Faulkner’s Mid – Life

William Falkner attended Oxford High School in north central Mississippi. He was quarterback on the football team, a position which caused him to break his nose. While in high school, Falkner also met a person who will mold his future. Estelle Oldham and Falkner dated through out his high school career. Estelle was still seeing other boys while seeing Falkner and when one of those boys proposed to her, Estelle accepted, thinking that his request was insincere. The boy, Cornell Franklin, was in fact very sincere on his request and when she received an engagement ring, Estelle’s parents thought it would be an excellent idea and that he would make an excellent husband. After Estelle’s engagement, Falkner dropped out and worked at his grandfather’s bank for a short period of time.

After leaving his grandfather’s bank, Falkner changed his last name, adding a U. There are many differing reports about when and why Falkner changed his name, the ones most reported being that an error on the title page of Falkner’s first book and Falkner felt no need to correct it and instead just adopted the name with the U and according to Falkner’s brother John in his novel My Brother Bill, it is stated that the family’s surname used to be Faulkner but in an attempt to distance himself from his father, Falkner’s father changed his last name, dropping the U. When Falkner started writing he adopted the original surname back.

Faulkner tried to enlist in the army, but was rejected because he fell short of the height requirement. Faulkner then went to Canada and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and started training in Toronto. He did not get to fight in any battles though, as the war ended before he finished his training.

After the wars end, he returned to Mississippi and went to the University of Mississippi to study literature. While at the University of Mississippi, Faulkner contributed to the university’s humor magazine titled The Scream. Faulkner contributed both poems and comics to the magazine. Faulkner decided to leave the University of Mississippi in 1920 and moved to New York City. Faulkner drifted around New York City for a very short time period before returning to Oxford. While living back in Oxford, Faulkner found work at the University of Mississippi as a postmaster for the college. Faulkner was terminated from his postmaster position for reading on the job and moved to New Orleans. In New Orleans he found much inspiration which can be found in some of his later works. He also befriended writer Sherwood Anderson who encouraged Faulkner to stop writing poetry and start writing fiction.

Faulkner published his first novel of poems in 1924 titled The Marble Faun. It was not a success and Faulkner decided to travel to Paris to see if he could find more inspiration. In 1926 he published Soldier’s Pay and Mosquitoes, the latter of which is directly influenced by Faulkner’s time in New Orleans. Faulkner had still not gained much recognition after these three novels and in 1929, he started his first of fifteen books set in Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner released Sartoris in 1929 to very little critical acclaim. Even though Sartoris was not a success, 1929 was an excellent year for Faulkner. Later in 1929, Faulkner wrote and published The Sound and the Fury. This novel was Faulkner’s vehicle to critical recognition. Also in 1929, he married his love from his childhood, Estelle. Estelle divorced her husband in order to be with Faulkner. Faulkner purchased a house in Oxford which he named Rowan Oak.

Faulkner worked nights at an electrical power plant in order to support his new family. It was at the power plant that Faulkner penned his next novel, As I Lay Dying, which was published in 1930. As I Lay Dying coupled with The Sound and the Fury really pushed Faulkner into the public eye and made publishing his following novels much easier for him. In 1933, Faulkner and Estelle had their first child, a daughter named Jill. After the birth of his daughter, Faulkner tried to stay at home as much as he possibly could to spend time with his now growing family. Faulkner went to the movie industry to be a screenwriter for Hollywood when his family’s finances became tight. He spent the next twenty years writing screen plays from Hollywood, but his writing did not get pushed to the wayside. Faulkner published Pylon in 1934 and The Wild Palms in 1939. In 1945 Faulkner started writing scripts for director Howard Hawks. After a first meeting, Hawks and Faulkner developed a life long bond over drinking and discussions about Faulkner’s writing.

Published on May 5, 2009 at 1:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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