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William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County

Yoknapatawpha County, with Jefferson as its county seat, is both a mythical and actual place. Yoknapatawpha county is 2400 square miles in area and has a population of 15,611 persons. Jefferson has an actual jail, town square, old houses, and Old Frenchmans Place, even a railroad. Faulkners “Yoknapatawpha County” is in reality Lafayette County, and “Jefferson” is actually Oxford. The Faulkner family lived there since before the Civil War. This is where most of his stories take place. He pondered the family history and his own personal history; and he used both in writing his stories.

American Writers; 54) Faulkner born in New Albany, Mississippi in 1897. In 1902 they moved to Oxford (“Jefferson”), the seat of the University of Mississippi. His father, Murray C. Falkner, (the u was added to the family name by the printer who set up Williams first book, The Marble Faun) ran a livery stable and a hardware store. Later he became business manager of the University. Maud Butler was his mother and Murray, John, and Dean were his three brothers. (American Writers; 55a) Faulkners great-grandfather was William C. Falkner. He was born in 1825. He was a legendary figure in Northern Mississippi.

Many details of his life have shown up in Faulkners writings. He was twice acquitted of murder charges. He was a believer in severe discipline and was a colonel of a group of raiders of the Civil War. He began as a poor youngster trying to take care of his widowed mother, but ending his career as the owner of a railroad and a member of the state legislature. He was killed by his former railroad partner shortly after he had defeated the other for a seat in the legislature. There is a statue of William C. Falkner facing his railroad today. (American Writers; 55b) J. W. T. Faulkner was a lawyer, a banker, and assistant United States attorney. He was an active member of “rise of the “rednecks””, the political movement that gave greater suffrage to tenant farmers. The people of Oxford say he had and explosive temper. (American Writers; 55c) The characters Colonel Sartoris and Bayard Sartoris portray Faulkners great-grandfather and grandfather. These characters show up in many of his stories such as Sartoris and The Unvanquished. They are a part of the Old South legend and they play an important role in the saga of Yoknapatawpha. (American Writers; 55d) William was a poor student.

He left highshool in the tenth grade to work in his grandfathers bank. He liked to read, and wrote some poetry of his own. He also tried painting. The towns people said he was a moody boy, and seemed as a puzzle to them. He began a friendship with Phil Stone in 1914. Phil was a young lawyer. This gave him a chance for literary discussions and helped acquaint him with such rising reputations as Conrad Aiken, Robert Frost, Erza Pound, and Sherwood Anderson. (American Writers; 55e) William was underweight and only five feet tall. Because of this, he was turned down by the United States Army.

He did, however, join the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto, Canada, and a cadet. On December 22, 1918, the date of demobilization, he became an honorary second lieutenant. He was often preoccupied with both the events and the implications of World War I, like most other writers of his age. Many of his earlier books deal with this. (American Writers; 55f) As a veteran, he was allowed to enroll at the University of Mississippi. There he studied English, Spanish, and French, but he was only in residence for one full academic year. He took a job in a bookstore in New York City, but he soon returned to Oxford.

He did odd jobs such as a carpenter of house painter for two years, then became postmaster at the university. He soon resigned, saying in his letter of resignation, ” I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. ” This same year, 1924, The Marble Faun was publicized, a book of poems. Stone had subsidized its publication. (American Writers; 55g) Faulkner decided to go to Europe by means of New Orleans. Once he reached Now Orleans, he ended up staying for six months.

He wrote a few sketches for Times-Picayune entitles “Mirrors of Charles Street,” contributed to the Double Dealer, and important “little magazine,” and became friends with Sherwood Anderson. At that time, Anderson was one of the most admired of American writers. Faulkner also wrote his first novel, Soldiers Pay, which Anderson helped him get published. He and Anderson remained friends despite differences in temperament and despite Faulkners having written a parody of Andersons style in Sherwood Anderson and other Famous Creoles, a volume of drawings by William Spratling, one of his Mew Orleans friends.

In his book there is a drawing by Spratling of Faulkner and himself sitting at a table painting, writing, and drinking. On the wall there is a sigh reading “Viva Art”. Beneath Faulkners chair are three gallons of corm liquor. In June 1925, Faulkner and Spratling shipped on a freighter for Italy and a walking trip through France and Germany. (American Writers; 56a) Faulkner went back to New York in March 1926, for the publication of Soldiers Pay. Thematically the novel comes to very little, but the young man had obvious talent.

Soldiers Pay received favorable reviews, and its publisher signed a contract for a second novel. Faulkner went off to Pascagonla, Mississippi, to write it. (American Writers; 56b) Mosquitoes, published in 1927, used New Orleans as a setting. Mosquitoes says that “actions are more important than words and doers are more important than talkers. ” It is a satirical novel. One of the characters, Dawson Fairchild, is based on Anderson. One part of his book contains a series of “tall tales” which Faulkner later said he and Anderson had worked up together.

Mosquitoes was less well received than Soldiers Pay. (American Writers; 56c) While writing Sartoris, Faulkner had also been working on The Sound and the Fury. They were published within a few months of each other. Sartoris marks the end of an apprenticeship. The Sound and the Fury is the work of a major writer. (American Writers; 57a) In June of 1927, Faulkner married Estelle Oldham and settled down to a career as a writer. Within a ten year span he wrote and published most of what has come to be regarded as his major work.

He made trips to Hollywood to work on movie scripts, he made trips to New York, but he mainly resided in Oxford. Sanctuary brought him notoriety. Critical acclaim, however, came more slowly. Oddly, the French recognized Faulkners power more quickly and more widely than Americans did. In 1946, Malcolm Cowley published his influential Portable Faulkner. At this time all of Faulkners books were out of print and there had been very little serious criticism devoted to Faulkner. Valuable studies began in 1946, and now there is hardly a critical or scholarly journal that has failed to devote article after article to Faulkner.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950. Faulkner, accompanied by his daughter, went to Sweden. Many other awards followed, including Pulitzer prizes for The Town and The Reivers. Faulkner visited European countries, especially France, spent some weeks in Japan in 1955, and made occasional public appearances in the United States. In 1957, he was a writer in residence at the University of Virginia. Three weeks after being thrown from a horse, he died, from a heart attack, in Oxford, Mississippi. July 6, 1962.

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