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Faulkner: Social Critic?Maybe I'm too sensitive, but being a southerner born and bred,...

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 25, 2008 at 10:14 AM via web

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Faulkner: Social Critic?

Maybe I'm too sensitive, but being a southerner born and bred, I just have to wonder: Does every Faulkner story have to have some hidden criticism of the old south? Can't he just be telling a story and using "local color"? If Poe had written "A Rose for Emily" would we debate what her insanity says about pre-Civil War Maryland? Sheesh!

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted February 25, 2008 at 7:51 PM (Answer #2)

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Faulkner isn't picking on the antebellum south.. he is criticising on mankind and using the south as a tableau. He uses the heritage of slavery as the inherited sin of the country.... but stil he is talking about all mankind.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 26, 2008 at 5:34 PM (Answer #3)

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Symbolism, symbolism, symbolism.  You can't tell me that Hawthorne didn't do the same thing with the Puritans who weren't so darned pure.  I agree with you, Linda.  The south isn't perfect, but neither is anyone else.  The north hides just as many dirty little secrets...it's not specific to geography, it's the greed and sinful nature of humanity as a whole.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 26, 2008 at 5:44 PM (Answer #4)

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People keep saying the we need to forget "the war"--as if there has only been one! But I think we've done a great job. Was the south reluctant to change? Some southern states were. I really think Faulkner was writing about the quirks of people he knew and not so much about civil rights--though he was critical of racism. He wrote about his time and the way things were then. If I were to write about poor old Miss Emily and her negro manservant in 2008, I'd be deservedly labeled a racist.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted April 5, 2008 at 9:26 PM (Answer #5)

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I tend to believe that Faulkner was somewhat critical of the South, yes, but I also believe he dearly loved the South, as well.  I found "A Rose for Emily" to have several implied criticisms of the South, including how the South lagged behind the North in some ways in the years following the Civil War, etc.

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted August 5, 2008 at 8:14 AM (Answer #6)

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Ever notice how people of shared ethnicities or backgrounds can get away with certain behaviors that a person from outside could not? Think for a moment about your African-American students: For them to call one another the infamous "n-word" is a sign (in some circles) of comradery. Hispanic students refer to one another in various slangish ways, but if a person from outside that cultural community attempted to do so, they would immediately be castigated.

Here's my point in all of this: Faulkner, as a son of the South, is inherently entitled to commentate about all of the region's victories and losses, and he shows us more than just its scars -- he also gives us a wonderful perspective about what makes the South gentile and beautiful as well. "As I Lay Dying" is a great example of that assertion.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 30, 2009 at 2:12 AM (Answer #7)

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Faulkner: Social Critic?

Maybe I'm too sensitive, but being a southerner born and bred, I just have to wonder: Does every Faulkner story have to have some hidden criticism of the old south? Can't he just be telling a story and using "local color"? If Poe had written "A Rose for Emily" would we debate what her insanity says about pre-Civil War Maryland? Sheesh!

One of my favorite Faulkner short stories is "Two Soldiers." It reveals as much about the author as the characters. I love this story, and my students always "get" it, which shows how timeless and universal it really is. If "A Rose for Emily" is Faulkner's view of the South, then so is "Two Soldiers." In other words, I don't think his purpose was to criticize the South so much as to examine it through many lives in search of some human truth.

Faulkner's people aren't good or bad; they are just deeply human, for all that means. I just re-read Faulkner's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. For every strength of the human spirit he named, I could think of a Faulkner character who demonstrated it. When you consider how Faulkner felt about the South, be sure to read his speech, and "Two Soldiers," as well. I think he loved the South deeply for the humanity he found in her people.

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