William Cuthbert Falkner
William Cuthbert Falkner was born on September 25, 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi. He was the eldest of four brothers from Murry and Maud Butler Falkner (later in his life he restored the “u” to the family name). As a child William always had a strong interest in the arts. He enjoyed painting, writing poetry and other forms of art. During his elementary years William excelled and skipped the second grade (Helmster). However during his early teens he began to waiver and lost interest in school, which then sparked his interest in poetry, and short stories.
As a young child Faulkner created a strong bond with a man named Phil Stone. With a common interest in literature, Stone encouraged Faulkner to begin reading authors like Conrad Aiken, Sherwood Anderson, and the Imagist poets (Addison). He began writing stories that had their roots in his early life, his families past, and social tensions. With characters like Colonel Satoris who appears in A Rose for Emily, it appears that the Colonel is a reflection of his great-grandfather William Clark Falkner “Old Colonel” (Helmster).
William came from a fairly affluent family. His great grand father was a “larger-than-life model of personal and professional success for his male descendants”(Helmster). His father worked for the Gulf & Ship Island railroad, which was founded by his great-grandfather, and continued working there until 1902 when he sold it and moved his family to Oxford, Mississippi. His father after moving began to operate a successful livery stable, and the young Faulkner began working there when he was 11 years old (Kennedy & Gioia 1).
After Faulkner dropped out of school, he worked at his grandfather’s bank, where at that time he preferred not to spend much of his day, but rather spend time with Estelle Oldham. Although Estelle Oldham was engaged she was willing to elope with Faulkner. He felt that without the consent of her parents he would not elope, and soon after she was married to Cornell Franklin (Addison 3). In August 1919, Faulkner began to delve further into his literary interests, and started to write for a newspaper called the The Mississippian, but writing for the newspaper only lasted until he dropped out of college in 1920.
Soon after he worked on a collection of poems, The Marble Faun, and then completed his first novel in May 1925, Soldiers Pay. These poems were received with mixed reactions, but the sales of the book were poor. In 1929 Faulkner finally married Estelle Oldham, the women he pursued for 10 years, and completed 2 novels (Addison 3). When William completed these novels he created the fictional county in Mississippi, Yoknapatawpha. Yoknapatawpha was a combination of William’s home in Oxford, his family’s history, and social tensions during his time period amongst other things.
This artificial county appears in many of Faulkner’s finest novels like Sartoris, The Sound & The Fury, Pylon, and Absalom, Absalom. The combinations of such influences as his great-grandfather, racial tensions in the south, and past and present southern ideals created the base for Yoknapatawpha. Yoknapatawpha was a typical southern town in which he was able to use the things he admired about the old south, the chivalry, and the honor it displayed, as well as incorporate what he viewed as the negative aspects like incest, and dynamic evil (Rodriguez 1).
Although some of his finest pieces were composed as short stories, he did not particularly enjoy that writing style. He often called short story writing, “boiling the pot” (Padgett), so he wrote a letter to a friend requesting an advance for $250 so he didn’t have to go whoring again with the short stories in order to make money (Padgett 1). He once said that “In the novel you can be careless but in the short story you can’t”. He didn’t like the exactness of the short story but never the less he wrote numerous amounts of short stories.
He wrote so many short stories that nobody knows exactly how many short stories he actually wrote. (Padgett) “A Rose for Emily” is an exemplary rendition of his unique writing style. He was able to encompass the old southern ideals in Emily Grierson, and the new ideals by the voice of the town, or narrator. Miss Emily is a representation of a fallen monument, she was a monument of southern gentility, and ideal of past values that had disappeared from society (Rodriguez 1). Emily and her house were representations of the old south.
Faulkner relates Emily to the house when he describes her as bloated, and her body looking like it was long submerged in water (Rodriguez 1). This description of Emily’s decaying body, symbolizes the decay of the old south. Emily attempts to hold on to the past by not relinquishing her father’s dead body, but inevitably she had to hand it over, which is comparable to how the southern ideals were changing and even her delusion of ubiquitous power could not stop it (Rodriguez 2) Other points of the story have been debated amongst critics as well. The identification and the gender of the narrator in the story is never revealed.
Michael L. Burduck writes that “the narrative voice, a spokesperson for the town, appears very concerned with every detail of Emily’s life the men are not the least bit scandalized the females are so concerned with Emily’s eccentricities that they force their men to act”(Burduck 209). Faulkner was giving a hint to the gender of the narrator, by showing what interests he/she had. The fact that the narrator is so enthralled, by details of Emily’s life that the men are not interested in, suggests that the “voice” is female (Burduck). Faulkner was a man of strong morals, and proud of the area in which he lived in.