WILLIAM FAULKNER. Collected Stories. Contents. I. THE COUNTRY. Barn Burning. Shingles for the Lord. The Tall Men. A Bear Hunt. Two Soldiers. Shall Not. by William Faulkner (). I. WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen. WILLIAM FAULKNER. (–). BARN BURNING. The store in which the Justice of the Peace's court was sitting smelled of cheese. The boy, crouched on .
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Collected Stories of WILLIAM FAULKNER Contents I. THE COUNTRY Barn Burning Shingles for the Lord The Tall Men A Bear Hun. William Faulkner ✧ LIGHT IN AUGUST. 5. Chapter 1. SITTING beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, 'I have come. I wrote this book and learned to read. I had learned a little about writing from Soldiers' Pay--how to approach language, words: not with seriousness so much, as.
One can find out about some of the people he mentions Bilbo, Vardaman by consulting an American history textbook. For others the Snopeses, for instance , we have to turn to Faulkner's novels and stories. Both are an intrinsic part of the "real" Mississippi. It is dotted with little towns concentric about the ghosts of the horses and mules once tethered to the hitch-rail enclosing the county courthouse and it might almost be said to have only two directions, north and south, since until a few years ago it was impossible to travel east or west in it unless you walked or rode one of the horses or mules.
Even in the boy's early manhood, to reach by rail either of the adjacent county towns thirty miles away to the east or west, you had to travel ninety miles in three directions on three different railroads.
In the beginning it was virgin—to the west, along the Big River, the alluvial swamps threaded by black, almost motionless bayous and impenetrable with cane and buckvine and cypress and ash and oak and gum; to the east, the hardwood ridges and the prairies where the Appalachian Mountains died and buffalo grazed; to the south, the pine barrens and the moss-hung live oaks and the greater swamps, less of earth than water and lurking with alligators and water moccasins, where Louisiana in its time would begin.
And where in the beginning the predecessors crept with their simple artifacts, and built the mounds and vanished, bequeathing only the mounds in which the succeeding recordable Muskhogean stock would leave the skulls of their warriors and chiefs and babies and slain bears, and the shards of pots, and hammer- and arrow-heads and now and then a heavy silver Spanish spur.
There were deer to drift in herds alarmless as smoke then, and bear and panther and wolves in the brakes and bottoms, and all the lesser beasts—coon and possum and beaver and mink and mushrat not muskrat: mushrat ; they were still there and some of the land was still virgin in the early nineteen hundreds when the boy himself began to hunt.
The Snopeses hunted too. They too were in the camps where the de Spains and Compsons and McCaslins and Ewells were masters in their hierarchal turn, shooting the does not only when law but the Master too said not, shooting them not even because the meat was needed but leaving the meat itself to be eaten by scavengers in the woods, shooting it simply because it was big and moving and alien, of an older time than the little grubby stores and the accumulating and compounding money; the boy a man now and in his hierarchal turn Master of the camp and coping, having to cope, not with the diminishing wilderness where there was less and less game, but with the Snopeses who were destroying that little which did remain.
These elected the Bilboes and voted indefatigably for the Vardamans, naming their sons after both. Their origin was in bitter hatred and fear and economic rivalry of the Negroes who farmed little farms no larger than and adjacent to their own, because the Negro, remembering when he had not been free at all, was therefore capable of valuing what he had of freedom enough to struggle to retain even that little and had taught himself how to do more with less: to raise more cotton with less money to spend and food to eat and fewer or inferior tools to work with; this, until he, the Snopes, could escape from the land into the little grubby side-street store where he could live not beside the Negro but on him by marking up on the inferior meat and meal and molasses the price which he, the Negro, could not even always read.
He endured, even after he too was obsolete, the younger sons of Virginia and Carolina planters coming to replace him in wagons laden with slaves and indigo seedlings over the very roads he had hacked out with little else but the tomahawk. Then someone gave a Natchez doctor a Mexican cotton seed maybe with the boll weevil already in it since, like the Snopeses, it too has taken over the Southern earth and changed the whole face of Mississippi. Slaves were clearing rapidly now the virgin land, lurking still—in —with the ghosts of Murrell and Mason and Hare and the two Harpes, into plantation fields for profit where he, the displaced and obsolete, had wanted only the bear and the deer and the sweetening for his tooth.
