Father-Son Relationships in William Faulkner’s Novels

Introduction

William Faulkner is a master craftsman in the history of novel tradition who spins the masterful artistic pieces by conjoining very similar parts of the whole tied together to form the strong webs in the form of novels that attract the readers to rule their fictional world with the magical strength of his powerful creative devices. Through the different novels, Faulkner can organize the world of his fiction with the most powerful strength of relations.

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It is through the relationships that are developed between the different and distinct characters and environments, which are on the other hand, related closely to each other, that Faulkner spins and creates beautiful pieces that adorn the art gallery of literature. An analysis of the relationship that is apparent in the novels The Sound and Fury and Absalom Absalom! proves this argument to be true. Whereas a close reading of the former novel makes clear that the relationship between Quentin and his father was sometimes a metaphor for how Quentin looked at and experienced customs, traditions, lifestyle, economic realities, etc in the south, the same attempt of the latter would maintain that a similar relationship is evident in the lives of the people in the south and their coexistence with each other.

The relationship between Quentin and his Father was familiar, loving (as clarified in the sale of the Benjy land to enable Quentin is going to Harvard), strained, and, occasionally, abusive (for instance, his father always put down Quentin’s sexuality). In the same manner, there is a strong relationship among the people living in the south and most remarkably, the southern culture which had a hierarchy did not affect this relation – whether it is master and slave, lower and upper class, or men and woman.

More specifically, Quentin’s Father had and would always have a hold on him in the same way the southern culture has or has had a hold on its people through social norms, traditions, and psychological/economic circumstances. In short, it can be maintained that Faulkner aligns Quentin’s development and customs of the south through the dialogues, images, settings, and characters.

Relationship between two novels

Before the text passages are exposed to prove the argument, let it be specifically noted that there is an important relationship between the two novels considered. “Like Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury is in part concerned with the elusiveness, the multivalence, of truth, or at least with man’s persistent and perhaps necessary tendency to make of truth a personal thing: each man, apprehending some fragment of the truth, seizes upon that fragment as though it were the whole truth and elaborates it into a total vision of the world, rigidly exclusive and hence utterly fallacious.” (The Composition of The Sound and the Fury, Michael Millgate) There is a vital similarity between the two works as we gather from the relationships involved in them and the hold of the superior one in the relationship over the inferior is easily identifiable.

Relationship between the father and son

In the case of the relationship between the father and son is very much evident in which the former has a stronghold over the latter in his perspective, concepts, thinking, and other activities. “In the South, you are ashamed of being a virgin. Boys. Men. They lie about it. Because it means less to women, Father said. He said it was men who invented virginity nor women.

Father said it’s like death: only a state in which the others are left and I said, But to believe it doesn’t matter and he said, That’s what’s so sad about anything: not only virginity and I said, Why couldn’t it have been me and not her who is unvirgin and he said, That’s why that’s sad too: nothing is even worth the changing of it, and Shreve said if he’s got better sense than to chase after the little dirty sluts and I said Did you ever have a sister? Did you? Did you?” (The Sound and Fury 78) Here, the hold of the father over the concepts and the thinking of the son are very clear. Another instance makes the point very clear. “And Father said it’s because you are a virgin: don’t you see? Women are never virgins. Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature.” (The Sound and Fury 116)

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The same hold of the superior in the relationship, i.e. the southern culture, over the inferior, i.e. the people irrespective of any kind of difference, that is evident in the novel Absalom Absalom! can be illustrated in the following passage. “a man who so far as anyone (including the father who was to give him a daughter in marriage) knew either had no past at all or did not dare reveal it- a man who rode into town out of nowhere with a horse and tow pistols and a herd of wild beasts that he had hunted down single handed because he was stronger in fear than even they were in whatever heathen place he had fled from, and that French architect who looked like he had been hunted down and caught in turn by the negroes- a man who fled her and hid, concealed himself behind respectability, ignorant Indians, nobody knows how, and a house the size the size of a courthouse where he lived for three years without a window or door or bedstead in it and still call it Sutpen’s Hundred as if it had been a King’s grant in unbroken perpetuity from his great grandfather- a home, position: a wife and family which, being necessary to concealment, he accepted along the rest of respectability as he would have accepted the necessary discomfort and even pain of the briers and thorns in a thicket if the thicket could have given him the protection he sought.” (Absalom Absalom! 10) In the following instance also this great hold of the culture over its individuals is very much clear. “No: not even a gentleman. Marrying Ellen or marrying ten thousand Ellen’s could not have made him one.” (Absalom Absalom! 11).

