Soldiers’ Pay reveals clearly the nature of Faulkner’s mastery of characterization, the genius with which he conjures in the reader’s mind vivid and convincing characters. His technique combines luminous detail with understatement: A few significant strokes are often sufficient to bring a character to life. This method invites the reader to become a cocreator of the character, allowing him to project himself into the narrative and to supply with his own imagination the missing details.
In addition, Faulkner brings the reader into the narrative by involving him in the points of view of the characters themselves: A character is seen primarily as others in the narrative see him. For example, Donald Mahon is not described from an objective, omniscient point of view when he first appears in the novel. Rather, the reader sees him as Julian Lowe first does: “He saw a belt and wings, he rose and met a young face with a dreadful scar across his brow.” Similarly, when Jones sees a photograph of Mahon as a boy, the narrative lets the reader in on his perspective: “The boy was about eighteen and coatless: beneath unruly hair, Jones saw a thin face with a delicate pointed chin and wild, soft eyes.” The subjective, impressionistic manner in which characters are rendered is also clearly demonstrated by Lowe’s description of Margaret Powers: He remarks on “her pallid distinction, her black hair, the red scar of her mouth, her slim dark dress,” a description which becomes even more quintessential a few pages later, where...
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