The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Some of the characters of Mosquitoes are based upon members of the New Orleans artistic community whom Faulkner knew in 1925, while others are wholly imaginative constructs. The novelist Dawson Fairchild, for example, is Faulkner’s portrait of Sherwood Anderson, the “father” of Faulkner’s generation of American novelists. Though Anderson was an important early model for him, Faulkner soon began to look elsewhere, turning principally to such writers as Joyce, Joseph Conrad, and T. S. Eliot, who represented an international as opposed to a regional standard of literature. Faulkner’s portrayal of Anderson, consequently, is equivocal. On the one hand, Fairchild is credited with possessing an attractive, folksy humor revealed primarily by the Al Jackson tall tales; or he is shown to be master of narrative pathos as when he tells Theodore the story of his ill-fated attempt to gain entrance to a college fraternity (his effect is achieved, however, by casting himself as a fool: “You poor goof” is Theodore’s summation of the story). On the other hand, Fairchild is the recipient of the novel’s most serious and significant criticism, and as such, he is to be distinguished from the relatively flattened satirical stereotypes of Talliaferro and Mrs. Maurier. Fairchild’s principal critic is his friend Kauffman (referred to throughout as “the Semitic man”), who represents many of Faulkner’s own critical judgments in the novel. Kauffman considers Fairchild a talented but seriously flawed artist; as a man, Fairchild is a “poor emotional eunuch,” and as an artist, a “bewildered stenographer with a gift for people.” As the words “son” and “child” embedded in his name suggest, Dawson Fairchild is emotionally and artistically young, never having grown beyond a midwestern regionalism and a “hopeless sentimentality,” a fact which has prevented his art from achieving a fully mature and universal significance. Though endowed with moments of insight and poetic expression, Fairchild is ultimately drawn as the pathetic, older novelist, a “benevolent walrus” who is aware of his waning artistic power.

The other flawed artists aboard the Nausikaa receive considerably less serious treatment. Mark Frost, for example, is clearly a butt of relentless satire. A “ghostly,” “sepulchral,’ and...

(The entire section is 956 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Dawson Fairchild

Dawson Fairchild, a successful novelist and the natural leader of a group of artists cruising aboard the yacht Nausikaa. He is from a provincial Midwestern lower-middle-class family and confronts life and art with burly optimism, though he finds the modern world peopled with “women too masculine to conceive, men too feminine to beget” great poetry. Having admittedly lost his own first sheer infatuation with words, he writes prose now instead of poetry and devoutly maintains that “art” is anything consciously well done. Calling himself “a purely lay brother to the human race,” Fairchild is the author’s portrait of Sherwood Anderson.

Mrs. Patricia Maurier

Mrs. Patricia Maurier, a wealthy widow and vivacious dilettante who brings artists and ordinary people together on her yacht for a weeklong party on Lake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans. Her usual pose of silly amazement turns to fright when Gordon feels her face with his hands and to disgust when her niece disappears for a day with the ship’s steward. Although she is intent on her project, she loses respect for some of her guests after the yacht runs aground and their attention turns from cards and dancing to drinking, idle talk, the young women on board, and complaints about all the grapefruit she serves them.


Gordon, an impoverished sculptor, thirty-six years old. Tall, red-haired, and masculine, with a hawklike countenance and a wild, bitter heart, he personifies the novel’s ideal of the true artist. His imagination is dominated by the headless, armless, and legless torso that he has fashioned in his...

(The entire section is 688 words.)