A Short Biography of William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897 in Newberry Mississippi. Faulkner was heavily influenced by, his home state of Mississippi, as well as by the history and culture of the American South altogether. Eventually his family moved to Oxford Mississippi, where he lived on and off for the rest of his life.
When he was seventeen, Faulkner met Philip Stone, who would become an important early influence on his writing. Stone became a literary mentor to the young Faulkner, introducing him to writers such as James Joyce, who would come to have an influence on Faulkner’s own writing. In his early twenties, Faulkner would give poems and short stories he had written to Stone, in hopes of them being published. Stone would send them to publishers but they were aalmosy always rejected. Faulkner’s unique writing style and lack of editing did not suit the publishers.
Faulkner wrote a variety of things from short stories to Novels, even some Hollywood screenplays.
Faulkner won the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature and two Pulitzer Prizes. He donated part of his Nobel money “to establish a fund to support and encourage new fiction writers” and donated another part to a local Oxford bank, establishing a scholarship fund to help educate African-American teachers.
Faulkner served as Writer-in-Residence at the University off Virginia at Charlottesville from February to June 1957 and again in 1958. He died from a myocardial infarction, aged 64, on July 6, 1962.
“William Faulkner” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Faulkner October 8th, 2012.
Social, Political and Economic Views of 1931
The Great Depression was at or nearing its peak in 1931. The stock market had crashed just three years before and times were tough in the United States and the World. The Great Depression greatly affected the social, political and economics of this time. After World War One and the partying that followed its end, the Great Depression was a huge change to all three categories. Economically, many people fell into poverty and had a hard time finding work. Politics was a fight between the poor who seemed to only get poorer and the rich who went about their lives as best they could. There was a major change in social views, it was more important to do what you had to in order to survive rather than what was deemed as socially acceptable. These were bad times but they influenced many writers, and many stories can be seen through the point of view of the people who suffered from it. However most Critics believe that William Faulkner was not one of them. Faulkner lived and wrote through the Great Depression but critics have a hard time finding any direct relation between his stories and the times he lived in. Especially when compared to other stories written in these times that are concerned with the politics and hardships of 1931. This theory however was questioned by Ted Atkinson in his book, Faulkner and the Great Depression: Aesthetics, Ideology, and Cultural Politics (2006). Atkinson believed that Faulkner’s writing was influenced by the Great Depression but potentially in smaller ways than other writers. An example of how Faulkner’s writing can be related to the hard times was during the Great Depression there was quite an interest in gangsters and their rebellion against authority (as said before many people were frustrated with the politics and wanted something to be done about it). In 1931 two mob movies, the Public Enemy and Little Caesar, were released due to this overwhelming interest in gangs. Although people feared this rebellious power they were intrigued by the ruthless gaining of power by others, or at least these fictional characters. This can be related to Faulkner’s Dry September because McLendon rallies up the group of men in the barber shop to take “justice” into their own hands even though they do not have all the facts. This can be seen as a mob like activity which would relate to the feelings of the times. So even though Faulkner’s Dry September is not directly affected by the economic, social and political views of the time there are small references that can be connected to the Great Depression.
One of the questions of New Historicism is how does the work consider those that are external to power (minorities, ethnicities, disenfranchised and poor)?
I believe Faulkner through his literature showed both sides of the story. By using third person perspective it allows the reader to get only the facts of the event, this means there in no bias provided by the characters. This allows for the reader to make their own assumptions. Therefore I believe Faulkner gave the minority a voice. Not literally since Mayes does not speak a lot but Faulkner sets up a situation where the minority and majority could both be placed as guilty or innocent depending on the reader’s prejudices and preconceived notions.Basically, Faulkner does not pick a side. He did not write the story in a specific way that manipulates the reader into believing one side is better than the other but rather shows the big picture and lets the reader make their own assumptions. This can be related to 1931, the time the story was written because it showed that as the poor suffered during the Great Depression the African Americans suffered in the times before him. In the Great Depression the poor could be seen as guilty of not working hard enough to find a job and provide for their families and nothing the governement could do would change that or they could be seen as innocent, that they worked as hard as they could and they simply would not get better without governement assistance. It all depends on who is arguing the case.
All in all, Dry September gives the powerless, the minority, a time to prove their innocence and the rest is up to the reader.
It can been seen that Faulkner was influenced by his Nanny Caroline Barr, Mississippi and its past, the Great Depression and the Civil War and all that came with that.
The younger Faulkner was greatly influenced by the history of his family and the region in which he lived. Mississippi marked his sense of humor, his sense of the tragic position of Black and White Americans, his characterization of Southern characters, and his timeless themes.
Faulkner was exposed to literature at an early age by his mother and grandmother who were both avid readers. Faulkner was also influenced by his African American nanny, Caroline Barr who raised him from infancy. Faulkner’s lifelong education by Callie Barr is central to his novels’ and short stories view of the politics of sexuality and race.
Faulkner experimented with his own ways of writing that did not reflect the time but just himself. He allowed for his first few pieces to be edited in order to be published but eventually told publishers that they could not edit his work, take it or leave it. Faulkner was known to use stream of consciousness, even though it was not really used in Dry September, showing his constant change in style.
Faulkner used some language that is no longer used or used as freely as it was in his time such as the word nigger. What is seen as a very rascist, crude and unmentionable word today was lesser back in his time. The use of this word shows the times in which he wrote and the times in which he tried to set the story in.
William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949.