The Importance of Family Tradition in the Film, William Faulkner: A Life on Paper

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The Importance of Family Tradition in the Film, William Faulkner: A Life on Paper William Faulkner’s life was defined by his inability to conduct himself as a true Southern gentleman. He never achieved affluence, strength, chivalry or honor. Therefore, the myth of Southern masculinity eluded him. Faulkner shied away from violence, he never proved himself in battle. He was not a hard worker, nor was he an excellent family man. Seemingly worst of all, he did not follow in the footsteps of his father and the “Old Colonel.” The code of Southern gentility highly praises family tradition. As a born and bred Southerner I can attest to this fact. Every man in my family for ten generations has been a plumber. It is the utmost honor for a man to follow his father’s example. Faulkner, unfortunately, was incapable of really living like his father. Therefore, I believe Faulkner’s collective failures are rooted in the fact that he could not live up to the standards set by the men in his family. Faulkner’s father and great grandfather could be described as the embodiment of Southern masculinity. The video “A Life on Paper” made it clear that the Faulkner men were “manly men.” The “Old Colonel” was remembered as a valiant war hero and a wonderful storyteller. William’s father continued perfectly in his footsteps. He had an intense work ethic and he served in the military. He provided for his family and he never turned down a good fight. Together they set the mold for the perfect Southern man, a role that William could never hope to fulfill. William did, however, possess the unquenchable pride of a Southern man. He recognized the importance of proving himself to his father. So he spent his time emulating the man he admired. He tried to construct a normal family life but he was self- centered and irresponsible. His lack of steady income prevented him from being a provider like his father. Perhaps worst of all, Faulkner missed an important rite of passage by being denied war experience. The writer never actively participated in battle, so he constructed an elaborate web of lies and vivid stories. This event highlights Faulkner’s own intense determination to reach the Southern ideal. Since he couldn’t really be a war hero, he fabricated himself into one. This struggle proved extremely difficult for Faulkner. Upon reading Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, I drew a parallel between Drusilla’s commentary on life and Faulkner’s own pursuit of masculinity (100).

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