But he remained, hung on still; he is still there even in the boy's middle-age, living in a log or plank or tin hut on the edge of what remains of the fading wilderness, by and on the tolerance and sometimes even the bounty of the plantation owner to whom, in his intractable way and even with a certain dignity and independence, he is a sycophant, trapping coons and muskrats, now that the bear and the panther are almost gone too, improvident still, felling still the two-hundred-year-old tree even though it has only a coon or a squirrel in it now.
Manning, when that time came, not the Manassas and Shiloh regiments but confederating into irregular bands and gangs owning not much allegiance to anyone or anything, unified instead into the one rite and aim of stealing horses from Federal picket lines; this in the intervals of raiding or trying to the plantation house of the very man to whom he had been the independent sycophant and intended to be again, once the war was over and presuming that the man came back from his Sharpsburg or Chickamauga majority or colonelcy or whatever it had been.
Trying to raid, that is, until the major's or colonel's wife or aunt or mother-in-law, who had buried the silver in the orchard and still held together a few of the older slaves, fended him off and dispersed him, and when necessary even shot him, with the absent husband's or nephew's or son-in-law's hunting gun or duelling pistols.
The women: the indomitable, the undefeated, who never surrendered, refusing to allow the Yankee minie balls to be dug out of portico column or mantelpiece or lintel, who seventy years later would get up and walk out of Gone With the Wind as soon as Sherman's name was mentioned; irreconcilable and enraged and still talking about it long after the weary exhausted men who had fought and lost it gave up trying to make them hush: even in the boy's time the boy himself knowing about Vicksburg and Corinth and exactly where his grandfather's regiment had been at First Manassas before he remembered hearing very much about Santa Claus.
In those days— and '02 and '03 and '04—Santa Claus occurred only at Christmas, not like now, and for the rest of the year children played with what they could find or contrive or make, though just as now, in '51 and '52 and '53 and '54, they still played, aped in miniature, what they had been exposed to, heard or seen or been moved by most. Which was true in the child's time and case too: the indomitable unsurrendered old women holding together still, thirty-five and forty years later, a few of the old house slaves: women too who, like the white ones, refused to give up the old ways and forget the old anguishes.
The child himself remembered one of them: Caroline: free these many years but who had declined to leave. Nor would she ever accept in full her weekly Saturday wages; the family never knew why unless the true reason was the one which appeared: for the simple pleasure of keeping the entire family reminded constantly that they were in arrears to her, compelling the boy's grandfather then his father and finally himself in his turn to be not only her banker but her book-keeper too, having got the figure of eighty-nine dollars into her head somehow or for some reason, and though the sum itself altered, sometimes more and sometimes less, and sometimes it would be she herself who would be several weeks in arrears, it never changed: one of the children, white or Negro, liable to appear at any time, usually when most of the family would be gathered at a meal, with the message: "Mammy says to tell you not to forget you owe her eighty-nine dollars.
Not the tall man, he was still the hunter, the man of the woods; and not the slave because he was free now; but that Mexican cotton seed which someone had given the Natchez doctor was clearing the land fast now, ploughing under the buffalo grass of the eastern prairies and the brier and switch cane of the creek and river bottoms of the central hills and deswamping the whole vast, flat, alluvial, delta-shaped sweep of land along the Big River, the Old Man: building the levees to hold him off the land long enough to plant and harvest the crop: he taking another foot of slope in his new dimension for every foot man constricted him in the old, so that the steamboats carrying the baled cotton to Memphis or New Orleans seemed to crawl along the sky itself.
