William Faulkner Biography

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The Sound and the Fury Author/Context

Born William Cuthbert Falkner, the famous Southern author was born September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi, and raised in Oxford by a well-to-do family, who would have two more sons after William. An intellectually gifted child, school bored him. He never finished high school. After leaving school, he earned money taking a few odd jobs around Oxford. Falkner wanted to enlist in the English Royal Air Force (RAF), and applied under false pretenses. He told the enlistment officer that his last name was spelled "Faulkner," and that he was in fact from England. He successfully enrolled as a cadet in the Academy one year after he left high school in Mississippi. His classmates in Toronto (where he was assigned to study military aeronautics) recalled his quick wit, and were also under the impression that William had attended Yale.

During this time, he wrote poetry and sketched in his notebook. That same year, 1918, his brother had been badly injured across the ocean in World War One, and was scheduled to return home shortly. In December of 1918, the RAF honorably discharged Faulkner, for he was no longer needed there. He returned home to Oxford, and was later known to wear his uniform, appropriate only for special military ceremonies, casually around the town. At home, he enrolled at the University of Mississippi as a special student, and one year later, 1920, he dropped out. While working in many different fields for a few years, he published his first book, The Marble Faun, a collection of poems, in 1924. While he wrote serious fiction until his death in 1962, he made his money by writing screenplays for Hollywood movies, which he did not much enjoy.

Posthumously, Faulkner is known for his novels and short stories about the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi--probably modeled after his own hometown of Oxford. In the same works, he chronicled the personal and familial histories of residents of this county, particularly, members of the Snopes family. In literary circles, Faulkner is best known for his stream-of-consciousness writing style. His books often contain more than one narrator, whose narration frequently jumps around time and place. Besides The Sound and the Fury, some of Faulkner's most important works include (in chronological order): As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, A Fable, and The Reivers. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, and received two Pulitzer Prizes, for A Fable and The Reivers.


Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. Random House: New York, 1984.

Faulkner, William C. The Sound and the Fury: the corrected text. Vintage Books: New York, 1987, c. 1984.

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