Yoknapatawpha: Forgettable City

The author of the Snopes trilogy was born in 1897 into a so-
ciety rich with memories and myths of the Old South, the Civil War, the
bitterness of the Reconstruction Era. He left high school without fin-
ishing, worked at odd jobs, tried to enlist in the Army Air Corps but
was rejected as being too small, joined the Canadian Air Force and was
discharged at the end of the war without having seen combat. He at-
tended the University of Mississippi, did poorly in English and dropped
out after one year. He came under the influence of Phil Stone, a man
four years older than Faulkner, who introduced him to the world of lit-
erature. These two spent many hours discussing culture, criticism,
their Southern heritage, and the future of the South. With a subsidy
from Stone, Faulkner published in 1924 a book of poems: The Marble
Faun. The book received little notice.Later that year, Faulkner went to live in Hew Orleans and came
under the influence of a group of literary young men led by the estab-
lished Sherwood Anderson. Anderson’s wife had been Faulkner’s superior
when he had sold books briefly in Lord and Taylor’s book department inNew York. The influence of Anderson upon Faulkner was important. It
came at a crucial time in Faulkner’s life, when the potential author
was vacillating— searching for a medium to express his creative bent.
With Anderson and the others, Faulkner read, talked, drank, brooded
about the South and literature and the inherent meaning in the South’s
decline. From this period in. his life came two novels: Soldier’s Pay
(1926) and Mosquitoes (1927). Anderson had encouraged Faulkner to
switch to fiction, and legend relates that Soldier’s Pay was published
through Anderson’s intervention. Neither of the novels sold well, and
Faulkner returned to Oxford, married a childhood sweetheart, got a job
in the city power plant, and published his third novel: Sartoris (1929)°With the emergence of Sartoris the Yoknapatawpha cycle had be-
gun; the artist had found his medium. , In rapid succession followed:
The Sound and the Fury (1929)1 As I Lay,Dying (1930); Sanctuary (1931);
a collection of short stories. These Thirteen (l93l)j and Light in
August (1932). In the next thirty-three years twenty-six more volumes
were published. His last published work, The-Reivers, is on most best-
seller lists at the time of this writing. His death on July 6, 1962,
terminated a career which found him universally acclaimed as one of the
greatest writers of our times. A definitive study of his work remains
as a task for future scholarship. Such a study will indeed be rewarding
to those who undertake it.

Faulkner’s life and writing must be seen in the light of his
environment to be understood more completely. Ward L. Miner has per-
ceptively described and analyzed the area of Oxford, Mississippi:

…a quiet, almost somnolent town..„.One of the first things
that a visitor notices is the cleanliness….The second.==
impression is that of decay— ultra-respectable and genteel,
hut still decay….Like the land, the people in the community
have been gullied by a spiritual decay, though covered over
with a veneer of respectability. Families once bold and
vigorous are now spectators rather than participating actors.3
This is the town where he played soldier as a boy, directed in
his games by living veterans of the Civil War. This is the town where
the courthouse lends its high-blown language to the chicanery of trial
and strategy. This is the town where the farmers congregate on Satur-
days, where men squat against buildings and converse away the long sum-
mer afternoons. Here the fruit jar of com liquor passes from hand to
hand as attempts are made to top the previously-told tall tale of the
land and the wilderness and the glorious “used to be.” All of this must
have impressed itself deeply on young William Faulkner as he pondered
the tide of events that brought about the downfall of his own family,
and Oxford, and the South, from the romantic era of the past.
Faulkner’s roots are here. From this Mississippi which he
loved and for which he lamented, he has created a mythical county,
Yoknapatawpha. The Indian word was “Yocona” plus “petopha” which meant
“split land.The early record of Lafayette County lists the Yocona
River as the “Yocanapatafa River.This land of Faulkner’s imagination
is rich and fertile and almost over-ripening under the Southern sun; aland of “black earth and dense forests and rotting swamps; a land where
hears still stalk the forest1s gloom, rattlers still slide along oozing
hanks- But this is also a land of dry, drought-cracked, barren clay
producing stunted crops under the merciless sky. Here is a cotton
economy where wealth accrues to those who possess the rich land and
can huy the needed fertilizer and tools. But most of the farmers
scratch a marginal living from their tiny, overworked plot of soil
which is their enemy, with which they wage a futile struggle, and
toward which they are inevitably drawn. The county seat is Jefferson.
Oxford is its model; the people of Mississippi are its inhabitants.
Twenty miles southeast of Jefferson lies the village of Frenchman’s
Bend.

Learn more about william Faulkner and his Forgettable City.

Published by Lucky Saxena

I am lucky saxena. Post Graduate student. Trying to fill some enthusiasm in everyone and provide UGC NET PGT TGT English literature Free Notes to everyone who can not reach to money oriented website or coaching. Try to spread kindness, knowledge and love through my blog.

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