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The Nobel Prize winning American Writer, William Faulkner, is considered to be one of the most important writers of American southern literature. He wrote works of psychological drama and emotional depth, typically using long serpentine prose and with high, meticulously-chosen diction.
See the fact file below for more information on the William Faulkner or alternatively, you can download our 28-page William Faulkner worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- William Cuthbert Falkner was born in the small town of New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897. His parents, Murry Falkner and Maud Butler Falkner, named him after his great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner, an adventurous and shrewd man who seven years prior was shot dead in the town square of Ripley, Mississippi.
- Throughout his life, William Clark Falkner worked as a railroad financier, politician, soldier, farmer, businessman, lawyer and—in his twilight years—best-selling author of The White Rose of Memphis.
- The younger William held tightly to his great-grandfather’s legacy, writing about him in his earliest novels set in the American South.
- As much as the older men in Falkner’s family made an impression on him, so did the women. Falkner’s mother and grandmother were voracious readers, as well as fine painters and photographers, and they taught him the beauty of line and color.
- Falkner’s “mammy,” as he called her, was a black woman named Caroline Barr. She raised him from birth until the day he left home and was fundamental to his development. Falkner points to Barr as the impetus for his fascination with the politics of sexuality and race.
- As a teenager, Falkner was taken by drawing. He also greatly enjoyed reading and writing poetry. In fact, by the age of 12, he began intentionally mimicking Scottish and English romantics.
- However, despite his remarkable intelligence, or perhaps because of it, school bored him and he never earned a high school diploma. After dropping out, Falkner worked in carpentry and sporadically as a clerk at his grandfather’s bank.
- Falkner met and was easily drawn to a new mentor, Phil Stone, a local attorney who was impressed by his poetry. Stone invited Falkner to move and live with him in New Haven, Connecticut.
- There, Stone nurtured Falkner’s passion for writing. While delving into prose, Falkner worked at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, a distinguished rifle manufacturer.
- Lured by the war in Europe, he joined the British Royal Flying Corps in 1918 and trained as a pilot in the first Royal Canadian Air Force. He had earlier tried to enlist in the U.S. Forces, but was rejected due to his height.
- To enlist in the Royal Air Force, he lied about several facts, changing his birthplace and surname to ‘Faulkner’ to appear more British. He trained on British and Canadian bases, and finished his time in Toronto just before the war ended.
- A man of skilled exaggeration, Faulkner embellished his experiences and sometimes completely fabricated war stories for his friends back home.
- By 1919, Faulkner had enrolled at the University of Mississippi, where he wrote for the student newspaper, The Mississippian, submitting his first published poem and other short works.
- However, after three semesters as an entirely inattentive student, he dropped out. He worked briefly in New York City as a bookseller’s assistant and for two years as the postmaster for the university, and spent a short stint as the scoutmaster for a local troop.
- In 1924, Phil Stone escorted a collection of Faulkner’s poetry, The Marble Faun, to a publisher. Shortly after its 1,000-copy run, Faulkner moved to New Orleans. While there, he published several essays for The Double Dealer, a local magazine that served to unite and nurture the city’s literary crowd.
- In 1926, Faulkner succeeded in having his first novel published, Soldiers’ Pay. As soon as it had been accepted for print in 1925, he sailed from New Orleans to Europe to live for a few months at Le Grand Hôtel des Principautés Unies in Paris. During his stay, he wrote about the Luxembourg Gardens that were a short walk from his apartment.
Writing About Home
- Back in Louisiana, American writer Sherwood Anderson, who had become a friend, gave Faulkner some advice: He told the young author to write about his native region of Mississippi—a place that Faulkner surely knew better than northern France.
- Inspired by the concept, Faulkner began writing about the places and people of his childhood, developing a great many colorful characters based on real people he had grown up with or heard about, including his great-grandfather.
- For his famous 1929 novel, The Sound and the Fury, he developed the fictional Yoknapatawpha County—a place nearly identical to Lafayette County, in which Oxford, Mississippi, is located. A year later, in 1930, Faulkner released As I Lay Dying.
