Critical Response Paper for William Faulkner










Critical Response
Paper for William Faulkner

From the very
beginning of his career as a novelist, Faulkner attempted to provide a critique
of modern life both in the South and in those areas not exclusively related to
Southern society. In providing such a critique, he joined other American
writers in examining the many dominant and recurrent themes of
twentieth-century literature - the decline of moral values under the onslaught
of a growing commercialism and industrialization, the increasing incapacity for
establishing close human relationships, the encroachment of an impersonal world
and its terrifying by-product, alienation, and the loss of sensitivity before
the growing acceptance of a vulgarity and rapacity that those in power insisted
had to be equated with modern progress and America\'s growth as a world power.
In nine of the twelve novels that he wrote during this first period
(1926-1940), Yoknapatawpha County provided the society in microcosm upon which
Faulkner based his critique. (Faulkner, William, Works of William Faulkner:
General Criticism. , Monarch Notes, 01-01-1963.)

"History," says the young Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce\'s
epic Ulysses, "is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." One
can also imagine William Faulkner uttering such a lament about his troubled
cultural and historical heritage, Unlike Dedalus, Faulkner was neither an
escapist- -he rarely left his native Mississippi--nor an idealist. Indeed,
Faulkner\'s love for and loyalty to the American South, the region he wrote
about so obsessively, was tempered by a strong sense of its failings: its
ignorance, poverty, and racism. Faulkner\'s literature, writes Williamson, was
"an exhaustive critique of Southern Society and ... its failure to bring
the human values inherent in man, evident in the natural setting, into the
world." (The Wilson Quarterly, 01-01-1994, pp 94--2)

William Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897, at New Albany. During
his adolescence William was an occasionally thoughtful but not by any means an
introverted youngster. He played baseball. He participated in and even
organized childish pranks. Being the oldest, he was the ringleader of his
playmates. However, he gradually began to read more, lost interest in sports
and began neglecting his scholastic duties. He began to write poetry.

By the time he was seventeen, he had dropped out of high school.
Indications were that the Faulkners\' transformation from doers into dreamers
would culminate in William. Faulkner wrote his first novel, Soldier\'s Pay,
while in New Orleans, living among the crowd of confirmed Bohemians. Soldier\'s
Pay was written to please the popular taste, rather than as a vehicle of
artistic expression. It was accepted for publication and appeared a year later.

In the early 1930s Faulkner was greeted as a new discovery. His was a
new accent in American letters. The themes he treated were of universal
significance, but his books also had a regional flavor that appeared fresh and
authentic. He was a bit of a noble whom the northern literary establishment expected
to tame for its purposes. Yet later on the very qualities that helped him
emerge from anonymity turned against him. When in the mid-thirties the critics
took another look they found him illogical, uncouth, long-winded, and
redundant. His technique of withheld meaning, his involved and unclear sentence
structure where the reader must hunt for the reference of pronouns, his
violations of syntax and obscure meaning came in for a re-examination. In a
wider context, he was accused of having a reactionary social message or of
suggesting no solutions at all.

Some critics claim that the production of the last fourteen years
(1948-1962) is inferior to Faulkner\'s best. At any rate, these works show a
difference from his earlier writing in being more didactic, they offer
solutions to social questions and are less agonized and dramatic. The first of
the author\'s postwar novels is Intruder In the Dust. It is another comment on
race relations. Charles Mallison cannot accept tha Negro Lucas Beauchamps as an
equal and, like the rest of the community, is irked by Lucas\' quiet
self-assurance. The towns-people imagine that their time for revenge has come
when a boy is murdered.

Everyone accuses Lucas of the crime and there is an attempt to lynch
him. Mallison, an old lady, and Mallison\'s Negro companion discover that the
crime was committed by the victim\'s own brother. When Mallison brings the truth
to the surface, the people cannot face the fact that they only persecuted Lucas
to expose the depravity of a "nigger."

Critics who have been concerned with drawing up a balance sheet since
his death emphasize the vast range and scope of characters that he created, his
great powers of inventiveness. His experiments with structure,