8
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-19)

    ONCE FAULKNER BEGAN to get his fiction published, in the mid-twenties, he attained his artistic maturity very quickly. Only three years elapsed betweenSoldier’s PayandThe Sound and the Fury,but in the three novels he published in those years we may trace the growth of a major artist.Soldier’s Payis a wholly immature period piece containing a few passages of lasting power. InMosquitoesthe young artist finds his own voice and declares his independence. In the final third ofSartoristhere is a prolonged demonstration of the sort of writing promised inMosquitoes,a demonstration which...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Apprenticeship: SARTORIS
    (pp. 20-33)

    NOT UNTILThe Sound and the Furywould Faulkner fully show what he could do when writing by the standard he had discovered and announced inMosquitoes,butSartorisachieves the ideal with intermittent brilliance. It is rich with scenes and characters only a major novelist could have created. Though most of the faults that marredSoldier’s PayandMosquitoesmay be discovered here too, they have become mere interruptions, lapses.Sartorisis not, as a whole, a mature novel, but while he was writing it Faulkner attained his maturity.

    Young Bayard Sartoris is our chief stumbling block, as Donald...

  6. CHAPTER 3 “Form, Solidity, Color”: THE SOUND AND THE FURY
    (pp. 34-61)

    IN THE YEAR IN WHICHThe Sound and the Furywas published Faulkner made a point, for a while, of carrying a cane and wearing spats, serving notice on Oxfordians of the role he had chosen for himself. The young artist had not yet been acknowledged as artist. There would be time later for him to adopt the role of Mississippi farmer.

    But the mask of the artist was not merely a gesture of defiance of local mores. The gesture indicated attachment as well as separation, and the attachment was that which had been suggested clearly enough inMosquitoes.That...

    (pp. 62-87)

    THE THEME ANNOUNCED by the falling spire ofSoldier’s Pay,continued as a subsidiary and peripheral interest in the talk of Mr. Wiseman inMosquitoes,suggested by the image of the “black and savage stars” ofSartoris,and implicit everywhere inThe Sound and the Fury,is squarely at the center of Faulkner’s fifth novel, from the title to Anse’s last words, “Meet Mrs. Bundren”—the new Mrs. Bundren.

    The structural metaphor inAs I Lay Dyingis a journey through life to death and through death to life. Literally, the journey is undertaken to bury the dead and get...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Outrage and Compassion: SANCTUARY; LIGHT IN AUGUST
    (pp. 88-120)

    THE MOOD AND THE ATTITUDES present in much of Faulkner’s work of the early thirties, particularly inSanctuary,are expressed in simple, almost outline form in a seventeen-page short story which he published in 1931 as a separate booklet,Idyll in the Desert.The sense of outrage and the feeling of pity given such powerful and beautiful embodiment in the novels here finds expression in a fable.

    A man suffering from tuberculosis comes to the Southwest for a cure. His paramour leaves her husband and children to be with him and care for him. He recovers from the disease and...

    (pp. 121-147)

    IN THE MIDDLE THIRTIES Faulkner wrote two novels that have yet to be adequately appreciated.Both PylonandThe Wild Palmsseem to me works of real brilliance, but that has not been the usual opinion. No early Faulkner novels have been more consistently written off as failures by the critics than these two.

    Most readers today have probably never readThe Wild Palmsin the form in which it was published and intended to be read. Since Malcolm Cowley some years ago characterized the two stories that make upThe Wild Palmsas “unrelated,”¹ the novel has generally been...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Past as Present: ABSALOM, ABSALOM!
    (pp. 148-169)

    ABSALOM, ABSALOM! HAS no close precedent, even in Faulkner’s own works. Hindsight suggests now that much in modern fiction, and in modern opinion, should have prepared us for it, but it is not really surprising that most of the early reviewers were bewildered. LikeThe Waste Land, Absalomhas many voices but no official, sanctioned Voice. The voices in it speak from many points of view, none of them removed from the criticism of irony.Absalomdemonstrated once more Faulkner’s artistic courage.

    Compared withAbsalom, The Sound and the Furyseems almost traditional. It shocks us at first by asking...

    (pp. 170-193)

    FAULKNER’s CRITICS HAVE NOT likedThe Unvanquished.Seeing the book only as “a group of stories” without essential unity except that given it by its closeness to “the romancing of popular Southern fiction,” they have found it of slight consequence, “the least serious” of Faulkner’s works.¹ What they take to be its presentation of “the Southern myth” without criticism makes them uneasy; only in the last story of the book does Faulkner seem even to his most sympathetic critics to have moved beyond “slick magazine stereotypes.”

    But it may be not that the book lacks unity but that we have...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Tragic, Comic, and Threshold: THE SHORT STORIES
    (pp. 194-211)

    FROM THE BEGINNING OF his career Faulkner has been less consistently great in the short story form than in the novel. His best stories are very fine, and there are enough of them to establish him as a major short story writer; but many of the stories are merely competent, and some are weak. Faulkner’s creative gifts seem not essentially those of the short story writer, just as they are not essentially those of the lyric poet—and this despite his own characterization of himself as a “failed poet”¹ and the implicit and explicit “poetry” of his fictions. His imagination...

    (pp. 212-237)

    IN THE MIDDLE FORTIES Faulkner’s Work began to show a marked reversion toward one of the characteristics of his earliest novels. The voices of the characters began to have to compete with, even to give way to, the voice of the artist whose message was so important that he could no longer be wholly content with the indirection of fiction. It is not of course that the voices of the characters of the great novels were ever free of the evidences of their paternity. But as in a large family in which all the children bear a strong family resemblance...

  14. CHAPTER 11 “A Passion Week of the Heart”
    (pp. 238-251)

    WHEN FAULKNER REVIEWED HEMINGWAY’sThe Old Man and the Seaseveral years ago he was very brief and pointed: the novel showed Hemingway at a new peak of achievement because he had at last brought God into the picture.¹ The pronouncement was consistent with the religious tone of the Nobel Prize acceptance speech, with the more recent address to the Japanese people in which they were urged not to despair, to have faith, and with one of the most recent observations of Gavin Stevens, who seems clearly to speak with an authority not solely his own. Stevens says in a...

  15. CHAPTER 12 “From Jefferson to the World”
    (pp. 252-266)

    FAULKNER’s USE OF THE SOUTHERN PAST, his Conception of time, and his search for a living image of man are all connected. Toward the end ofThe Townthere is a passage that will open up the subject. It seems to say “This is what it has been like to be William Faulkner,” though the experience is attributed to Gavin Stevens. A life and a career are epitomized in a single view of Jefferson, embodied in an image and held off at a distance for inspection and appraisal. The first two paragraphs of the passage give us what amounts to...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 267-274)
  17. Index
    (pp. 275-279)