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Creator / William Faulkner

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"In writing, you must kill all your darlings."

William Cuthbert Faulkner (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was a writer from Mississippi. Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature and is generally regarded as 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.

Faulkner was also one of the pioneers of stream-of-consciousness writing, in which the thoughts of a character are given completely unfiltered and without interruption. 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, which resulted in a heavily abridged and altered text, re-titled Sartoris, being published. The original version was not published for some time. Faulkner 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 filled with 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 earlier editions.note 

Faulkner also spent time in Hollywood as a screenwriter, mostly for Howard Hawks, for whom he served as a screenwriter on, among other films, To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep.

Faulkner works with TV Tropes pages:


Short stories

Faulkner's works contain examples of:

  • Beige Prose: Chapters focusing on less-educated characters sometimes slip into this.
  • 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.
  • Crossover: Protagonists or other main characters in some of Faulkner's novels often appear as minor characters in his other works. For example, Quentin Compson, a main character in The Sound and the Fury narrates the story of Absalom, Absalom!, while members of the Sartoris and Snopes clans appear throughout most of Faulkner's novels, if only in passing.
  • Deep South: Faulkner lived in Mississippi for most of his life and only rarely set works anywhere else. His fictional Yoknapatawpha County, the setting of most of his novels, roughly corresponds to the real Lafayette County, Mississippi in terms of geography and culture. The real Lafayette County is located in north-central Mississippi, about an hour from Memphis, Tennessee. Faulkner's town of Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha, corresponds to Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, the county seat of Lafayette and location of the University of Mississippi. (That said, several Faulkner characters attend "Ole Miss," so Oxford apparently also exists.)
  • Downer Ending: He's been quoted (with the quote itself adapted from a similar, earlier one from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch) as saying "In writing, you must kill all your darlings." He did.
  • Hero of Another Story: Since most of Faulkner's novels are set in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, many characters who are principal protagonists (or antagonists) in one of his novels reappear or are at least mentioned in others. For example:
    • Quentin Compson is one of the principal characters in The Sound and the Fury. He appears as a retrospective spectator (through Rosa Coldfield's narration) in Absalom, Absalom!.
    • Colonel Sartoris is a principal character in Flags in the Dust. His name is at least mentioned in passing in most of Faulkner's later novels.
    • The Hamlet and its sequel focus on the Snopes clan's takeover of a small town through subterfuge. Various members of the Snopes family turn up briefly in many of Faulkner's other novels, e.g. An Intruder in the Dust.
    • Lucas Beauchamp, the protagonist of An Intruder in the Dust, appears as a relatively minor character in Go Down Moses.
  • 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.
  • Impoverished Patrician: A favorite of Faulkner's, most notably the Sutpen family story in Absalom, Absalom! and the Compson family in The Sound and the Fury.
  • 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 (allegedly) attempting to rape a neighbor's girl 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.
  • Small-Town Tyrant: 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.
  • 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.
  • Wall of Text: His stream of consciousness style lends itself to long, run-on sentences stretching for pages, particularly in The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.