10 Haunting Lines From William Faulkner’s Works That I’m Reminded Of On His Birthday

Posted on September 25, 2015 in Culture-Vulture, Lists

By Uzma Shamim:

William Cuthbert Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897. A Nobel Laureate from Oxford and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Faulkner has been considered one of the most celebrated writers of English Literature. ‘As I Lay Dying’, ‘The Sound And the Fury’, ‘The Light In August’ and ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ have featured in the greatest books of English literature and the likes.


What distinguishes Faulkner’s work from his contemporaries and lends so much beauty to his sentences is the manner in which he employs the theme of human emotions and consciousness with that of human psychology. His works deal with a high degree of emotional and psychological complexities. Faulkner, since childhood was a very keen observer. Coming from a family of avid readers, he became aware of war narratives and the Grimms’ Fairytales at an early age. Faulkner’s life however, is not an ordinary tale. He fell for a woman at an early age, married her after she had divorced her first husband and then in the course of his married life had problems with her as a result of his adultery, alcoholism and lack of wealth. He was very conscious of his family history and origin, a consciousness that was quite evident in most of his works where a lot of emphasis is given to the politics of history and race. His work resonates a lot with Southern sensibilities.

What is most spectacular about Faulkner to a reader is the way he delves into the core of human emotions while describing characters. When Benjy in ‘The Sound And The Fury’ tells us that Caddy felt like trees, we actually begin to live in that description. However unreal it sounds, the reader relates to it in the way Faulkner wanted him or her to. Like Lena Grove in ‘Light In August’, Faulkner leads us to the search for a person or place but very soon that search turns into a search for one’s own self. When he says, “Memory believes before knowing remembers,” even we begin to think what is more important – knowing or remembering. As a reader, what keeps me hooked to Faulkner’s works is the way he unsettles me yet gives me a million reasons to relate to his words and give my own meaning to them. His words confuse me yet in the end give me a lot of clarity. His works often deal with an undercurrent of psychological crises stemming from an inability to find a solution to the dilemmas of life. However, the way in which these undercurrents resonate in the narrative gives it a more enhanced meaning.

So, here are some of the many beautifully crafted lines of Faulkner’s as a tribute to mark 25th September, a monumental day for English Literature which saw the birth of a man who has become a giant literary figure.

“It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.”
― As I Lay Dying

“I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.”
― As I Lay Dying

“When I was a boy I first learned how much better water tastes when it has set a while in a cedar bucket. Warmish-cool, with a faint taste like the hot July wind in Cedar trees smells.”
― As I Lay Dying

“It was too late. Maybe yesterday, while I was still a child, but not now. I knew too much, had seen too much, I was a child no longer now; innocence and childhood were forever lost, forever gone from me.”
― The Reivers: A Reminiscence

“They say love dies between two people. That’s wrong. It doesn’t die. It just leaves you, goes away, if you aren’t good enough, worthy enough. It doesn’t die; you’re the one that dies. It’s like the ocean: if you’re no good, if you begin to make a bad smell in it, it just spews you up somewhere to die. You die anyway, but I had rather drown in the ocean than be usurped up onto a strip of dead beach and be dried away by the sun into a little foul smear with no name to it, just this was for an epitaph.”
― The Wild Palms

“Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar.”
― The Sound And The Fury

But this time as soon as he moved she began to fade. He stopped at once, not breathing again, motionless, willing his eyes to see that she had stopped too. But she had not stopped. She was fading, going. “Wait,” he said, talking as sweet as he had ever heard his voice speak to a woman: “Den lemme go wid you, honey.” But she was going.
― Go Down, Moses

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
― Requiem For A Nun

“Surely heaven must have something of the colour and shape of whatever village or hill or cottage of which the believer says, This is my own.”
― Light In August

“Caddy smelled like trees.”
― The Sound And The Fury