And little steamboats on the smaller rivers, too, penetrating the Tallahatchie as far up as Wylie's Crossing above Jefferson. Though most of the cotton from that section—and on to the east to that point of no economic return where it was more expedient to continue on east to the Tombigbee and then south to Mobile—went the sixty miles overland to Memphis by mule and wagon; there was a settlement—a tavern of sorts and a smithy and a few gaunt cabins—on the bluff above Wylie's, at the exact distance where a wagon or a train of them loaded with cotton either starting or resuming the journey in the vicinity of Jefferson, would have to halt for the night.
Or not even a settlement but rather a den, whose denizens lurked unseen by day in the brakes and thickets of the river bottom, appearing only at night and even then only long enough to enter the tavern kitchen where the driver of the day's cotton wagon sat unsuspecting before the fire, whereupon driver, wagon, mules and cotton and all would vanish: the body into the river probably and the wagon burned and the mules sold days or weeks later in a Memphis stockyard and the unidentifiable cotton already on its way to the Liverpool mill.
At the same time, sixteen miles away in Jefferson, there was a pre-Snopes, one of the tall men actually, a giant of a man in fact: a dedicated lay Baptist preacher but furious not with a furious unsleeping dream of paradise nor even for universal Order with an upper-case O, but for simple civic security.
He was warned by everyone not to go in there because not only could he accomplish nothing, he would very likely lose his own life trying it. But he did go, alone, and talked not of gospel nor God nor even of virtue, but simply sketched the biggest and boldest and by appearance, anyway, the most villainous there and said to him: "I'll fight you.
If you lick me, you take what money I have.
If I lick you, I baptize you into my church": and battered and mauled and gouged that one into sanctity and civic virtue then challenged the next biggest and most villainous and then the next; and the following Sunday baptized the entire settlement in the river, the cotton wagons now crossing on Wylie's hand-powered ferry and passing peacefully and unchallenged on to Memphis until the railroad came and took the bales away from them. That was in the seventies.
The Negro was a free farmer and a political entity now; one, he could not sign his name, was Federal marshal at Jefferson. Afterwards he became the town's official bootlegger Mississippi was one of the first to essay the noble experiment, along with Maine , resuming—he had never really quitted it—his old allegiance to his old master and gaining his professional name, Mulberry, from the huge old tree behind Doctor Habersham's drug-store, in the gallery-like tunnels among the roots of which he cached the bottled units of his commerce.
Soon he the Negro would even forge ahead in that economic rivalry with Snopes which was to send Snopes in droves into the Ku Klux Klan—not the old original one of the war's chaotic and desperate end which, measured against the desperate times, was at least honest and serious in its desperate aim, but into the later base one of the twenties whose only kinship to the old one was the old name.
And a little money to build railroads was in the land now, brought there by the man who in '66 had been a carpetbagger but who now was a citizen; his children would speak the soft consonantless Negro tongue as the children of parents who had lived below the Potomac and Ohio Rivers since Captain John Smith, and their children would boast of their Southern heritage.
In Jefferson his name was Redmond. He had found the money with which Colonel Sartoris had opened the local cotton fields to Europe by building his connecting line up to the main rail-road from Memphis to the Atlantic Ocean—narrow gauge, like a toy, with three tiny locomotives like toys, too, named after Colonel Sartoris' three daughters, each with its silver-plated oilcan engraved with the daughter's Christian name: like toys, the standard-sized cars jacked up at the junction, then lowered on to the narrow trucks, the tiny locomotive now invisible ahead of its charges so that they appeared in process of being snatched headlong among the fields they served by an arrogant plume of smoke and the arrogant shrieking of a whistle.
It was Redmond who, after the inevitable quarrel, finally shot Colonel Sartoris dead on a Jefferson street, driven, everyone believed, to the desperate act by the same arrogance and intolerance which had driven Colonel Sartoris' regiment to demote him from its colonelcy in the fall elections after Second Manassas and Sharpsburg.
So there were railroads in the land now; now couples who used to go overland by carriage to the River landings and the steamboats for the traditional New Orleans honeymoon could take the train from almost anywhere.
