After winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, William Faulkner’s second honor comes thirty-three years later in Gabriel Márquez’s acceptance speech for the same award.
The American writer carved out an identity for himself through his work, focusing on contentious issues such as race and class with stories often set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The following major works by Faulkner showcase his mastery of modern narrating styles by including his use of the interior monologue, numerous narrators, and time displacement.
1. Sanctuary (1931)
The sensationalist plot of this work centers around Temple Drake, a naive adolescent girl who falls into the hands of several amoral southern bootleggers who mistreat her, and she grows attached to her. This story is a narration into the study of human sins. The prose is far more fluent than many of Faulkner’s lengthier novels, making it easier to understand people unfamiliar with the author’s writing style. William Faulkner’s impact on writing and literature is prominent even today.
2. Soldiers’ Pay (1926)
Nonetheless, it is an ambitious book with modernist structural approaches that lay the groundwork for his later succeeding novels. Soldiers’ Pay, inspired by the war that Faulkner just escaped, follows Lieutenant Donald Mahon, an injured fighter pilot returning home from World War I to his family in Georgia. He fights to put his life back together as his health worsens. He learns that the people he cares about are gradually abandoning him.
3. A Rose for Emily (1930)
While Faulkner is most known for his novels, he was also a master of the short story, as A Rose for Emily demonstrates. It has progressively become one of the most anthologized American short tales in history since it was initially published in a newspaper in 1930. It tells the story of the now-deceased in a sequence of flashbacks Emily Greisens and her reluctance to change with the times she lives in her mansion in decay and loneliness. Even the most observant readers will be surprised by the story’s stunning conclusion in the final scene!
4. The Sound and the Fury (1929)
The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner’s fourth novel and first great masterpiece, was also his favorite of all his published writings. The Compson tragedy begins with this disturbing and sad account, in which we see the aristocratic family’s demise. The book is notoriously difficult and unsettling to read, as it is divided into four sections with four different perspectives. Its often disorienting narration requires patience and persistence and whose subject matter confronts painful themes, among which reside incest and suicide. An accurate tale of endurance and human suffering will indeed stay with readers for a very long time.
5. Light in August (1932)
Light in August is set in Jefferson, Mississippi, in Yoknapatawpha County, the fictional yet symbolic environment for many of Faulkner’s southern American works. Its central themes are race and identity. As an orphan of mixed descent raised by an abusive, puritanical farmer, its protagonist, Joe Christmas, is a victim of racial and religious persecution. We follow Joe’s hopeless wandering searching for his identity simultaneously with the stories of other marginalized members of society, whose portrayal is characterized by the polarity of light and dark, both literal and figurative, as acknowledged by the working title itself.
6. As I Lay Dying (1930)
According to the author himself, the fifty-nine chapters that comprise this self-proclaimed tour de force were written in four-hour bursts over just six weeks. In As I Lay Dying, the 19th chapter, whose lines – “My mother is a fish” – stated by the son of a deceased mother are simply one example of how the Bundren family cope with the loss of a loved one, concision in the language is brought to a new level. The family’s long journey to return Addie to her hometown of Jefferson for burial is the author’s most potent demonstration of the stream-of-consciousness narrative.
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