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Untangling Faulkner

Updated on July 7, 2015

William Faulkner's novels can be some of the most difficult novels to read, but they can also be some of the most fulfilling to study. If you find yourself struggling to get through one of his novels, try one of the below tips to help you reach a new level of understanding. Happy reading!

William Faulkner
William Faulkner | Source

1. Keep reading

Sometimes it's better to keep reading rather than get caught up in how confusing the text is. Surrendering to the text is sometimes the best way to reach an understanding of the plot or characters. Often, gathering more information can help you discern what has already happened earlier in the text.

2. Re-read

This one is probably the most obvious, but rereading a section or a couple pages can really help enhance understanding. Reading more slowly and carefully can help illuminate previously dense and obscure writing.

3. Write about it

Pick out a confusing section and write about it. Sometimes focusing on the words and imagining possible meanings can help clarify the meaning. In Faulkner especially, it can be hard to really understand a passage by simply reading it. Oftentimes, it becomes necessary to think about the text and writing is a way to concretely do so.

4. Draw a diagram

There are a lot of places and characters to keep track of in Faulkner. If it is logistics and details making your reading of Faulkner difficult, try drawing a diagram to get a more concrete vision of the novel. Some examples might be a family tree, a map, or simply a timeline. Any of these can help make following a novel much easier.

5. Talk with others

Talking with other people who have read or are currently reading the same Faulkner novel can be the best way to clear up any confusion. As the cliché goes, two heads are better than one! Together you can work through some of the more difficult sections and share sections that each person understands to help others who don't. This is what makes Faulkner a great author to study in a classroom or even a book club setting. There is definitely a lot to talk about!

6. Read more!

This seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best way to get a handle on an author's writing is just to read a lot of their work. The more Faulkner you read, the better you'll be able to understand and work with his unique style. Plus, you'll be able to brag about how much of a Faulkner expert you're becoming!


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  • addictedtococoa profile image

    addictedtococoa 5 years ago

    That's a great point. Historical context is always helpful when reading any novel and is particularly important in Faulkner's case.

  • Sunflower-reads profile image

    David Matthew Dixon 5 years ago from San Diego, California

    I think studying the economic and social conditions of the American South during late 1920's is also very helpful. Faulkner was extremely interested, much like Tennessee Williams, in the decline of this once powerful region of the United States. Great Hub!