Meaning Behind Yoknapatawpha


According to Georgia State University professor, Thomas L. McHaney, Yoknapatawpha “expresses Faulkner’s recurrent portrayal of the obscurely coded or hidden heritage of the past.” It “purifies the dialectical corruption of ‘Yocona’ and brings back the native peoples who name it.” Jefferson is the only town in Yoknapatawpha County and much of the land in the county is undeveloped. It is the point where the novels take place or they are thought upon in a different setting. “It is the place where Compsons, Burdens, and Priests center their lives; the place to which Sutpens, McCaslins, Sartorises, and the people of Frenchman’s Bend have direct access, and to which the Bundrens are happily forced to travel.” An entire quadrant of the county is empty and Faulkner did not bother to “identify any stories or characters originating there.”

When writing The Sound and the Fury, “he found there were connections between the Sartoris family and the Compsons, and from that point the county continued to grow” (McHaney). The “chronicle beginnings were tied to Jefferson, where Compson’s ‘mile’ forms one quarter of the town center and the Sartorises, whose bank and social life are in Jefferson, live just a few miles up the road” (McHaney). ”His town acquired novelistic form as he took up the houses of Sartoris and Compson, Bundren and Burden, Sutpen and McCaslin, Beauchamp and Edmonds, Snopes and Priest, and many more, works that derived not first from ‘Yoknapatawpha’ but from Jefferson, where Faulkner’s imagination was centered” (McHaney).

In Faulkner’s stories, Yoknapatawpha did not simply represent a geographical setting, but it represented a state of consciousness and a perspective on life.  Through this lense, Faulkner was able to delve into the tough issues that affected his real life hometown.  (Urgo)

Published on May 5, 2009 at 12:28 am  Leave a Comment  

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