William Faulkner Biography

Knowing some details of the William Faulkner biography will give readers a greater appreciation of his work. Faulkner's life journey from anonymity to fame begins in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, which he called Jefferson in his short stories and novels. Faulkner's extended family was mostly from Mississippi, so Faulkner's roots sink deep into the American South. Faulkner's view of the South, complete with its prejudices and its unique worldview, comes through in his works via the eyes of his colorful characters.

Larger than Life
Faulkner lived a colorful life and promoted some very colorful rumors about himself. He liked spreading and adding to the stories told about him so much that historians have trouble determining exactly what Faulkner actually did and what stories are simply rumors he endorsed.

It is believed that Faulkner attended the University of Mississippi for a couple years, but he did not graduate with a degree and spent time drifting from job to job, including working as a bookstore clerk and a stint as a bootlegger transporting moonshine by boat. Faulkner befriended Sherwood Anderson, the author of Winesburg, Ohio, and helped get Anderson's debut novel, Soldier's Pay, published. Faulkner also worked as a deck hand on a freighter in the Mediterranean, which afforded him time in France and Italy, two countries he adored.

Working with Words
At the age of 32, Faulkner settled down and married Estelle Franklin, a woman he had known in high school but had drifted apart from for over a decade. At this point, Faulkner began writing seriously. Within three years he had three books published: The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Light in August.

Faulkner and his wife spent much more money than he received for these three novels, and the couple struggled with debt. They had a baby in 1933 and took on the financial burden of supporting the children of Faulkner's brother after his death. This forced Faulkner to write furiously and prolifically. He produced several short stories and three novels in the mid to late 1930s, but he still had to take a job as a screenwriter to make ends meet.

From the 1930s until his death in the 1960s, Faulkner worked as a script doctor, screenwriter and television writer, working on everything from Howard Hawk's adaptation of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not to weekly variety programs such as "Lux Video Theater" and "Playhouse 90." Faulkner is one of the few American novelists to supplement his literary work with writing for television. Much of his work was uncredited at the time. 

In the 1940s, Faulkner struggled on and off until he published Intruder in the Dust in 1948, which was a success both in print and film. In 1949, Faulker won the Nobel Prize for literature, which thrust him into the spotlight. Faulkner enjoyed great fame and respect from this point on, both for subsequent works and his previous works.

Faulkner's earlier works tend to portray his characters are weak human beings who cannot overcome their flaws or selfish needs. His later works are more optimistic, portraying people as full of potential and reliant on hope.

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