Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
In Mosquitoes, William Faulkner draws a satiric portrait of the New Orleans artistic community of 1925 while working out his own theories about art and the artist. As a “novel of ideas” in Aldous Huxley’s sense of the phrase, Mosquitoes contains much talk and little action. The novel’s plan is simple: Mrs. Maurier, a wealthy New Orleans socialite and “patron of the arts,” gathers aboard her motorized yacht Nausikaa an awkward assortment of artists, intellectuals, and adolescents for a talk-filled cruise on Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. When her nephew Theodore, needing an instrument to bore a hole through his handmade pipe, “borrows” a steel rod from the ship’s intricate steering mechanism, the disabled Nausikaa is soon stranded on a sandbar, thus providing a convenient situation for the novel’s seemingly endless talk.
The shipboard company can be divided into three general groups: the adults and the young, the men and the women, the verbose and the reticent. The central group consists of the older, talkative men. Dawson Fairchild (novelist), Julius Kauffman (critic), and their hangers-on, Mark Frost (poet) and Major Ayers (Englishman), intersperse their sophisticated discussions about sex, art, and society with periodic trips below deck, where they go to evade the insufferable Mrs. Maurier and to get drunk on Fairchild’s whiskey. Mrs. Maurier’s plans for a decorous party are continually thwarted by the rudeness and frank vulgarity of these men (“but after all, one must pay a price for Art,” she laments), and she falls back on the support of Eva Wiseman (poet) and Dorothy Jameson (painter), lonely women who keep each other company, playing cards and smoking cigarettes.
With their unconscious physicality and commitment to experience as opposed to talk, the young people are a group very much apart, and they are at the center of the novel’s exploration of sexuality. As they sport among themselves,...
(The entire section is 812 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974. Once criticized for being too detailed (the two-volume edition is some two thousand pages), this biography begins before Faulkner’s birth with ancestors such as William Clark Falkner, author of The White Rose of Memphis, and traces the writer’s career from a precocious poet to America’s preeminent novelist.
Brodhead, Richard H., ed. Faulkner: New Perspectives. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1983. One volume in the Twentieth Century Views series under the general editorship of Maynard Mack, offering nearly a dozen essays by a variety of Faulkner scholars. Among them are Irving Howe’s “Faulkner and the Negroes,” first published in the early 1950’s, and Cleanth Brooks’s “Vision of Good and Evil” from Samuel E. Balentine’s The Hidden God (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1983). Contains a select bibliography.
Cox, Leland H., ed. William Faulkner: Biographical and Reference Guide. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1982.
Cox, Leland H., ed. William Faulkner: Critical Collection. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1982. These companion volumes constitute a handy reference to most of Faulkner’s work. The first is a reader’s guide which provides a long biographical essay,...
(The entire section is 556 words.)