The Life and Writing of William Faulkner

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The birth of the modernist movement in American literature was the result of the post-World War I social breakdown. Writers adopted a disjointed fragmented style of writing that rebelled against traditional literature. One such writer is William Faulkner, whose individual style is characterized by his use of “stream of consciousness” and writing from multiple points of view.

World War I had a more profound effect on society than wars prior. With new deadly weapons, like poison gas, high death tolls, and the first occurrence of total war, shocked the world, tearing people between the modern and the tradition. Traditional society was torn down by the destruction of the war. As with most literary movements, writers reflect the world through their writing. And while America wasn’t quite as affected by war as Europe was, the modernist movement still made its way to American literature through European influences. Modernism made its way to American through American writers living in Europe, they were also known as expatriates. Writers like Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway were considered the “high” modernists. These writers, who lived in Europe because of military service or other reasons, saw the direct aftermath of the war, and used different writing techniques to rebel against traditional society, since society had become all but traditional. They began using techniques like fragmented sentences, symbols and images instead of lengthy metaphors to present bigger ideas. The idea of “black and white” distinctions between ideas like good and evil no longer existed; everything was up to the individual’s reasoning for the answer. The style of these expatriates trickled into America, where modernist writer W...

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...ting. Faulkner also wrote from multiple points of view. As mentioned before, in As I Lay Dying, the novel is told from the point of view of fifteen characters. Hemingway, to use him as a contrast again, wrote from one point of view. This gives the reader an inside look at the psychology of multiple characters, and shows the reader how they all deal with death, like in As I Lay Dying, differently .

Though not an expatriate writer, or even a writer who served overseas, Faulkner is one of the quintessential modernist writers. It’s not his subject matter that makes him a modernist, as he didn’t write about war or the 1920’s (like Hemingway and Fizgerald), but it was his style of writing that makes him a modernist writer. The disjointed fragmented stories that jump through time and space are of the style that makes him stand out as an American modernist author .

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