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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Faulkner's trilogy : technique as approach to theme Galbraith, Margaret Edith


The purpose of this thesis is to show the relationship of technique to theme in Faulkner's Snopes Trilogy. The central theme, the continuous conflict in man between the world of nature and that of money, is revealed most clearly through certain structural and symbolic techniques. The conflict between the two ways of life is expressed structurally by a series of encounters; in the three novels, and symbolically by the tension between opposing symbols. The encounters usually take the form of a struggle between a man and a woman, the man representing the world of money, the woman, the world of nature. The most powerful symbols of nature, earth and season, are opposed by the most powerful symbols of the world of ownership, money, automobiles and monuments. The continuity of life is dramatized in the circular structure, which is seen in the apparently endless repetition of both the central conflict and the major symbols. In spite of certain limitations of the Trilogy, such as the fact that it must rely upon other books in the Yoknapatawpha cycle, and an unevenness which results from the great length of time in which It was written, it merits a more detailed study than has been accorded it by the majority of the critics in the past. A survey of the existing criticism indicates that it is inadequate largely because it fails to probe the novels deeply enough. Instead it often relies heavily on the traditional approach to Faulkner first suggested by George Marion O'Donnell, which says that all Faulkner's work is a variation of the theme of the struggle between Sartoris, the moral aristocrat, and Snopes, the amoral poor white. As a result of the influence of the traditional view, relatively few attempts have been made to approach the Trilogy in any other manner. The best approach to the meaning of the Trilogy is not through fixed interpretations but through technique. A detailed analysis of symbolic and structural technique in The Hamlet, The Town and The Mansion reveals the conflict and the continuity of life, and also the central focus of the novel. The focus in the Trilogy is not upon Flem Snopes but upon man. Man's struggle to reconcile the world of nature with that of money and ownership leads him to an understanding of the nature of evil within himself. The Trilogy stresses the fact that not only must man become morally aware of the evil within himself, but he must also struggle constantly to overcome it. Because he is a part of both worlds he must reconcile them as Ratliff does, not reject them as Stevens does. The reality of Faulkner's presentation of the conflict and continuity of man's life, as revealed by technique, makes the Trilogy a significant part of his work, worthy of a detailed study.

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