Literary Writing Style of William Faulkner

Faulkner adopted a baroque writing style that made his writing prominent among his contemporaries. The interesting thing about his writing style is that the baroque style requires long sentences, and Faulkner seems an expert in it. The rest of the elements of his writing style such as diction, syntax, literary devices, rhythm, rhetoric and themes, are as follows.

William Faulkner’s Word Choice

William Faulkner is gifted with the quality of knowing things more than any other writer of his time. That is why he states that if you want to seduce women with words, you can never win. They know about words more than men know or ever will be able to know. That is why he uses words very carefully, embedding full ambiguities in them. His novel, Sound and Fury, shows this skill of Faulkner at work. His short story “A Rose for Emily” also shows the use of careful diction or wording as given in this passage.

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years.

William Faulkner’s Sentence Structure

William Faulkner is well known for his syntax. His experimentation is rather with the meticulous utterances as he shows it through a stream of consciousness technique in his novel, Sound and Fury. Although the structure is quite usual and common, sometimes he resorts to unusually long sentences which create their own cadence and rhythm. Yet, sometimes he resorts to writing highly short and rhythmic sentences, as shown in this passage from the novel Sound and Fury. This passage shows the rhythm he creates through sentences having different construction and different lengths as given in the last. The passage shows that first sentence is very long, second a bit short and the third one is the shortest.

“Where you heading for.” Versh said. “You dont think you going to town, does you.” We went through the rattling leaves. The gate was cold. “You better keep them hands in your pockets.” Versh said. “You get them froze onto that gate, then what you do. Whyn’t you wait for them in the house.” He put my hands into my pockets. I could hear him rattling in the leaves. I could smell the cold. The gate was cold.

William Faulkner’s Figurative Language

Despite using best conversation and dialogues, Faulkner is the master of using metaphors. He is considered using unusual metaphors such as given in the above passage, “The gate was cold” shows how he uses ordinary things to compare happenings. Similarly, he uses similes, personifications and allusions sparingly in his stories. His novel, Sound and Fury, has a title from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which is a good example of using an allusion. This passage from her short story “A Rose for Emily” also shows it amply.

They rose when she entered—a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.

William Faulkner’s Rhythm and Component Sounds

Faulkner is a master of rhythm. Not only does he create rhythm with the placement of words and sentences but also with sounds. Different syllables and different sounds come together to create cadence. This passage from Sound and Fury, his novel, shows it amply that he has used /s/, /w/ and /n/ sounds at different intervals along with the length of sentences. It seems that he has also used consonances skillfully to make his prose melodious, as shown below.

Ben ceased whimpering. He watched the spoon as it rose to his mouth. It was as if even eagerness were muscle-bound in him too, and hunger itself inarticulate, not knowing it is hunger. Luster fed him with skill and detachment. Now and then his attention would return long enough to enable him to feint the spoon and cause Ben to close his mouth upon the
empty air, but it was apparent that Luster’s mind was elsewhere.

William Faulkner’s Rhetorical Patterns

Although his fiction rarely shows that Faulkner is deliberate in using different rhetorical patterns and strategies, the second reading of any of his short stories demonstrates that he is a master of comparative writing. His short story “A Rose for Emily” shows it. The comparison of the characters, the buildings, the area and the era is very much apparent. The same goes for his novels.

However, he has used some other strategies highly implicitly, such as the use of allusions, repetition, and ethos, The purpose of these strategies is to win the heart of his audiences through his narratives and in this, he seems successful as the short story “A Rose for Emily” and his novel, Sound and Fury, besides several other pieces show this strategy ta work. That is also the reason of their popularity.

William Faulkner’s Themes

It rarely happens that a person does not paint a good picture of his region when writing fictional happenings. Faulkner shows it when writing about his region, the South. He writes about family systems, community systems, history, racial prejudices, passions such as love and hate and above all the landscapes. He also writes about moral blunders and social issues specifically when it comes to the South. His novels such as Sound and Fury along with The Mansion, and The Town show these themes at work.