As I Lay Dying Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


As I Lay Dying: Biography: William Faulkner

Average Overall Rating: 5
Total Votes: 137

Acclaimed throughout the world as one of the twentieth century's greatest writers, William Faulkner was born into an old Southern upper-class family as William Falkner on September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi. He was the first of the four sons born to Murry and Maud Butler Falkner. The family moved while he was still a child to Oxford, in central Mississippi. Here he played football for Oxford High School.

Since he was turned down to serve in the United States Army because he was too short-he was 5'6"-Faulkner was forced to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and the RAF (Royal Air Force) during World War I. Scholars speculate that the change in his name from Falkner to the more British Faulkner occurred at this point. After the war, despite the fact that he never graduated from high school, Faulkner attended the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi.

Faulkner takes racial prejudice and the decay of the South, which is very apparent in As I Lay Dying, as the primary themes in most of his work. He wrote his first novel, Soldier's Pay, while living in New Orleans, followed by the enormously popular The Sound and the Fury in 1929. During the 1930's, a decade in which he was very prolific, he produced the literary works, As I Lay Dying (1930), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and The Unvanquished (1938) in addition to his 1932 short story collection that includes the well-known "A Rose for Emily," and "Barn Burning."

Mississippi, a highly complex multicultural geographical region, greatly influenced Faulkner's life and work, and with the exception of temporary jobs in New York and New Orleans in his youth, a short stint in Hollywood as a script writer, and a trip or two to Europe and Asia in later life, Faulkner remained close to his familial Mississippi roots.

The fictional Yoknapatawpha County, which is based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, is the geographical region, his "postage stamp," as he called it, in which Faulkner placed most of his fiction. And some of his fictional characters move from one novel to another. For instance, in As I Lay Dying, Jewel is forced to sell his horse to a member of the despicable Snopes family who appear in other Faulkner novels, including The Hamlet (1940).

Faulkner also published two poetry collections titled The Marble Faun (1924) and A Green Bough (1933) but as a poet, Faulkner didn't fare nearly as well.

In June of 1929, Faulkner finally married his first sweetheart, the recently divorced Estelle Oldham Franklin.

Faulkner worked nights at the Oxford Power Plant and it is here that he wrote As I Lay Dying, he claims, in six weeks without ever making a change. Shortly after, he purchased Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, where he was to make his home for the rest of his life. He and Estelle had one surviving daughter named Jill.

Numbered among Faulkner's awards are the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for A Fable, two National Book Awards for his Collected Stories (1951) and A Fable and the 1950 Noble Prize for literature, the prize money of which Faulkner donated to a fund for new fiction writers. This ultimately became the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Each year, Faulkner lived for a few weeks as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia until his death in 1962.

Faulkner's style remains highly regarded for its use of long involved sentences, multiple points of view, clear-cut, well-defined diction, out of time sequences, and especially for his use of the Modernist stream of consciousness technique.


Quotes: Search by Author