- Faulkner became known for his faithful and accurate dictation of Southern speech. He also boldly illuminated social issues that many American writers left in the dark, including slavery, the “good old boys” club, and Southern aristocracy.
- In 1931, after much deliberation, Faulkner decided to publish Sanctuary, a story that focused on the rape and kidnapping of a young woman at Ole Miss. It shocked and appalled some readers, but it was a commercial success and a critical breakthrough for his career.
- Years later, in 1950, he published a sequel that was a mix of conventional prose and play forms, Requiem for a Nun.
- Faulkner’s next novel, Light in August (1932), tells the story of Yoknapatawpha County outcasts. Time magazine listed it—along with The Sound and the Fury—as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
- After publishing several notable books, Faulkner turned to screenwriting. Starting with a six-week contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he co-wrote 1933’s Today We Live, starring Joan Crawford and Gary Cooper.
- After Faulkner’s father died, and in need of money, he decided to sell the rights to film Sanctuary, later titled The Story of Temple Drake (1933).
- Between 1932 and 1945, Faulkner traveled to Hollywood a dozen times to toil as a scriptwriter and contributed to or wrote countless films. Uninspired by the task, however, he did it purely for financial gain.
- During this period, Faulkner also published several novels, including the epic family saga Absalom, Absalom! (1936), the satirical The Hamlet (1940), and Go Down, Moses (1942).
- In 1946, Malcolm Cowley published The Portable Faulkner and interest in Faulkner’s work was revived. Two years later, Faulkner published Intruder in the Dust, the tale of a black man falsely accused of murder. He was able to sell the film rights to MGM for $50,000.
- One of Faulkner’s greatest professional moments came when he was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, receiving the award the following year.
- The committee deemed him one of the most important writers of American letters. This attention brought him more awards, including the 1951 National Book Award for The Collected Stories of William Faulkner, Legion of Honor in New Orleans, the 1955 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and the National Book Award for his novel A Fable, set in France during WWI.
- Faulkner met Estelle Oldham when he was working for his grandfather. At the time of their meeting, she was both popular and exceedingly effervescent and immediately stole his heart.
- The two dated for a while, but another man, named Major Cornell Franklin, proposed to her before Faulkner did. Estelle took the proposal lightheartedly, partly because Franklin was leaving soon to report for duty.
- Estelle hoped it would dissolve naturally, but several months later, he mailed her an engagement ring. Estelle’s parents bade her to accept the offer, as Franklin was a law graduate of the University of Mississippi and came from a family of high repute.
- Between the publishing of The Sound and the Fury and Sanctuary, Estelle divorced Cornell Franklin. Still deeply in love with her, Faulkner proposed, and the two were married within six months.
- Estelle became pregnant, and in January, 1931, she gave birth to a daughter they named Alabama. Tragically, Alabama lived for just over a week. In 1933, Estelle gave birth to Jill, the couple’s only surviving child.
Death and Legacy
- In January, 1961, Faulkner willed all his major manuscripts and many of his personal papers to the William Faulkner Foundation at the University of Virginia.
- On July 6, 1962, William Faulkner died of a heart attack. He was posthumously awarded his second Pulitzer in 1963 for The Reivers.
- Faulkner created an impressive literary legacy and remains a revered writer of the rural American South, having expertly captured the immense complexities of both the region’s beauty and its dark past.
William Faulkner Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about William Faulkner across 28 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use William Faulkner worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Nobel Prize winning American Writer, William Faulkner, who is considered to be one of the most important writers of American southern literature. He wrote works of psychological drama and emotional depth, typically using long serpentine prose and with high, meticulously-chosen diction.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Library Hunt
- Judge by the Cover
- Books from the South
- William’s Words
- Next Gen
- Town Tales
- Pages and Screens
- You’ve Got Mail
- Banned Classics
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Use With Any Curriculum
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