An Account on “Yoknapatawpha”


山东青年 2014年11期


Abstract:William Faulkner created a county of typical American South named “Yoknapatawpha” County for his writing based on the local conditions and customs and geographical environment of his hometown. He arranged the locales where the stories of his over 15 novels took place on this imaginary county, and formed a Yoknapatawpha Cycle. Faulkner wanted to arrive at truth through the characters in the novel, yet the problem of “Yoknapatawpha” are those of the world.

Key words:Yoknapatawpha Cycle; mythical realm; Faulkner

1.The Imaginary County and a Microcosm of Modern Society

Faulkers mythical realm is a country in northern Mississippi, on the border between the sand hills covered with scrubby pine and the black earth of the river bottoms. Except for the storekeepers, mechanics, and professional men who live in Jefferson, all the inhabitants are farmers or woodsmen. Except for a little lumber, their only product is baled cotton for the Memphis market. A few of them live in big plantation houses, and more of them in substantial wooden farmhouses; but most of them are tenants, no better housed than slaves on good plantations before the Civil War.

In Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, the imaginary setting of nearly all his novels, William Faulkner created a microcosm of modern society. Readers have recognized in the lush, sprawling land of columned courthouses and dilapidated mansions, foolhardy young men, fading aristocrats, and poor white farmers, timeless images of their own world.

In his early thirties William Faulkner created a new world. Ever since he could remember, he had been hearing stories told or telling them himself.

2. Faulkner the Great Storyteller of the World and His Real Achievement

Faulkner was recognized as one of the great storytellers of his or any generation. His stories of Yoknapatawpha County found variety of readers in many languages. Much of what he is is determined by memories or traditions of a past from which his outlook and activities derive. For Faulkner there were four kinds of past, and each weaves itself, one entangled with the other.

1. Mythical Past.: This is the time when the world was young and primitive and wild and good, before man spoiled it through disobedience. It is a mythical past, handed down by scripture or folk memory. This was an Edenic time, both cradle and haven.

2. Real Past: There is also the real past of historical events, when towns were established or railroads built, when men battled and conquered or were defeated.endprint

3. Legendary past: Close to real past is the legendary past of events handed down in memory from father to son---deeds which happened or are so strongly believed to have happened that they become tradition.

4. Remembered Past: This is the past which every man knows because he has lived through it, his own experience certifying what he has done or seen or suffered. It is available to every man, each according to his experience.

All his books in the Yoknapatawpha saga are part of the same living pattern. It is this pattern that is Faulkners real achievement. Its existence helps to explain one feature of his work: that each novel, both long and short, seems to real more than it states explicitly and to have a subject bigger than itself.

3. The Inhabitants of Yonapatawpha County and Their Life

For in his novel, Sartoris, published in 1929, Faulkner found all at once his own authentic voice, the characters he could most effectively present, and a place to put them. It is bounded on the north by the Tallahatchie River, and on the south by the Yonapatawpha River. Between is a land of dusty roads beside which lie cotton field, and deep forests of pine. Through its middle, running north and south, is the railroad which Colonel Sartor is built after his return from commanding a regiment during the Civil War.

The countryside around it contains well-kept barns and ill-kept houses, sharecroppers shacks, Negro hovels, and dilapidated mansions. It is strung with country roads over which mules drawn heavy loads of farm produce, timber, or cotton. It contains crossroad stores where country men swap yarns on shaded porches. It has rickety country hotels, blacksmith shops, cotton gins, and backstreet restaurants where simple food is sold and complicated bits of gossip are exchanged.

Men in Yoknapatawpha do battle against nature and against the trickery of men. Yoknapatawpha is a county in Mississippi, but it is also a microcosm of the modern world. Long ago, the land of Yoknapatawpha was inhabited by Indians. He had grown up listening to stories about country people and town people much like them.

4. The Truth that Faulkner Tried to Arrive at Through the Characters He Created

William Faulkner was obsessed by history. He drew characters whose inner lives are essentially linings for selves tailored to unalterable social patterns. Others worried over protagonists lost in themselves, beyond time and place. Faulkners assumption that events and situations do attain an objective significance in their communal effect makes his work an ideal subject for a study of the relation of literature to social history. Faulkner wants to arrive at truth. While he doubts his characters ability to uncover the truth, he does not really doubt that it exists somewhere.endprint

Faulkner completed a spiritual labor of our age with no other examples that follows This is the labor with double meanings: First, he created a county in Mississippi like a mythical realm, with everything in details, complete and lifelike. Second, he made his stories in Yoknapatawpha County become fables and legends that happened down in the south, and live forever in peoples heart.

The problems of Yoknapatawpha are those of the world, old and baffling and not susceptible to quick solution. Faulkners achievement is not in providing answers, but in creating a spacious, expansive, and recognizable facsimile in which are embedded ineradicable suggestions of why people act in the strange ways that they do.


[1]William Faulkner of Yoknapatawpha County,by Lewis Leary New York, 1986

[2]Class and Character in Faulkners South, The Citadel Press N.J 1978

[3]The Encyclopedia American International Edition, book 11, p615—616

[4]20th Century American Literature, Macmillan Publishers, N.Y 1980

(作者单位:Hunan Police Academy, Changsha, 410006, Hunan)endprint


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