And presently Pullmans, too, all the way from Chicago and the Northern cities where the cash, the money was, so that the rich Northerners could come down in comfort and open the land indeed: setting up with their Yankee dollars the vast lumbering plants and mills in the Southern-pine section, the little towns which had been hamlets without change or alteration for fifty years, booming and soaring into cities overnight above the stump-pocked barrens which would remain until in simple economic desperation people taught themselves to farm pine trees as in other sections they had already learned to farm corn and cotton.
And Northern lumber mills in the Delta too: the mid-twenties now and the Delta booming with cotton and timber both. But mostly booming with simple money: increment a troglodyte which had fathered twin troglodytes: solvency and bankruptcy, the three of them booming money into the land so fast that the problem was how to get rid of it before it whelmed you into suffocation.
Until in something almost resembling self-defense, seven or eight of the bigger Delta towns formed a baseball league, presently raiding as far away—and successfully too—for pitchers and short-stops and slugging outfielders as the two major leagues; the boy, a young man now, making acquaintance with this league and one of the big Northern lumber companies not only co-incidently with one another but because of one another.
At this time the young man's attitude was that of most other young men who had been around twenty-one years of age in April , even though at times he did admit to himself that he was possibly using the fact that he had been nineteen on that day as an excuse to follow the avocation he was coming more and more to know would be forever his true one: to be a tramp, a harmless possessionless vagabond.
In any case, he was quite ripe to make the acquaintance of the league; it began with that of the lumber company, which at the moment was taking a leisurely bankruptcy. A lawyer had been appointed referee in the bankruptcy: a friend of the young man's family and older than he, yet who had taken a liking to the young man and so invited him to come along for the ride too.
His official capacity was that of interpreter, since he had a little French and the defuncting company had European connections.
But no interpreting was ever done, since the entourage did not go to Europe but moved instead into a single floor of a Memphis hotel, where all—including the interpreter—had the privilege of signing chits for food and theatre tickets and even the bootleg whisky Tennessee was in its dry mutation then which the bell-boys would produce, though not of course at the discreet and innocent-looking places clustered a few miles away just below the Mississippi state line, where roulette and dice and blackjack were available.
Then suddenly Mr. Sells Wales was in it, too, bringing the baseball league with him. The young man never did know what connection if any Mr.
Wales had with the bankruptcy, nor really bothered to wonder, let alone care to ask, not only because he had developed already that sense of noblesse oblige towards the avocation which he knew was his true one, which would have been reason enough, but because Mr. Wales himself was already a legend in the Delta. Owner of a plantation measured not in acres but in miles and reputedly sole owner of one of the league baseball teams or anyway most of its players, certainly of the catcher and the base-stealing short-stop and the.
Louis hotel in that costume late one night and demanded a room of a dinner-jacketed clerk, who looked once at the beard and the muddy boots but probably mostly at Mr. Wales' face and said they were filled up: whereupon Mr. Wales asked how much they wanted for the hotel and was told, superciliously, in tens of thousands, and—so told the legend—drew from his corduroy hip a wad of thousand-dollar bills sufficient to have bought the hotel half again at the price stated and told the clerk he wanted every room in the building vacated in ten minutes.
That one of course was apocryphal, but the young man himself saw this one: Mr. Wales and himself having a leisurely breakfast one noon in the Memphis hotel when Mr. Wales remembered suddenly that his private ball club was playing one of its most important games at a town about sixty miles away at three o'clock that afternoon and telephoned to the railroad station to have a special train ready for them in thirty minutes, which it was: an engine and a caboose: reaching Coahoma about three o'clock with a mile still to the ball park: a man there were no taxis at the station at that hour and few in Mississippi anywhere at that time sitting behind the wheel of a dingy though still sound Cadillac car, and Mr.
Wales said: "What do you want for it? Wales said. Wales said, opening the door. Wales said, then to the young man: "Jump in. Wales said, getting in too. Wales keeping the special train on call in the Memphis yards as twenty-five years earlier a city-dwelling millionaire might have hacked a carriage and pair to his instant nod, so that it seemed to the young man that he would barely get back to Memphis to rest before they would be rushing once more down the Delta to another baseball game.
