Inspired bit of Faulkneria from our friends at McSweeney’s. Though obviously Vardaman gets a banana, not a shovel…
Hat-tip to Shannon for a link to Faulkner pronouncing the name of his “apocryphal county”:
As seen in all the books we’ve read in class this semester, family is an underlying theme for all the novels. Many, if not all of the problems that the characters face in Faulkner’s’ world comes from them being in a dysfunctional family. This case is especially strong in “Absalom, Absalom!” From the very beginning the audience is introduced to Rosa Coldfield, who begins to tell Quentin her history. Miss Rosa has been living in a shuttered world, where everything in the office she’s sitting in is the same as it had been 43 – years old. She’s been wearing black, as to mourn for some loss, for these 43 years. She’d been deeply and horribly affected by the actions of Sutpen and makes him out to be a villain. How is this family so dysfunctional? Thomas Sutpen is at first celebrated by Jefferson and then completely revered. Sutpen also bears another child (besides his two; Henry and Judith. Sutpen is tricked into his first marriage and the fact that his wife is of African descent is kept hidden for a while. Once he finds out he abandons his family and moves to Jefferson. However his son, Charles Bon doesn’t accept this and comes to Sutpen. Bon plans to marry Sutpens daughter, Judith who is also his half-sister. Thomas Sutpens’ son, Henry Sutpen kills his sister’s fiancé on the night of her wedding and disappears for a while. From the get go the Sutpen family is fully of issues unimaginable.
Joe Christmas’ race though ambiguous in the story of Light in August, by William Faulkner takes on a life of its own through gossip, labeling, and stereotyping, by the white community in Mississippi. Faulkner described Christmas’ skin as “parchment paper texture” a dead tainted pale pigment, not quite white, not quite black. However, this society rejected him based upon those assumptions. During a conversation with Joanna, she asks, “you don’t have any idea who your parents were?” If she could have seen his face she would have found it sullen , brooding. “Except that one of them was part nigger . Like i told you before.” Then Christmas answers, “If i’m not, damned if i haven’t wasted a lot of time” (254). Christmas’ answer revealed that he tried over the years to please and blend in with a society that tolerated him, or to rebel against a society that rejected him. At times he embraced whiteness as he lived with hi adopted family and slept with white women. And there were other times that Christmas raged against whiteness as he struggles to fit in and ignore the stares and murmurs as the ‘nigger’ enters the room. Had he been truly aware of his racial background, Christmas’ life’s experience would have been a lot different as he would have lived as his true race instead of trying to fit wherever possible.
In an excerpt from Black Skin, White Mask, Frantz Fanon writes, “Without a Negro past, without a Negro future, it was impossible for me to live my Negrohood. Not yet white, no longer wholly black, i was damned”…”I defined myself as an absolute intensity of beginning” (138).
Early in the first season of “Chappelle’s Show,” dave Chappelle plays the role of a Black and blind white supremacist named Clayton Bigsby. Deemed too important a spokesperson to be compromised, none of his Aryan Brotherhood retinue has the heart to reveal the contradiction to the sequestered Bigsby, who agrees to do his first public interview with predictably comic results. While played for laughs, the episode is also s vertiginous study of racial identities unmoored from the false assurances of phenotype, one with layered and contradicting performances of racial expectations. At one point, Bigsby pulls up next to a carful of suburban white teenagers wearing ski caps and listening to rap. Their eager appropriation of the sign of African American masculinity is registered by Chappelle’s character , who, unable to see their faces , yells at them”turn that music down …you niggers make me sick!” This prompts unbridled joy among the assembled whites : “Did he just call us niggers? Awesome!” Their patent desire for African American authenticity is thus validated by a black character unaware of his own race, as voiced by a black actor playing the role of an ersatz white man who insistently asserts his Caucasian ancestry.
Race and White Identity in Southern Fiction: From Faulkner to Morrison, By
John Duvall. New york: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 194 pp.
Fanon, Franz. Black Skin, White Mask. African American Narratives. Course Package.
