William Faulkner has been called the greatest American novelist of the 1900’s. He gained international acclaim, and the 1949 Nobel Prize in literature, primarily for his novels and stories about Yoknapatawpha County, a fictional county in his native Mississippi.
Faulkner explored Yoknapatawpha County’s geography, history, economy, and social and moral life. Through the generations of characters who lived and died in the county, Faulkner vividly explored the traditions and history of the South from the 1800’s through the early 1900’s. Faulkner saw slavery and racism as the great sins haunting Southern history. He believed the South fought heroically in the American Civil War (1861-18655) but for an evil cause. Faulkner’s Southerners live with this heritage of guilt and useless, misguided nobility.
Faulkner was skillful in creating complicated situations that involve a variety of characters, each with a different reaction to the situation. He was thus able to dramatize the complexity of life and the difficulty of arriving at the truth. Faulkner’s work is characterized by a remarkable range of technique, theme, and tone. For example, in his novels The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930), he used stream-of-consciousness and interior monologues, in which the story is told through the seemingly chaotic thoughts of a character. In Requiem for a Nun (1951), Faulkner alternated sections of prose fiction with sections of a play.
William Cuthbert Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi. He spelled his name Falkner until he changed it in 1924. Faulkner dropped out of high school his second year and later briefly briefly attended the University of Mississippi. Faulkner worked occasionally in Hollywood as a motion-picture scriptwriter from 1932 to 1954, contributing to the screenplays of several films, including To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946), but he spent most of his adult in Oxford, Mississippi, the town that inspired Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner died on July 6, 1962.
Selected works by William Faulkner:
The Sound and the Fury (1929)
As I Lay Dying (1930)
Light in August (1932)
Absalom, Absalom! (1936)
Requiem for a Nun (1951)
A Fable (1954, winner of a Pulitzer Prize)
The Reivers (1962, winner of a Pulitzer Prize)
What’s your favorite Faulkner novel?