Faulkner II: Colours of Absence; Ubiquity of Desire

  • John Orr


Faulkner lived in a society where colour was defined in absolute terms. The categories of black and white had been commandeered by one group of people for the explicit purpose of subjugating the other after slavery had been abolished. The segregation laws passed in most Southern states in the 1890s had deprived the heirs of the black slaves of their fragile and tenuous civil rights, spatially coralling them into limited sectors of civil society. In a society which by the 1920s was so uniformly oppressive, it was tempting for the white Southern artist to identify, as a rather different and more privileged victim, with the injustices of those who suffered from the brutal effects of segregation, a segregation accepted by that time as ‘natural’ by most whites. In discussing Faulkner, Ellison suggested that the white Southern writer was apt to associate any form of personal rebellion with the negro, who became a symbol not only of that rebellion but of the guilt and repression associated with it.1


Racial Identity Black Blood Mixed Blood Love Object Foster Father 
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  1. 2.
    William Faulkner, Sanctuary: The Original Text, ed. Noel Polk (London: Chatto and Windus, 1981) p. 14.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    William Faulkner, Sanctuary (London: Chatto and Windus, 1952) pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    For a detailed analysis of Faulkner’s use of montage, see Bruce Kawin, ‘The Montage Element in Faulkner’s Fiction’, in Faulkner, Modernism and Film, ed. E. Harrington and A. Abadie (Jackson, Miss.: University of Mississippi Press, 1979) pp. 103–26.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Eric J. Sundquist, Faulkner: The House Divided (London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983) pp. 45ff.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    William Faulkner, Light in August (London: Chatto and Windus, 1968) p. 27.Google Scholar

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© John Orr 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Orr

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