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William Faulkner's "Uncle Willy"

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William Faulkner's "Uncle Willy"


"I know what they said. They said I didn't run away from home but that I was tolled away by a crazy man, who, if I hadn't killed him first, would have killed me inside another week. But if they had said that the women, the good women in Jefferson had driven Uncle Willy out of town and I followed him and did what I did because I knew that Uncle Willy was on his last go-round and this time when they got him again it would be for good and forever, they would have been right. Because I wasn't tolled away and Uncle Willy wasn't crazy, not even afterall they had done to him. I didn't have to go; I didn't have to go anymore than Uncle Willy had to invite me instead of just taking it for granted that I wanted to come. I went because Uncle Willy was the finest man I ever knew, because even women couldn't beat him, because in spite of them he wound up his life getting fun out of being alive and he died doing the thing that was most fun of all because I was there to help him. And that's something that most men and even most women don't get to do, not even the women that call meddling with other folks' lives fun."

These lines vividly open William Faulkner's "Uncle Willy," a short story which is an ironic take on the well-known phrase "Carpe Diem." This paragraph opens the story by telling its conclusion and glossing over a number of facts, which will later become integral parts of the story's theme. The story, narrated by a fourteen-year-old boy, tells of a clever man named Uncle Willy who outsmarts the people in the small town of Jefferson. Although Faulkner's story is at times dramatic, its ironic theme and jabs at Southern life serve to make it incredibly humorous.

As in many Southern...


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..., yet it also describes the story's conclusion. The subtle hints about the people and mindset of the town are also important in illustrating the theme. Faulkner seems to be characterizing Southern life and also poking fun at it. By highlighting gossip, religion, feelings of family, and the obvious definition of the way Jefferson feels life should be, Faulkner makes the point that this lifestyle cannot be altered or toyed with. Uncle Willy did not conform or fit into the confines of the town's way of life and the narrator realizes that no one will understand him or what he did. By having Uncle Willy "seize the day" and die "doing the thing that was most fun of all," Faulkner seems to poke fun at the obvious labels and characterizations of Southern culture and suggests that people follow these obvious traditions. Otherwise, someone will always be there to "save" them.


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