Critical Essays Faulkner's Style


Faulkner's style in this novel is not the typical Faulknerian style. Usually, his style has a complexity and an involved sentence structure. But essentially, he uses a more straightforward narrative style here. But the main stylistic achievement lies in Faulkner's ability to capture the essential qualities of his characters through his style. He changes or modulates his style according to the character of subject matter about which he is writing.

Thus, the chapters handling Lena Grove are presented in the simplest prose and in rather straightforward narration. This type of style blends with Lena's personality, since she is seen as an uncomplex person with one single aim. Faulkner employs a lot of dialect in narrating Lena's section and this use of dialect seems to capture the earthy nature of Lena Grove.

But with Hightower the style varies. There is no use of dialect in the Hightower sections. Instead, in these chapters handling the Hightower narration and episodes, the style is the most complex, and by Chapter 20, in which Hightower examines his past life, the style changes to one of severe complexity and difficulty. This is because Hightower is going into a complex and difficult re-examination of his past life.

With Hightower, Faulkner also uses the technique of the "stream-of-consciousness." This is a technique whereby the author writes as though he is inside the mind of the characters. Since the ordinary person's mind jumps from one event to another, stream-of-consciousness tries to capture this phenomenon. Thus Hightower, in re-examining his past life, juxtaposes many events of the past into one timeless collection of events, and in his mind removes all time barriers so as to see his life in one clear moment. This is a difficult task and Faulkner employed a rather difficult and complex style in order to convey this difficulty.

With Joe Christmas, Faulkner again varied his style. In some of the transitional passages where Joe is in the process of returning back to the past, the style is extremely complex. For example, before he returns to the episode in the orphanage, the style is difficult: "Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Knows remembers believes a corridor . . ."

This complexity then suggests the difficulty of returning to the past through the memory. But once this transition back into the past is effected, the style becomes relatively simple. For example, the actual narration of Joe's affair with Bobbie Allen presents no special difficulties.

Thus part of Faulkner's greatness lies in his style and the way he is able to adjust this style to fit the subject under narration. The style will always shift in order to lend additional support to his subject matter.

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