Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Pylon is above all a study of human motivation, of the diverse mechanisms and drives that make people act as they do. These range from concrete, external circumstances to inner desires, compulsions, and obsessions, and they are all brought to bear on the specific character as he thinks, feels, and acts. Pylon especially investigates what might be termed the claims of “romance” or romantic glamour. They form an aura that surrounds the activity of flying, above all the competitive flying in air fairs. The principal characters in the book all feel the pull of this nongravitational force, which comes to alter and definitively change their lives. It assumes a different form depending on their specific personalities. With the opportunistic, cynical Jiggs, who counts his pennies, it is nevertheless potent; with Roger Shumann, it takes on an idealistic, aesthetic form; with LaVerne, it is associated with love; with the reporter Lazarus, it assumes the most extraordinary form of all—unbalanced, voyeuristic, totally impractical, and all-consuming.

The primary tool for exploring these complex motivations is the novel’s style. With Faulkner, this is often close to the process of free association, but it is not chaotic or purposeless. On the contrary, the style always significantly advances the narrative at the same time that it renders the thought processes of the principal characters. This closeness to actual thought characterized the...

(The entire section is 430 words.)