William Faulkner: Literature Giant
The man himself never stood taller than five feet, six inches tall, but in the realm of American literature, William Faulkner was a giant (Faulkner, American 101). The background and early years of Faulkners life sets the stage for his outstanding success in literature. He is unique in his works due to the various types and styles of literature including: A Rose for Emily. These various forms of work landed Faulkner outstanding awards and honors. As an American giant, Faulkners novels have been recognized as among the greatest novels ever written by an American (Faulkner, American 101).
William Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897 to Murry Cuthbert and Maud Butler Faulkner. He was born into a genteel Southern family in New Albany, Mississippi. An indifferent student, he dropped out of high school in 1915 to work as a clerk in his grandfathers bank, began writing poetry, and submitted drawings to the University of Mississippis yearbook (William, Discovering 1). When World War I began, Faulkner enlisted in the Royal Air Force in Canada; he never saw action. Following the war he returned to Mississippi and briefly attended the University of Mississippi. Later, in 1925, he moved to New Orleans where he met Sherwood Anderson, who encouraged his development and helped secure his first novel (William, Masterplots 1). Over the next few years, Faulkner wrote reviews, poems, and prose pieces for The Mississippian and worked several odd jobs. At the recommendation of Stark Young, a novelist in Oxford, in 1921 Faulkner took a job in New York City as an assistant in a bookstore managed by Elizabeth Prall, who later became the wife of Sherwood Anderson. Faulkners most notorious job during this time was the position as a postmaster in the university post office from the spring of 1922 to October 31, 1924. By all accounts, he was a terrible postmaster, spending much of his time misplacing or losing mail, and failing to serve customers. When a postal inspector came to investigate, Faulkner agreed to resign. During this time, he also served as a scoutmaster for the Oxford Boy Scout troop, but he was asked to resign for moral reasons (probably drinking) (Thompson 4-5).
William Faulkner is considered by many readers to have been Americas greatest modern writer (William, Masterplots 1). He was always the artist, always concerned to provide a work of the imagination (Faulkner, American 103). His fiction satisfies the critical demands that writing be inventive and invigorating, as ready to release the imagination as it is to channel it (William, Masterplots 2). Faulkner had humor, often ironic and bitter, in the series of dramas and tragedies he wrote about the Old South (Thompson 5). The sheer bulk of his life-work was impressive. Faulkners publications include approximately fifty poems, ninety short stories, seventeen novels, and a three-act drama which was produced on Broadway (Thompson 5). In, 1930, starting with A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner began publishing short stories in national magazines. In the short story A Rose for Emily, Faulkner writes about an old woman named Emily Grierson who owes the government taxes. One day, Emily receives a formal letter asking her to call the sheriffs office, but Emily does not reply to the letter. Then, the mayor and the aldermen go to Emilys house asking her to pay her taxes. Emily repeatedly says, See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson. The gentlemen finally leave. Two years later, the major receives a call from Emilys neighbors complaining about an odor that is coming from her house. So the next night, four men cross Emilys lawn and sprinkle lime in her house. After a week or two the smell disappears. Years after Emilys fathers death, she meets a construction worker named Homer Barron. Emily wants to marry Homer, but marriage is not what Homer wants. One Sunday afternoon Emily goes to the pharmacy and asks for some poison. I want arsenic, she said. The pharmacist assumes that the poison was for rats. A few days later, Homer leaves town, and Emily sends her negro out to find him. Three days later Homer is back and the front door to Emilys house remains closed all the time. Miss Emily becomes doddering and eventually dies. The town comes to Emilys house to look at her body. Emily had been sleeping in her bed with Homers corpse years after the murder. This may be an extension of her refusal to accept the death of her father and Colonel Sartoris. It may reflect a pathological determination that no one, especially Barron, would leave her again (Faulkner – TE 722). Faulkner once explained the title A Rose for Emily this way: Oh, its simply the poor woman who had no life at all. Her father had kept her more or less locked up and then she had a lover who was about to quit her, she had to murder him. It was just A Rose for Emily- thats all (Faulkner – TE 724). In my opinion, it takes too much thinking to read Faulkners stories. It seems like all great authors are hard to comprehend and require a lot of thinking.
William Faulkner received many outstanding awards in his literary career. In January 1955, Faulkners novel A Fable earned the National Book Award for Fiction and in May a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, although this was considered one of his weaker novels. In 1930, Faulkner received word that the Swedish Academy had voted to award him and Bertrand Russell as corecipients of the Nobel Prize for literature, Russell for 1950 and Faulkner for the previous year. At first Faulkner refused to go to Stockholm to receive the award, but pressured by the U.S. State Department, the Swedish Ambassador to the United States, and finally by his own family, he agreed to go (Thompson 8). Among other awards received by Faulkner were the O. Henry Memorial Short Story Award in 1939, 1940 and 1949; the William Dean Howells Medal; and the acceptance to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1950 (William, Discovering 2).
Since William Faulkners death, his work has been examined thoroughly and is more appreciated now than ever before. He created a body of work that is distinctly American yet reflects, on a larger scale, the universal values of life. From the beginning of Faulkners life, to his renowned works created, to his unpresidented honors and rewards; William Faulkner stood as such a wee little man but will forever stand tall as an American literature giant.