Essay, Research Paper: William Faulkner

Literature: William Faulkner

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William Faulkner is viewed by many as America’s greatest writer of prose
fiction. He was born in New Albany, Mississippi where he lived a life filled
with good times and bad times. However, despite bad times he would become known
as a poet, a short story writer, and finally one of the greatest contemporary
novelist of his time. William Faulkner’s accomplishments resulted not only
from his love and devotion of writing, but also from family, friends, and
certain uncontrollable events. William Faulkner’s life is an astonishing
accomplishment; however, it is crucial to explore his life prior to his fixated
writing career. In 1905, Faulkner entered the first grade at a tender age of
eight, and immediately showed signs of talent. He not only drew an explicitly
detailed drawing of a locomotive, but he soon became an honour-roll student:
"His report card would show no grades below Perfect or Excellent" (Blotner
21). Throughout his early education he would work conscientiously at reading,
spelling, writing, and arithmetic; however, he especially enjoyed drawing. His
deportment at school was very high, but it was not as high as it was at home.
When Faulkner got promoted to third grade, skipping the second grade, he was
asked by his teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he replied,
"I want to be a writer just like my great granddaddy" (Blotner 23). At
last, (in 1914) Faulkner took interest in poetry, but no one in Oxford could
tell him what to do with his poems. Meanwhile, Faulkner, who is very talkative,
would always entertain Katrina Carter and Estelle Oldham by telling them vividly
imagined stories. Eventually, Faulkner grew very fond of Estelle in fact, if he
heard her voice he would deliberately attempt to be spotted by Katrina in hopes
that she asks him to join her. Estelle soon became the sole inspirer and
recipient of Faulkner’s earlier poems. Coincidentally, a gentleman named Phil
Stone would fall in love with Estelle’s friend, Katrina. As a result, Katrina
had told Stone about Faulkner and his poetry. So one afternoon, Stone walked to
Faulkner’s home to get acquainted, and during his visit he received several
written verses from Faulkner’ poetry collections: "Anybody could have
seen that he (Faulkner) had talent…it was perfectly obvious" (Blotner
44). Stone not only became Faulkner’s close friend, but also a mentor to the
young writer at the beginning of his career. Stone immediately gave the
potential poet encouragement, advice, and models for his study of literature.
For example, Stone would give practice drills in punctuation, as well as lecture
Faulkner on goals and grammars. Meanwhile, Faulkner’s main interest in school
became athletics such as football and baseball, thus his grades started to
deteriorate: "Bill showed absolutely no interest in the education being
offered…He gazed out the windows, and answered the simplest questions with
‘I don’t know’" (Blotner 39). Eventually, he would quit both
athletics and school altogether. In 1919, his first literary work was
acknowledged and published in The New Republic. The poem is a forty-line verse
with a French title that acknowledges the influence of the French Symbolist,
"L’Apres-Midi d’un Faune." In September, Faulkner would enroll in
the University of Mississippi, and during his academic years it did not deter
him from writing more poems. The Mississippian, the student paper, published
"Landing in Luck" by Faulkner- the story is a nine-page short story
created from his direct experience in the Royal Air Force flight training in
1916. He has also written several other poems such as "Cathay", which
is published in the Oxford Eagle and "Sapphic", which is published in
The Mississippian. During the summer, Faulkner became a house painter in Oxford,
and in the beginning of autumn he enrolled in the University of Mississippi;
however, his early pattern of school started to take toll. Faulkner began to cut
classes and finally just stopped going. Although, this time he participated in a
drama club called "The Marionettes", and began to publish book reviews
in The Mississippian. In the summer of 1921, Faulkner decided to take a trip to
New York to receive some professional instructions from editors and critics,
since Stone was busy with his academic studies. Faulkner stayed with a man named
Stark Young, where they shared an incredibly small apartment. Later, Young
introduced Faulkner to Elizabeth Prall of the Doubleday bookstore to see if she
wanted some help prior to the Christmas rush. Reluctantly, Prall accepted and
never regretted her choice since. "Faulkner made a good clerk-polite,
interested, and one of the best salesman in the store… All the customers fell
for him like a ton of bricks" (Blotner 105). During his stay in New York,
Maud Faulkner and Stone became very worried about Faulkner and his financial
troubles. Meanwhile, Stone immediately went to work on behalf of his friend, and
soon became the Assistant District Attorney. As a result, Stone used his
political powers and appeals to influence U.S. Senator Harrison to promise
Faulkner a decent job as a postmaster at the university substation. Faulkner’s
job would last him between 1922 to 1924 with an annual salary of fifteen hundred
dollars. Even as postmaster, Faulkner still found time to write and publish a
short prose poem "The Hill", in The Mississippian. This poem was a
great importance to Faulkner as it served to be the beginning of the rural
setting of his future Yoknapatwpha novels, and his first objective to "real
life" characters. As a result of friends and unexpected events, William
Faulkner would soon write novels. Consequently, he realized his career faced the
best of times and the worst of times. However, it became clear that his writing
would eventually become his life long happiness. During the late months of June
through November in 1923, there was a correspondence between Faulkner and the
Four Seas Company, a publisher in Boston, concerning Faulkner’s manuscript
entitled "Orpheus and other poems". Unfortunately, the publication of
the poems was futile without a financial contribution, which he was unable to
provide. However, Stone helped Faulkner by writing to the Four Seas Company in
hopes of offering Faulkner’s manuscript "The Marble Faun".