Faulkner, William. Light in August. Vintage International Edition, 1990
William Faulkner’s The Bear seems to be a coming of age story for a little boy as he and his uncle and other older men embark on their hunting trip over the years. The boy as he is referred to matures in age and craft as he refines his skill of technique and marksmanship of hunting. As the years go by the hunters and the hunted develop a sort of cat and mouse game as the Bear becomes visible and is first chased by the dogs then the men, he always seems to out run both men and dogs, but sometimes comes into close enough contact with the dogs as he injures them and manages to escape. Sam Father’s thought the boy techniques on waiting, loading, aiming, and firing his gun to catch the bear. Of this process Faulkner writes, “He entered his novitiate to the true wilderness with Sam besides him as he had begun his apprenticeship in miniature to manhood after the rabbits and such with Sam besides him” (185). Each November, the men pack their gear and head to the wilderness, where for two weeks the bear becomes their target of obsession, an obsession that becomes frustrated seen that the bear injures and evades all the dogs to the point where a new wild dog ‘Lion’ has to be trained and tamed to be around humans and become the ultimate weapon to hunt the Bear.
It seems as though the boy’s maturation and the gaining and taming of the lion must occur concurrently as they are to become the symbols of the capture or shooting or hunting of the bear. Sam Father’s seems to be passing along the legacy of hunting as he and the other men are at retirement age -so to speak-. He trains both the boy and the lion are they are to become partners in keeping the tradition alive.
Blog Post: On a personal level, though I’m sure every reader of “Sound and Fury” may agree, it was almost impossible to keep up with the plot and the characters at a first glance of the novel. As discussed in class, time is an integral theme of “Sound and Fury”. The story is told from different perspectives, all with an altered sense of time. The first is by Benjy, who is a 30 year old trapped in the mind of a 3 year old. His order of time has more to do with his sense than with an actual clock. His memories are triggered more often than not by the memories and smells attached to his sister, Caddy Compson. Quentin, Benjys’ brother is trapped by this idea of what time is. When he’s at Harvard, he is still traumatized by the actions of his sister Caddy. He can’t move on from the past. He finally loses his mind by obsessing on his past on how much time hasn’t changed and commits suicide. Not before visiting a pawnshop to get his broken watch fixed. The entire scene is Quentin being engulfed in this idea of his past memories and is obsessed with his Grandfathers watch, a symbol of how time doesn’t change. “I give it to you not that you may remember time, but you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it” (SAF 76). Jason on the other hand finds the idea of time to be useless. For him time, like everything else is something that can’t be wasted if it is for his need. He still can’t get over the past and forgive his sister for ruining his chances at a decent job, which is why his time is wasted away at a meaningless job both at work and at home taking care of his frail mother and Quentin, Caddys’ daughter.
Joe Christmas is quite an interesting character, from the beginning of the novel when he is first introduced to the very end. Throughout “A light in August” he maintains this allure of isolation that is built upon his lifelong struggle dealing with his personal identity. Joe Christmas’ first act of this loneliness begins at early childhood. In this scene, he’s a young boy living in an orphanage, and is stealing and eating toothpaste hidden away in a room. Joe manages to hide when the dietician from the orphanage comes into the room with a man named Charley, and they began have sex, as seen from Joe Christmas’ perspective could be seen as nonconsensual; “No! No! Not her. Not now. They’ll catch us. Somebody will – No, Charley please…it had a ruthless sound, as the voices of all men did to him yet, since he was too young yet to escape from the world of women for that brief respite before he escaped back into it to remain until the hour of his death” (LIA 121). He’s soon caught and is beaten by the man, and this scene can be seen as pivotal in Joe Christmas seeking isolation in any connection to a sexual activity. Frequently, if not always after he’s intimate with a woman, whether she be white or black, he’d confess, or more so blatantly say, that he is black (if he was with a white woman, or white if he was with a black woman). He was used to this idea of rejection when it came to him disclosing his identity. He himself was unsettled and couldn’t understand his own identity. Because the fact of dealing with his own mixed identity was often too overwhelming for Joe Christmas, he relied on being rejected by others he was physically intimate with. Joe’s only exception to this rule of isolation is seen in his relationship with Miss. Burden, who doesn’t seem to have any issues with Joe being of a mixed race.