William Faulkner Insights

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting William Faulkner questions.

William Faulkner's Iconoclastic Views

One of the reasons it took so long for the world to recognize William Faulkner's greatness was his seemingly perverse views of just about everything that everybody else had already accepted. Here are some pertinent quotes showing his irreverence for tradition and popular opinion:

When [Malcolm] Cowley, for example, wrote asking if it would be fair to call his work a “myth or legend of the South,” Faulkner testily replied that the South “is not very important to me,” adding, in a gratuitous discharge of bile, that in his opinion human life is “the same frantic steeplechase toward nothing everywhere and man stinks the same stink no matter where in time
(”Frederick Crews, “Faulkner Methodized,” in The Critics Bear It Away: American Fiction and the Academy, p. 117).

On the great Alfred, Lord Tennyson: 

One wall of the study is lined with books. He pauses before them, seeking, until he finds the one which he wants. It is Tennyson. It is dogeared. He has had it ever since the seminary. He sits beneath the lamp and opens it. It does not take long. Soon the fine galloping language, the gutless swooning full of sapless trees and dehydrated lusts begins to swim smooth and swift and peaceful. It is better than praying without having to bother to think aloud. It is like listening in a cathedral to a eunuch chanting in a language which he does not even need to not understand (William Faulkner, Light in August).

On George Gershwin's music:

And over all, brittle, dissonant and ephemeral, the spurious sophistication of the piano like symbols scrawled by adolescent boys upon an ancient decayed rodent-scavengered tomb
(William Faulkner, The Wild Palms).