Faulkner's verities : positive and negative illustrations in Yoknapatawpha.

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Christopher, Beverly
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Middle Tennessee State University
The fourteen novels that William Faulkner set in Yoknapatawpha County illustrate his belief in the eternal verities. The presence of these qualities enables man to endure and sometimes to prevail; their absence explains his failure to find life meaningful.
Chapter one examines Faulkner's beliefs and identifies Yoknapatawpha as the proving ground. The quality of love is the primary virtue; honor and pride are essential also. Possession of the virtues is not enough; they must be expressed in positive action. Closely related is the emphasis on the individual. Faulkner presents the spectrum of humanity; those possessing the virtues as well as those violating them are drawn with great diversity. In general, the order of composition is followed.
Chapter two focuses on Sartoris and The Sound and the Fury. Both treat decaying aristocratic families of Jefferson. Major characters rarely exhibit the verities, but Jason Compson provides a dramatic negative example .
Chapter three examines less prestigious groups. Low-class white family exhibits strong determination and endurance in As I Lay Dying. Sanctuary treats degeneracy and perversion; Ruby Lamar reveals active virtue. The protagonist of Light in August experiences alienation; his associates provide negative examples. Other characters reveal man's essential goodness.
Chapter four investigates codes that govern men's lives yet deny the sacredness of life. The protagonist of Absalom, Absalom! is totally lacking in the primary virtue. The protagonist of The Unvanquished realizes the hollowness of an inherited code.
Chapter five shows Faulkner's most sustained negative example, tracing the virtueless Flem Snopes from The Hamlet to The Town and finally to The Mansion.
Chapter six considers four novels with unlikely characters who endure and prevail. Go Down, Moses shows the secondary virtues dominating the primary virtue. Intruder in the Dust depicts an unusual trio performing daring, positive action. In Requiem for a Nun, a black prostitute exhibits sacrificial love. In The Reivers, a child experiences the virtues in an assumed negative environment and from questionable characters.
Chapter seven concludes that knowing Faulkner and understanding his affirmations can be accomplished by knowing the Yoknapatawapha characters.