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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Time-perception in Light In August, the Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying Clarke, Margaret


It becomes apparent in three of his major novels that William Faulkner is very interested in the relationship between an individual's perception of time and his effectiveness as a human being. The characters he portrays as perceiving time as statically repetitive or as a mechanical progression of discrete moments are Faulkner's losers. They destroy themselves or are destroyed. Their faulty perceptions of time negate life's potential. Those characters who perceive time as fluid are his creators. They endure. Their immersion in the accumulating, ongoing present affirms life's potentiality. A study of Faulkner's writing reveals that he conceives of real time as fluid where the past accumulates around and gives significance to the present. Both flow endlessly into the future. His belief is rooted in his philosophy of change without cessation. William Faulkner's concepts of time and change closely parallel those of Henri Bergson. Both men insist on change as the principle of reality and both dislike stasis and rigidity as distortions of reality. In his fiction it emerges that Faulkner agrees with Bergson in the importance of intuition in perceiving the reality of time and change. He, like Bergson, is suspicious of the intellect as a distorter of reality. Faulkner's affirmation of the endurability of a consciousness which intuits and perceives the fluidity of time and change corresponds with Bergson's theory of creative evolution. His destroyed characters are those who do not or cannot exert their inherent free will to break from rigid formulations of experience and distortions of time. In this thesis I examine time-perception in three of William Faulkner's major novels, Light In August, The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.

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