Faulkner Novel Characters


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Early American Literature

Qu 8: ‘‘[Faulkner's was an art] of reinvention, circling back and circling back again to the life that had been lived and missed and emotions that had been felt but not yet understood''(Richard grey).Discuss with relation to Light In August

The true brilliance of Faulkner's writing lies in his ability to as Gray correctly puts it to ‘reinvent'. For life is exactly that. An art of reinvention and it is Faulkner ability to transfer this art into his writing that makes his writing so realistic.

Faulkner's novel ‘light in august' reads like a sort of visual novel which never reveals its true content. Characters are created through the eyes of other characters and then later on recreated again as the novel progresses and further information is revealed. This is a direct parallel to life. A wholesome picture of a certain event or a series of events is never truly revealed. Even that which is revealed is subject to a later date of reform as memories are recollected and moulded for a creation that is always subject to questioning. It is in effect the true face of history. Where the past is and will always be susceptible to new interpretation.

Let's take the character of Joe Christmas as an example. Through his first appearance the reader is given the understanding that he is foreign. Did you ever hear of a white man named Christmas?'

As the novel unfolds the circling back and forward through the novel reveals his early background at the orphanage as well as his own understanding that he is part negro. Yet we are never completely certain that Christmas does have Negro blood in him. There is a certain ambiguity that surrounds the origins of Christmas. Something blatantly seen where Joes grandmother, toward the end of the novel, says that ‘the circus owner come back and said how the man really was part nigger instead of Mexican, like Eupheus said all the time he was..'. Even so she does not stop there but adds that ‘it was just that circus man that said he was a nigger and maybe he never knew for certain'. What is revealed by the end is that whether Joe was truly part black or not these events would have still have taken place. The ambiguity of his origins may have been the catalyst of his actions yet it was the way he was treated and the way he was viewed by the community that led to his end. What Richard gray states as the idea of ‘the life that had been lived and missed and emotions that had been felt but not yet understood' can be directly applied here. The reader never fully understands Christmas mentality and Faulkner strives to convey it through his circling through different events that had taken place in the past.

Characters are never fully understood till the end of the novel and Christmas is not the only case. Rather than allow for the traditional unfolding of both plot and characters all aiming for the same final destination. Faulkner creates characters that are fully developed from the beginning. Their characters do not need to evolve or be moulded any differently that what has already been done for theirs is a tale of the past and the present. Faulkner is not interested in where they are headed to in the future but how they got here in the first place and what action that will create in the present now. Warren Beck very correctly sums this up by saying that:

‘Faulkner's rangings through a narratives chronology are most often cast within someone's recollections and forward returns; these major figures have their existence in the midst of things, looking before and after....'

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