illustrated portrait of American author William Faulkner

William Faulkner

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What are William Faulkner's writing styles?

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William Faulkner is best known for his experiments with the stream-of-consciousness narrative style. This style is characterized by a use of language that mimics thought, often eliminating conventional grammar and formal sentence structure in favor of more “organic” and creative modes. A result of this narrative technique often can be long and complex sentences.


Example: Her voice would not cease, it would just vanish. There would be the dim coffin-smelling gloom sweet and oversweet with the twice-bloomed wistaria against the outer wall by the savage quiet September sun impacted distilled and hyperdistilled, into which came now and then the loud cloudy flutter of the sparrows like a flat limber stick whipped by an idle boy, and the rank smell of female old flesh long embattled in virginity while the wan haggard face watched him above the faint triangle of lace at wrists and throat from the too tall chair in which she resembled a crucified child…


The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom! each heavily or exclusively utilize the stream-of-consciousness narrative technique. These novels also demonstrate this narrative technique applied through both first and third person narrative points of view.


Faulkner also used a naturalistic or more conventional prose form as well for much of his work. Most of his novels and stories offer a combination between naturalistic prose and stream-of-consciousness. A Light in August is an example of one of his novels that uses a combination of narrative forms.



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