Although he was awarded the Nobel Medal for Literature in 1949, William Faulkner’s second acknowledgement may have come in the form of a brief reference in Gabriel Garca Márquez’s acceptance speech for the same prize thirty-three years later. Although he shared the same generation as the legendary writers Hemingway and Fitzgerald (and even shared some of the same literary rivals), the American writer from Mississippi carved out an identity for himself through his work, which focused on controversial issues relating to race, class, and sex and was frequently set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The author’s mastery of modern styles of narration, as demonstrated by his use of the interior monologue, multiple narrators, and displacement of time, can be appreciated in the following nine major works, which include the following:
A naive adolescent student, Temple Drake, falls into the clutches of several amoral southern bootleggers, who manipulate her and to whom she becomes emotionally connected in this novel’s sensationalist plot. Sanctuary, widely considered to be a potboiler that Faulkner churned out in a matter of weeks in order to make a quick buck, dives deep in its exploration of human sin and sexuality gone wrong. As a result, the prose is significantly more flowing than that of many of Faulkner’s denser books, making it easier to comprehend for readers who are unfamiliar with the author’s distinctive style of writing.
Soldiers’ Pay (1926)
Although Faulkner’s novelistic debut was not as well received as Hemingway’s (who published The Sun Also Rises in the same year), it was an ambitious effort whose modernist structural approaches lay the groundwork for other novels to follow. Soldiers’ Pay is a novel inspired by World War I, which Faulkner narrowly missed, and follows the tragic decline of Lieutenant Donald Mahon, an injured fighter pilot who returns from the war to his family in Georgia, where he struggles to put his life back together as his condition worsens and he realizes that the people he loves the most are slowly giving up on him.
A Rose for Emily (1930)
As well as his novelistic masterpieces, Faulkner was a master of the short story as evidenced by A Rose for Emily, which is considered to be one of his best short stories ever written. Since it was initially published in a newspaper in 1930, it has progressively risen to become one of the most anthologized short tales in the history of the United States of America. It tells the story of Emily Grierson, who has since died, and her reluctance to change as she lives a life of decay and seclusion in her home, told through a series of flashbacks. It is the stunning finale of the story that brings it to a close, which surprises even the most observant of readers!
The Sound and the Fury (1929)
The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner’s fourth novel and his first true masterpiece, was also his personal favorite of all of his published works, and it was also his favorite of all of his published works. We are witness to the demise of an aristocratic family in this disturbing and sad story, which serves as the beginning of the Compson saga. The book, which is divided into four sections and told from four different perspectives, is both a notoriously arduous and disturbing read, requiring patience and perseverance to get through the often disorienting narration, and whose subject matter confronts painful themes, among which are incest and suicide. A genuine story of human perseverance and pain that will linger in the minds of readers for a very long time.
Light in August (1932)
Light in August is a novel set in Jefferson, Mississippi, in Yoknapatawpha County, which serves as a fictional yet symbolic setting for many of Faulkner’s southern American novels. It is a novel about race and identity, and it is set in the fictional yet symbolic landscape of many of Faulkner’s southern American novels. Joe Christmas, the film’s protagonist, is the victim of both racial and religious intolerance since he is an orphan of mixed origin who is raised by an abusive, puritanical farmer who abuses him. In this work, we follow Joe’s hopeless wandering in search of his personal identity while also following the stories of other marginalized members of society, whose portrayal is characterized by the polarity of light and dark, both literally and figuratively, as acknowledged by the title of the piece itself.
As I Lay Dying (1930)
According to the author himself, the fifty-nine chapters that make up this self-proclaimed tour de force were written in four-hour bursts over the period of six weeks, resulting in a self-proclaimed “tour de force.” In As I Lay Dying, the novel’s 19th chapter, in which the son of a deceased mother utters the five words “My mother is a fish,” is simply one example of how the Bundren family deals with (or fails to deal with) the death of a loved one, concision in language is elevated to an entirely new level. The family’s harrowing journey to return the deceased Addie to her hometown of Jefferson for burial is the author’s most accomplished use of the stream-of-consciousness narrative style, and the novel is ranked 35th in the Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century, no small accomplishment.
The Hamlet (1940)
The Hamlet is the first novel of an epic trilogy about the Snopes family, who take over the village of Frenchman’s Bend, the hamlet to which the title refers, in a post-Civil War setting in Mississippi. The novel is set in the aftermath of the Civil War. It is the most widely acclaimed of the three films, which chart the rise (and eventual fall) of an eccentric family, the most memorable member of which is unquestionably Ike Snopes, who professes his love for a cow that he abducts from its owner and takes care of. The Town and The Mansion are the other two films in the trilogy.
The Reivers (1962)
In comparison to Faulkner’s earlier works, The Reivers is a more lighter-hearted affair, and it was the last novel of his to be published before his death. One of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn’s illustrious characters, an eleven-year-old protagonist, and two older buddies steal a car in Mississippi and set out on a picaresque road journey riddled with mishaps that takes them north, to Memphis, in this comedic coming-of-age novel. The novel was adapted into a film in 1969, starring Steve McQueen, which was nominated for two Academy Awards.
Absalom, Absalom! (1936)
The sixth chapter of this book contains one of the longest sentences in literary history, with little under 1,300 words. It is the longest sentence in literary history. However, this seemingly insignificant aspect of Absalom, Absalom! is only a little component of the overall achievement that is the game. Indeed, Faulkner’s investigation into the nature of truth and the interpretation of the past from a contemporary stance through another set of contrasting perspectives underpins the mystery surrounding the murder of Charles Bon by his friend and classmate Henry Sutpen. Parallel to this is the story of Thomas Sutpen, Henry’s father, and the empire represented by his Mississippi slave plantation, which rises and falls in the course of history.