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.)