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William Faulkner - Biography

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
by Karen Bernardo

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William Faulkner -- a Mississippi native -- grew up in a twentieth-century South that was still imbued with the flavor of the nineteenth century, and consequently his works reflect a world in transition.

His characters are so typically Southern that his stories could take place nowhere else. Faulkner shows us that the Southern character is driven by a sense of personal honor rather than pragmatism; this is true regardless of whether the Southerner in question is a member of the local aristocracy (such as Emily Grierson in 'A Rose for Emily'), a con man like Flem in 'Spotted Horses,' or the literal slime of the earth, such as Mr. Snopes in 'Barn Burning.'

Faulkner's characterization of each of these Southerners places a tremendous emphasis on self-respect. In the case of what we might call the small-town gentry, this self-respect is generally derived from maintaining a elevated reputation among one's peers; in the case of those who live on the fringe of the law, this respect is derived from the knowledge that they have allowed no one to denigrate them. Both the gentrified and the hardscrabble Southerner, however, unflinchingly behave in ways that fly in the face of common sense rather than allow their honor to be impugned. William Faulkner's characters function precisely the way they do, and react, and talk, and think the way they do, because they are Southern -- and in his characterizations, Faulkner captures the unique flavor of his region.

If you'd like to read some of the short stories of William Faulkner, click here: Collected Stories of William Faulkner

Read Storybites' analysis of...

Spotted Horses

Barn Burning

A Rose for Emily