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William Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson : A study of a literary relationship Frame, Gary Andrew


This study explores the nature and extent of Sherwood Anderson's influence upon William Faulkner. It demonstrates, through the use of the comparative method, that Anderson's influence is a major and continuous one. The early New Orlean Sketches strongly echo and, at times, imitate Anderson's work. Faulkner's first novel, Soldiers' Pay, was not only written at Anderson's suggestion but also published through his influence. In Mosquitoes, Faulkner closely modeled his main character after Anderson. Anderson helped Faulkner to organize some of the "folk" material in that novel. Faulkner's early use of negro characters to embody a kind of sane, healthy alternative to the world of the whites may well have been encouraged by Anderson's example. Furthermore, Anderson played an important role, at a crucial period In Faulkner's development, in directing him to the fictional use of the Yoknapatawpha material. He led Faulkner to realize that universality in art could grow out of regional material. Faulkner's sense of community and his exploration of the individual's search for community so closely resemble Anderson's as to suggest some indebtedness. Faulkner's dramatization of the effects of the destruction of that community by the forces of modern commerce and industry is rendered in terms similar to Anderson's. Also, Faulkner's creation of an idyllic, rural world in contrast to the mechanistic, urban world resembles that in Anderson's stories of horses and men. And Faulkner uses Anderson's idea that the world of horses is a totally male world elsewhere in his fiction. There is a strong resemblance, finally, in Faulkner's and Anderson's concept of the grotesque: for both, it concerns truth and its consequences in the individual's Isolation and behaviour. In fact, it is argued that Anderson's "theory of the grotesque" provides a rationale for the larger structure of some of Faulkner's most important work. For these reasons, it is concluded that Anderson was an important force in shaping the form and content of Faulkner's art.

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