Friday, September 25, 2015

William Faulkner - Still a literary force.


William Cuthbert Faulkner, born September 25, 1897 – died July 6, 1962) an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays, and screenplays. He is primarily known for his novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he spent most of his life

My favorite Faulkner quote: "The past is never dead; it's not even past."

Favorite story: Forget "The Sound and the Fury". Slogged through incomprehensible dialogue in high school. Loved "A Rose for Emily". It is so Faulkner; the short story is all you need to read to understand his writing and his mind.

The story opens with the funeral of Emily Grierson, an elderly patrician spinster. Emily is known for her odd behavior. Like others in the antebellum Southern aristocracy, the family fell on hard times. She and her father, the last two of the clan, continue to live in the past, her father vowing that Emily cannot marry a man below their aristocratic status.

When her father dies she becomes friendly with Homer Barron, a Northern contractor that paved sidewalks. He, of course, if far below her standards, and Homer doesn't want to marry anyway.
Meantime, Emily has problems with her cousins and is becoming more erratic.

Emily buys arsenic without giving reasons for needing it. Neighbors suspect she means to take it herself. However, her relationship with Homer lifts her spirits and there is talk of marriage. Homer leaves town to give Emily a chance to get rid of her cousins, and returns three days after the cousins leave. One person reports seeing Homer walk in the house, which is the last he was seen.

Despite her lessened social status, Emily continues flout her long-lost patrician ancestry. She's quite nasty actually and the city council can't bring themselves to confront her about a strong smell coming from her house. Bizarrely, they decide to send men to her house under the cover of darkness to sprinkle lime around the house, after which the smell dissipates. The town council also forgives her taxes as an act of charity, though it was done under a pretense of repayment towards her father to assuage Emily's pride.

Emily becomes a recluse, Never seen out of the house, she rarely lets anyone into it. Her black servant shops for her, and the community comes to see her as an hereditary obligation who must be humored.

Her funeral is a large affair; and her death sparks curiosity about her reclusiveness. Once she's buried, townsfolk enter her house. The door to her upstairs bedroom is locked. Someone kicks in the door to see what has been hidden so long. Inside, among the unused wedding clothes, lies the horribly decomposed corpse of Homer Barron on the bed; on the pillow beside him is the indentation of a head, and a single strand of Emily's gray hair.


So totally Southern Gothic like Faulkner himself.

Gerrie Ferris Finger