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WILLIAM FAULKNER'S PERSONAL VISION ON NEGROES
- WILLIAM FAULKNER'S PERSONAL VISION ON NEGROES
- NAM, JUNG JA
- Issue Date
- 대학원 영어영문학과
- Graduate School of Ewha Womans University
- After reading these novels, we find that the actual role of the Negro characters are pathetic and heroic. In spite of their inferior status, they are struggling to find their value in the world as far as they are living and their active struggling is so impressive that it shows all human effort.
In Faulkner there is some Negro characters who do not have courage and do not struggle with effort. The numbers of such Negroes are few and they are not like these "heroic" Negroes about whom I have studied -- Joe Christmas, Charles Bon, Lucas Beauchamp or Sam Fathers. For instance, Nancy in "That Evening Sun" is helpless victim and she does accept her inferior status and half approving submits her 'fate' as Negro. She says 'I aint nothing but a nigger...hellborn...going to soon where I come from...' She says 'to be negro is not her fault, God knows.' In this story there is hopeless and desperate frustration of a Negro who does not even struggle. As another instance, Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury is good and faithful servant, keeping her moral beauty--Endurance--but she si not so impressive as Negroes in "Red Leaves" and Sam Fathers in "The Bear".
The fugitive in "Red Leaves", who symbolizes a shadowy abstraction of the black race, is told in the end by one of the Indians who overtake him, "You ran well. Do not be ashamed," I and when he walks among the Indians, he is "the tallest there, his high, close mud-caked head looming above them all." And Sam Fathers in "The Bear" is the center of the virtue of Faulkner -- endurance, humility and courage. And Lucas Beauchamp is an individual, who wins others with his power of patience and endurance. Even Joe Christmas in Light in August and Charles Bon in Absalom,Absalom, though sometimes look like the "damned", they are the micture of "pathos" and "heroism". They are the lost, suffering and enduring like Sam Fathers of Dilsey, and their committing sin in the end is only the human effort to define their manhood.
Even when Negroes commit vice, Faulkner explains with warm understanding that their vices are not their own but shaped by the white injustice. On the Negroes' virtue, Faulkner admires greatly and flatly. If we read this brief comment on Negroes in "The Bear" we will find the summing up opinion of Faulkner's toward his Negro characters of their vices and virtues:
"Because they will endure. They are better than we are. Stronger than we are. Their vices are vices aped from white men or that white men and bondage have taught them: improvidence and intemperance and evasion -- not laziness: evasion: of what white men had set them to, not for their aggrandizement or even comfort but his own--" and McCaslin
"All right. Go on: Promiscuity. Violence. Instability and lack of control. Inability to distinguish between mine and thine--" and he
"How distinguish when for two hundred years mine did not even exist for them?" and McCaslin
"All right. Go on: Go on. And their virtue --" and he
"Yes. Their own. Endurance --" and McCaslin
"So have mules;" and he
"--and pity and tolerance and forbearance and fidelity and love of children --" and McCaslin
"So have dogs:" and he
"--whether their own or not or black or not. And more: what they got not only form white people but not even despite white people because they had it already from the old free fathers a longer time free than us because we have never been free -- "l
Studying Faulkner's attitude toward Negroes, we discover that his opinion forms his moral vision; that is his respect for the suffering Negroes and his contempt to the hypocritic white. When we foreign readers read him, we do not simply read Faulkner as an American writer who reveals and satirizes the shortcomings of his countrymen; we certainly read him as a world-embracing writer who speaks of human beings who struggle to survive in chaotic world, stumbling toward death like joe Christmas in Light in August and Charles Bon in Absalom,Absalom! or toward triumph like Lucas Beauchamp in Intruder in the Dust and Sam Fathers in "The Bear".
The real strength of Faulkner's negroes comes only when, as I mentioned before in Introduction, they clash their private world and come to out-world; their problem is not any longer racial problem but universal problem of human effort. Faulkner's Negro characters are living in his works and appeal as living people to the heart of readers everywhere who have, as Faulkner says upon acceptance of Nobel Prize for Literature, "a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."
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