Reluctantly, it was accepted and by the end of the year the company published
1,000 copies of his novel, which was dedicated to Faulkner’s mother, and
prefaced by Stone. In May, Faulkner finished the typescript for Soldier’s Pay,
which he sent to the publisher Horace Liveright, who gave Faulkner two hundred
dollars in advanced pay. He used the money to pay for his trip to Europe. While
in Paris, Faulkner began to work on the novel Elmer; unfortunately, it was never
completed, but exists today in several versions. After arriving in England,
Faulkner decided to go back home. Upon his arrival in New York, he immediately
began his next novel Mosquitoes, which was published a year later by Boni &
Liveright. In September of 1927, Faulkner finished yet another novel entitled
Flags in the Dust; however, it was rejected in the following month, and was
returned in December. Afterward, Faulkner received the go ahead by his
publishing company to send his typescript to another company, which is now
Harcourt, Brace. Unfortunately, even though the novel was published, it was
reduced to 110,000 words and the title Flags in the Dust was finally replaced by
Sartoris instead. Within the same month, Faulkner began The Sound and the Fury,
which was finished by October. The published novel soon became a critical
success with only 1,789 copies. In 1928, Faulkner broke ties with Harcourt,
Brace, and signed a new contract with a new publishing house of Jonathan Cape
& Harrison Smith, which entitled them to Faulkner’s new novel entitled,
Sanctuary. Faulkner took the typescript and decided to correct the proofs on his
honeymoon with his wife, Estelle. Finally, Faulkner’s novel, Sanctuary, was
soon published, and in astonishment 6,457 copies were sold. As a result,
Faulkner soon realized that he is now the most important figure in American
letters. William Faulkner deserved every single award given to him, because of
his intense love and dedication to literature. Nevertheless, it is just as
important to know what he has won, as well as how he won them. Therefore, in
examining and analyzing Faulkner’s work it will help us understand and
appreciate his gift of writing. Throughout Faulkner’s life he has won many
awards on behalf of his talent for literature, and the following are just a few
of his awards: (1950) Nobel Prize for Literature, (1950) American Academy’s
Howell’s Medal for Fiction, (1951) National Book Award for Fiction, (1951)
Legion of Honour in New Orleans, (1955) Pulitzer Prize, (1957) Silver Medal of
Greek Academy, (1962) Gold Medal for Fiction from the National Institution of
Arts & Letters. Even though Faulkner won all these awards, there was at
least one award that had many conflicting views by many American critics. That
award pertains to the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Faulkner’ novel, The Fable.
The story takes place within a fortress city of Chaulnesmont, two days after the
mutiny of a French regiment. The chief plot is set when a regiment of soldiers
refused an order to fight knowing that the attack would not be successful. The
theme of sacrifice is the central meaning of the novel. Is it on the grounds of
military necessity or expediency, or on the grounds of personal sacrifice for
some universal ideal; as a result, the main question asked is what is actually
achieved by sacrifice. Several critics have pointed out the dualism that runs
throughout A Fable, in which there are presence of good and evil, guilt and
innocence, and bravery and fear. Despite America judging Faulkner’s novel as a
failing accomplishment of its literary goals, A Fable was for the European
readers: "The most important novel…a literary masterpiece" (Blotner
595). As we have seen, William Faulkner’s interest in writing was so intense
that the meaning of "giving up" never crossed his mind. As a result,
whenever he experienced hard times there would always be family and friends to
aid him in his career. In any event, Faulkner proved that with great dedication
and devotion anybody could achieve their goals.
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