When the young man, a youth of sixteen and seventeen then, was first accepted into that hunting club of which he in his hierarchal time would be Master, the hunting grounds, haunt of deer and bear and wild turkey, could be reached in a single day or night in a mule-drawn wagon.
For Quentin as well it is a matter of identity and consciousness of which he cannot be released and to which he cannot reconcile himself. It seems for the old lady as for the young man, the story of Sutpen is not one tale from the south but is the story of the Old South. In the subsequent retelling of this same story, alterations, objections, and refutations occur.
The last are pivotal in the re-conception of the word as a medium of communicating a full truth. The repeated wording of the story instead of engraving it as an unalterable memory makes of it a myth, a non-existent past that is not fixed but ceaselessly changing into different versions. The word, thus, digresses from delivering a truth into disguising, concealing or even inventing a whole one out of nothingness.
Hence, if history is a mere collection of words, so is the present. And if the past can hardly be articulated into a certain statement, the present, accordingly, becomes a mere rhetorical existence. A word of denial and defiance Absalom, Absalom! It can be taken as a father—son tragedy as much as it may stand for a communal elegy for a bygone Old South.
In a constellation of denials, the characters renounce, refuse, resist and repudiate what they cannot reconcile; thus identity, genealogy and even memory are subject to disaggregation.
Wording the ledgers of the past becomes an act of forceful revelation. Quentin refuses to accept the implication of his words as if caught by a sense of guilt for having set down in words things he should have kept to himself. For Faulkner, there seems to exist an intriguing interplay between silence, defiance, words and acceptance. For instance, Charles Bon and Henry Sutpen tend to prolong the dreadful and deadly confrontation through a carefully cloaked silence. They escape mentioning the unpleasant reality of which they are both aware.
Their insistence upon escaping reality comes in a turn-a-blind-eye sort of a way, as if not acknowledging the calamity through words makes them less prone to its consequences. What Absalom, Absalom! Consequently, in both worlds, the fictional and the real, words stimulate denial. Words are, as well, a way to express a strong defiance of social and cultural traditions.
The Futility of Communication Conversation does not necessarily mean genuine communication. Many of the characters in the novel, such as Mr.
Coldfield, Ellen and Judith, prefer a reclusive silence to uttering anything at all. Ironically, the silence is sometimes more eloquently expressive than utterances. They were so much alike that Hence, conversing in an audible language of syllables and stresses is rendered pointless. What seems to convey a meaningful message is instead wordlessness. Conclusion It seems while the word and the world do not always choose to reconcile into a compatibility of signified and signifier, the chasm in between—significant or not—is where communication occurs.
Language, voiced or voiceless, is sometimes all the proof that humans lived.
Writing about a history, a war, and a people, William Faulkner renders the particularities of a communal and individual experience into an evenly repeated tale. Both alternatives, however, meet at one point: that is, the inescapability of communication.
Win or lose, human beings need and ought to communicate just the same, the novel seems to suggest. As long as man is not finally and irrevocably silenced by some cataclysm, he will have to use words even if only as an elusive sign of life.
The relationship between language and the world is a paradoxical one. Such a paradox is most highlighted through literature. This, in its modernist phase, articulates a distrust, a defiance, a willingness to destruct, but also a hope to reconstruct the word—and transitively the world— anew. Faulkner and the great depression: aesthetics, ideology, and cultural politics. Athens: the University of Georgia Press. Bernd, A. In American critical archives: William Faulkner the contemporary reviews.
Thomas Inge Ed. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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London: Vintage. July On privacy: The American dream: What happened to It. Harper's Magazine, Hugh, H. Sewanee Review: — King, R.
A southern renaissance: the cultural awakening of the American south, — New York: Oxford University Press. Lockyer, J. Ordered by words: Language and narration in the novels of William Faulkner.
Mitchell, D. A disturbing and alien memory: Southern novelists writing history. Fred Hobson Ed. Porter, C.
Gone With the Wind and Absalom, Absalom! In A new literary history of America. Sollors Ed. Sapir, E. Language: An introduction to the study of speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace. Scott, A. The Faulknerian sentence. Prairie Schooner, 27 01 , pp.