Faulkner’s Inspiration


Great Authors: William Faulkner

William Faulkner, revered modernist writer, historian and sociologist, is known for capturing the raw beauty of the rural South in all its dark complexity. While his sprawling verse and habit of knotting together past, present and future has overwhelmed some critics, others have responded to the demands of his writing.

Faulkner’s Early Life

William Cuthbert Falkner (he later added the “u”) was the oldest of four boys born in ... read more »

Faulkner’s Writing and His Impact

In New Orleans, Faulkner met Sherwood Anderson, a writer who would become his friend and mentor. He ... read more »

Faulkner’s Inspiration

In “Go Down, Moses,” published in 1942, Faulkner isolated the precise moment when a young boy, Roth Edmonds, falls under “the curse of his fathers” as he tells his black friend—a boy he played with, ate with and shared a bed with—that he must now sleep on the floor. Faulkner wrote that this betrayal stirs in Roth “a rigid fury of the grief he could not explain, the shame he would not admit.”

A journalist for Time wrote in 1964 that Faulkner’s “novels are a kind of diary of his own tormented inner struggle, an inadvertent self-portrait of a man making visible his own conflict of loyalties and good will.”

Daniel Singal, in his book, “William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist,” also saw a man who was torn between different value systems and different selves, “from the battle-scarred First World War aviator to the bona fide southern aristocrat to the bohemian writer and small-town derelict.” Ultimately, Singal writes, only “two Bills” remained: the “old-fashioned country gentleman and contemporary writer.”

One thing that most readers agreed on was Faulkner’s dedication to his work. In a rare interview with The Paris Review, Faulkner said if he were to write his novels a second time he was certain he would do it better. He explained that striving for improvement was crucial. “Once [the writer] did it, once he matched the work to the image, the dream, nothing would remain but to cut his throat, jump off the other side of that pinnacle of perfection into suicide.”

Faulkner repeatedly said his own opinion trumped all critics. As Malcolm Cowley put it, “Others might say that Faulkner was not so much writing stories for the public as telling  them to himself. It is what a lonely child might do, or a great writer.”
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Faulkner’s Family and Friends

Estelle Oldham divorced her first husband and married Faulkner only months later in 1929. But their ... read more »

Faulkner’s Death and Posthumous Fame

Faulkner died on July 6, 1962, of a heart attack at Wright’s Sanitarium in Byhalia, Miss. The ... read more »

Understanding Faulkner’s Work

Readers of Faulkner rely on emotional instincts to embrace and unravel the ambiguities woven into ... read more »

Fans of Faulkner

The William Faulkner Society presents information on conferences, panel discussions and proposal ... read more »

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