In the case of Quentin, we find that the father has a great influence on his character. The way of his thinking is very much affected by this influence and the symbols and dialogues in the novel have a similar influence on the relationship between the two. “Father said a man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you’d think misfortune would get tired Father said. A gull on an invisible wire attached through space dragged. You carry the symbol of your frustration into eternity.

Then the wings are bigger Father said only who can play the harp.” (The Sound and Fury 104) The sexuality of Quentin is very much controlled by his father and therefore, he develops thinking of the concept of woman in the way the father has formulated him. “Women do have an affinity for evil, for believing that no woman is to be trusted, but that some men are too innocent to protect themselves” (The Sound and Fury 105)

It is also remarkable that the following passage is analyzed from the point of view of the southern culture and the people there. “He had accomplished this- got his plantation to running smooth (he had an overseer now: it was the son of that same sheriff who attested him at his bride to be’s gate on the day of the betrothal) within ten years of the wedding, and now he acted his role too- a role of arrogant ease and leisure which, as had corrupted Ellen to more than renegades through like her unaware that his flowering was a forced blooming too and that while he was still [laying the scene to the audience, behind him fate, destiny, retribution, and irony – the stage manager, call him what you will was already striking the set and dragging on the synthetic and spurious shadows and shape of the next one.” (Absalom Absalom! 57)

To make some relevant observations based on the two novels, it may be maintained that Quentin was a young man about to grow up and blossom beyond his family and this is a theme that can easily be identified with any adolescent coming of age. Yet, we may also comprehend that he was trapped by the circumstance of his family, position, and expectations. The same can be established about the south.

From time to time adolescent passages present themselves in a community or region of the world. This is to mean that the character of the adolescent Quentin reminds one of the adolescent south, which did not behave like a mature region when the issues related to slavery and slave rights came up, and it behaved much more like a struggling child or adolescent trying to navigate painful growth when it was hit by hurricane Katrina.

Katrina put the south dead center with profound uncertain circumstances. The slavery traditions influence the circumstances of individuals of color in the south today. These circumstances were filled with life and death, tragedy and joys to corruption/theft to devoted love and compassion a legacy owned by the south. The journalism coverage captured these images on the news reports and articles written. In Faulkner’s writing, we learn about specific events that indicate that the south was young. (The attitude about women/virginity is an example)

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Conclusion

Therefore, in the ultimate conclusion of the paper, it may be maintained that the relationship between the father and the son in the novel The Sound and Fury and the relationship between the various people of the novel Absalom Absalom! illustrate the point that Faulkner establishes deep organization and unity among the various works to make the individual works form part of the entirety of his literary contribution. The role of the father in the former novel is played by the southern culture in the latter novel and the people living there exchange the role of Quentin. In this analysis, the specific nature of the works by Faulkner is very evident.

In Quentin’s life, we see him move through love, sadness, joy, compassion, devotion, crime, death, and the influence of his father. Quentin too was navigating through painful growth. In the same vigor, Faulkner also opened the eyes of the reader to the depth of southern cultural norms that shaped circumstances for the children or people of the south with its ever-parental presence filled with constraints, legacy, tradition, and economic realities. The personality of the south was a parent figure for all privileged and the underprivileged just as Quentin’s father’s voice prevailed in Quentin’s opinion of himself. Consequently, the two novels have a great contribution to make, in finding out a characteristic feature or trend in Faulkner’s fiction which is demonstrated through their characters, dialogues, and images.

References

Faulkner, William. The Sound and Fury-Vintage International 1990.

Faulkner, William. Absalom Absalom!– Vintage International 1990.

The Composition of The Sound and the Fury, Michael Millgate. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, August 27). Father-Son Relationships in William Faulkner’s Novels. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/father-son-relationships-in-william-faulkners-novels/

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"Father-Son Relationships in William Faulkner’s Novels." StudyCorgi, 27 Aug. 2021, studycorgi.com/father-son-relationships-in-william-faulkners-novels/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Father-Son Relationships in William Faulkner’s Novels." August 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/father-son-relationships-in-william-faulkners-novels/.


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StudyCorgi. "Father-Son Relationships in William Faulkner’s Novels." August 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/father-son-relationships-in-william-faulkners-novels/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Father-Son Relationships in William Faulkner’s Novels." August 27, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/father-son-relationships-in-william-faulkners-novels/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Father-Son Relationships in William Faulkner’s Novels'. 27 August.

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