Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 373
Faulkner is a great writer in part because he mastered virtually all of the techniques of representation that had been developed in the two centuries of intense fiction writing before he took up his pen. Nearly all these techniques appear in his short stories. Two characteristics stand out because they help account for his success in publishing his stories in mass market magazines while also suggesting why his novels were less successful in the mass market. Although his stories are predominantly serious in theme, they are filled with wit and humor. However, in virtually every story he wrote, he attempted to stretch readers beyond what they might expect to find in a popular story.
Few of his stories are as broadly humorous as "A Bear Hunt" (The Saturday Evening Post, 1934). There Ratliff plays a joke on a hunter to cure him of the hiccups that have plagued him for more than a day, only to have that joke rebound upon him. In more serious stories, however, there are often humorous events. "A Rose for Emily" includes the incident of the town officials sneaking around Emily's house at night, spreading lime to get rid of the smell that is revealed many years later to have been her lover's decaying body. In "Red Leaves," while the slave who is supposed to be killed and buried with his dead Indian chief owner, flees through the swamp, the obese new chief pursues him carried on a litter. Fat Moketubbe sometimes loses consciousness from the pain of trying to wear the tiny slippers that are one badge of his new office.
Faulkner nearly always asks his readers to see moral and spiritual complexity in his stories. "An Error in Chemistry" is a formulaic detective story, yet it ends with a longer than usual examination of the murderer's motives that asks the reader to understand a great escape and disguise artist whose gift led him to such contempt for mankind that, when fallen upon hard times, he would try to use it to make a fortune by murdering two people. Gavin Stevens and the sheriff agree that the criminal failed to know himself, having missed the truth Stevens says that all the good books reveal, although in different ways.
Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 193
Faulkner had read widely and learned technical possibilities from everyone he read. He often drew on popular genres such as humor, Gothic, and detective stories. When asked which writers he admired most and continued to read, he named the Old Testament, Charles Dickens, Conrad, Miguel de Cervantes, Gustave Flaubert, Honore de Balzac, Feodor Dostoevski, Leo Tolstoy, William Shakespeare, Melville, John Keats, and A. E. Housman, among some others. He thought James Joyce and Thomas Mann to be among the greatest writers of his generation. He expressed admiration for Thomas Wolfe and Sherwood Anderson, among other contemporary Americans.
Faulkner's stories show influences from all of these sources. His most distinctive and characteristic stories are those set in his mythical Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. In these stories the landscape, characters, and compulsions of his native country become the source of a rich and living fiction. From this point of view, his main literary ancestors are those writers who also mastered their techniques, then built teeming fictional worlds out of their home ground, including Dickens of London, Balzac of Paris, Nathaniel Hawthorne of New England, Joyce of Dublin, and Henry James of the capitals of the West.
Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 112
While Faulkner was working in Hollywood, he attempted to make screenplays of several stories. Only a few were finally produced. Today We Live (1933) was based on "Turnabout." The Damned Don't Cry (1950) was based in part on "The Brooch" (Scribner's, 1936). Neither of these was especially successful. "The Brooch," "Shall Not Perish" (Story, 1943), and "Old Man" (part of The Wild Palms, 1939), were broadcast on Lux Video Theatre in 1953. "Barn Burning" was eventually adapted for the Public Broadcasting Service's American Short Story series (1980). Bruce Kawin argues that Tomorrow (1971) is one of the best film adaptations of a Faulkner story. "Tomorrow" (The Saturday Evening Post, 1940) is a Gavin Stevens detective story eventually collected in Knight's Gambit.
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