What does William Faulkner mean when he says: "The best literature is about the old universal truths, such as love, pride, compassion and sacrifice."
William Faulkner used this phrase as part of his Nobel Prize of Literature speech banquet in 1949.
What he means by this quote is that the best expressions in written language are often the most simple, sincere, and natural that can be found. Love, pride, compassion, and sacrifice are examples of the most basic emotions of human nature.
Why adulterate or water down literature using topics that are much too complex to understand or too tedious to even discuss? Why look for more problems within reality when our every day life gives us so much to marvel at and cherish deeply?
Old universal truths are constants, not variables. They are so strongly anchored within our psyche that they will hardly ever change or change our perception of them. The basic elements of humanity are to be explored and celebrated. There is no artificial additives in good literature. Anything that is true, pure, and simple is great. Anything that attempts against that is simply violating any artistic canon of literary beauty.
Two of the most important benefits of literature are its abilities to show us people and places that we might never otherwise know and to show us circumstances and situations that might help us to reflect thoughtfully on our own lives. Literature that does these things necessarily has to take as its subject important topics like love and pride, compassion and sacrifice. These are some of the most significant and compelling parts of life, in addition to being elements that tie together human beings existing in all times and places, no matter their race, religion, values, or status. When literature takes these "old universal truths" as its subject, its opportunity to affect and influence more people, it can help people develop empathy, self-awareness, and understanding. This is the literature that can be called "the best."