William Cuthbert Faulkner (September 25, 1897 July 6, 1962) was a writer from Mississippi. Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature and is generally considered one of the greatest American authors. Most of his stories are set in his mythical Yoknapatawphna County, based on the real Lafayette County, where Faulkner was born. Faulkner overdose remains the number one cause of death in the Grammar Nazi community.
He was one of the pioneers of stream-of-consciousness writing, where the thoughts of a character are given completely unfiltered. Unlike some writers, he didn't tend to write an entire novel in stream-of-consciousness, but he didn't shy away from depicting the thoughts of mentally handicapped or mentally ill people, one of the many things that give him a reputation for being extremely difficult to read.
His battles with editors resulted in some of his novels being published with changes from his intended text. The most glaring example is Flags in the Dust, which the publisher edited with his permission, but without his supervision, leading to a heavily abridged and altered text, re-titled Sartoris, being published. The original version was not published for some time. He also wanted to have The Sound and the Fury printed with color-coded ink to indicate flashbacks and changes of view-point, an idea which was shot down. Other novels were so difficult to edit that they went out full of typos. However, in recent years, many (even most) of his novels have been reprinted with corrections based on his drafts and various early proof versions, meaning that recent copies of his novels will generally be of higher quality than early editionsnote .
His works include:
- Absalom, Absalom!
- As I Lay Dying
- Light in August
- A Rose for Emily (short story)
- The Sound and the Fury
- The Reivers
Faulkner's works contain examples of:
- Beige Prose: Chapters focusing on less-educated characters sometimes slip into this.
- Complete Monster: Faulkner's novels often feature completely amoral characters as antagonists, such as the perverted sadist Popeye in Sanctuary and callous murderer Grumby in The Unvanquished.
- Corrupt Hick: The Snopes trilogy (and many works set in Yoknapawtapha County) has these in abundance. Flem Snopes steals from everyone, gets his own relatives arrested (intentionally), and also basically controls the entire county - everyone owes him money.
- Crapsack World: In Faulkner's opinion, the South managed to be this in multiple ways in multiple eras. It went from a rich slave-owning region where a culture with some positive qualities is nevertheless sustained by the massive cruelty of slavery, to a poor, war-battered region where this culture has dissolved, leaving utter social chaos and violence in its wake and where it still sucks to be black.
- Deep South: He only rarely set his works anywhere else. Most of his novels take place in a fictional county of Mississippi corresponding roughly to Lafayette county. For non-southerners, Lafayette in Faulkner's lifetime was a fairly rich (but still heavily rural) county in the north of Mississippi, not far from Memphis. Jefferson, the county seat (capitol) of Yoknapatawpha corresponds roughly to Oxford, where Faulkner lived, although Oxford apparently also exists, since multiple characters in ''Absalom, Absalom!" attend University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) which is located there.
- Downer Ending: He's been quoted as saying "In writing, you must kill all your darlings." He did.
- Literary Allusion Title: Several:
- The Wild Palms (If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem), from Psalm 137:5.
- The Sound and the Fury: This a slight re-phrasing of a line from Macbeth: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury."
- Go Down, Moses is an indirect example. The title refers to an old African-American spiritual song that itself refers to the Book of Exodus.
- "Absalom, Absalom!" is not said anywhere in the Bible as such, but it's an allusion to King David's words of mourning upon hearing the news of his traitorous son's death: "My son, Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom!"
- Great White Hunter: In Go Down, Moses, Isaac Mc Caslin is one, and the novel itself is rife with hunting imagery.
- Hard-to-Adapt Work: Most attempts to adapt Faulkner's novels to the screen aren't altogether successful - they either involve massive changes to the content (such as the loose adaptation of The Hamlet in Long Hot Summer), or manage to only convey the rather limited external action of the novels because stream of consciousness internal monologues aren't very cinematic, as in James Franco 's adaptations of The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.
- Manipulative Bastard: At least one per novel, especially most members of the Snopes family in The Hamlet and its sequels.
- Mental Handicap, Moral Deficiency: Faulkner's novels are populated with mentally disabled individuals who are BlackSheep of their families both because of their handicaps and their immoral behavior. Notable examples include the mentally retarded Benjy Compson, who was castrated for attempting to rape his sister in The Sound and the Fury, Ike Snopes of The Hamlet, who was barely capable of speaking more than his own name and who became locally famous for having sexual relations with a neighbor's cow, and the last member of the Sutpen family, Jim Bond, is a severely retarded man who lives like an animal on what's left of the family plantation in Absalom, Absalom!.
- Mind Screw: Attempting to even parse what is going on in Faulkner's books is a challenge, to say the least, but it can be done.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with the Sartoris family, introduced in Sartoris; as a matter of tradition the men of the family are all named either John or Bayard. Even more confusing, there is both a male and a female members of the Compson family named "Quentin" in The Sound and the Fury.
- Purple Prose: He could use this when he wanted to. Sections of Absalom, Absalom, especially those being narrated by or happening in the thoughts of educated characters, feature very unusual, flowery vocabularynote . Quentin Compson and his father both love the word "effluvium," roughly meaning "spiritual essence given form in the material world."
- "Rashomon"-Style: Perhaps his favorite trope, all told.
- Southern Gothic: Very much, to the point that his name is a byword for Southern Gothic, although he did write stories and one or two novels that weren't set in the South.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: In Flags in the Dust, where Bayard has to deal with coming home from WWI when his twin brother didn't.