William Faulkner was one of several authors who wrote in the Southern literature of the United States genre. Southern literature is otherwise defined as literature of the American South, which focuses on the significance of family, religion, community, use of Southern dialect, and a strong sense of one's place in personal and social life.
A major common theme within this type literature focuses on the troubled history with racial issues, the American Civil War, and Reconstruction. Location of birth and residence is not the defining factor of a Southern literature writer. Some writers who lived further north were considered in this genre. However, William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi and lived nearby in Oxford for all his life. He was not only a Southern literature writer, he also lived in the land where his stories take place. Mississippi is one of the states that is part of the Appalachian regions.
The total life span of Faulkner's parents and himself, and where they lived is an extraordinary part of American history. Murry Cuthbert Faulkner, William's father, was born in 1870 and died in 1932. His mother, Maud Butler, was born in 1871 and died in 1960. William was born September 25, 1897, and died on July 6, 1962, just two years after his mother passed away. Within these ninety-two years, changes within that time frame has made a tremendous impact on American history -- and this timeline made a strong influence on Faulkner's writing style and subject matter.
Faulkner's greatest influence on his creative imagination came from the three women closest to him in childhood and adolescence years. His mother and maternal grandmother, Lelia Butler, were avid readers, painters, and photographers -- this heavily influenced and educated Faulkner in the development of his artistic imagination and visual arts. Caroline Barr (the black woman who raised him from infancy) was also a major part of his education, being a life-long central figure in his life. It was because of Caroline Barr that Faulkner was so preoccupied in his writing with the politics of sexuality and race.
Faulkner's novel, The Sound and the Fury, was published in 1929. This was his fourth novel and did not receive much acclaim until he published Sanctuary, his sixth novel, which became Faulkner's breakthrough, establishing his literary reputation. Faulkner termed it a "potboiler" since it was very controversial -- because of its theme of rape.
The title, The Sound and the Fury, was taken from Macbeth's soliloquy, Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28.
Like most of his stories The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, a setting Faulkner created based on Lafayette County, where he spent most of his childhood.
In true Southern literary style, Faulkner wrote a fictional story on the history of the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their family and its reputation. There are four parts to the novel -- the first three are told by a different member of the family, each with their own disjointed narrative style and each from a different perspective. None of the narrators seem to be of sound mind -- therefore, the Macbeth line "Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.", soon becomes apparent why Faulkner chose that title.
The novel is separated into four distinct sections. The first, April 7, 1928, is written from the perspective of Benjamin "Benjy" Compson, a man with severe mental handicaps.
The second part is told by Quentin Compson, Benjy's older brother, and the events leading up to his suicide. In the third section, April 6, 1928, Faulkner writes from the point of view of Jason, Quentin's cynical younger brother.
In the fourth and final section, set a day after the first, on April 8, 1928, Faulkner introduces Dilsey, one of the black servants of the Compson family who gives a third person point of view. This section primarily focuses on Dilsey, yet Jason is also focused on. With Dilsey's version, glimpses of the thoughts and deeds of everyone in the family come into the story.
William Faulkner is just one of several writers who wrote in the Southern literary style which involves much of the southern Appalachian area.