Authors We Love: William Faulkner

William Faulkner - Wikipedia

(William Faulkner William Faulkner on September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962), one of the most influential writers in the history of American literature is the representative figure of a stream of consciousness literature in the United States, and the 1949 Nobel Prize winner, won the prize for “because he has made a strong and art to contemporary American novel unparalleled contribution”.

In his lifetime, he wrote 19 novels and more than 120 short stories, among which 15 novels and the vast majority of short stories took place in Yoknapatawpha County, known as “Yoknapatawpha lineage”. The main thread is the story of generations of several families of different social classes in the county town of Jefferson and its suburbs, from 1800 until after World War II. More than 600 characters with family names are interspersed in novels and short stories. The most representative work is “The Sound and the Fury.”

Faulkner reflected the reality of southern society facing the invasion of industrial civilization through subjective refraction. The Civil War ended with the defeat of the south. After the war, the traditional values of the south collapsed. Raised in the southern tradition, Faulkner grew up with tales of courage, honor, compassion, pride, justice, and freedom from his ancestors His pride in his family and love of his native land were sown in his heart. However, the rapid collapse of the south, the impact of the first world war, and the postwar American society led him to make a reflection on the traditions. He learned to face the reality to make new thinking, peel off the beauty of the southern spiritual heritage, and see the evil of the southern slavery and plantation owners of corruption, slavery, and inhumanity. This realization was painful for Faulkner, who was deeply attached to his home. He did not shy away from the pain, but with the artist’s keen eye to see the facts, willing to become a spiritual vagabond. And he could not find sustenance in the industrial civilization brought by the north. What he saw was the suffering of the people of the south in the development of capitalism. In the new south, simple human relations were replaced by money, and peaceful life was destroyed by a chaotic and noisy urban life. Everyone loses his or her individuality and becomes a machine that is manipulated or abused. So they involuntarily turn to the old ways of life, but immediately recall the guilt of history and fear. It was with such a complex feeling that Faulkner depicted the southern society and conceived his own art world.

-Coreen C. 

The works of William Faulkner are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

The Glass Menagerie is a play by Tennessee Williams, an American playwright. It tells the story of an ordinary family in St. Louis during the Great Depression and how to escape the harsh reality and the painful memories that always haunt them. At the time of the story, the father of the family is long gone, but a photograph of him hangs in the center of the stage background. The mother Amanda was preoccupied with the memories of her girlhood visits. The son Tom loved writing and was a worker in a shoe factory. His sister Laura, who was born disabled, is crouched at home and likes to play with her glass animals. Mother asked Tom to find someone to marry for his sister, Tom took his colleague Jim home for dinner. Jim is warm and cheerful, and his visit awakens Laura’s pent-up enthusiasm and temporarily takes her out of the glass world. However, The sudden news that Jim is engaged forces Laura back into her closed world. Amanda blamed her son for this and eventually drove him away in anger.

Amanda, Tom and Laura in The Glass Menagerie are representatives of a struggling Southern culture. Amanda came from a southern plantation owner’s family and was deeply immersed in southern mythology and culture. In the blooming years of her youth, she had many choices, but she fell in love with her husband the poet because he had a charming smile. Abandoned by her husband shortly after their marriage, Amanda spent her struggling life reminiscing about her ladylike days. In the industrial cities of the time, Amanda could find no place of her own. As a victim of a lost era, all she could do was frantically cling to it. Although Amanda knew that the south of the past had gone forever, she could not get rid of her attachment to the southern culture. She instilled her southern lady values into her daughter over and over again, stubbornly clinging to her beliefs regardless of the progress of time and the development of society.

Amanda’s son Tom and daughter Laura have been living under the shadow of her mother’s declining southern plantation culture, entangled in the contradiction between reality and ideal, until their characters become distorted. Tom’s menial labor was the main source of family income, and in southern culture, such work that was supposed to be done by slaves was not respectable. Nicknamed Shakespeare, Tom has inherited his father’s poetic temperament, a restless heart constantly called from afar, and the only way to cope with a boring shoe factory job, a stressful living environment, and his mother’s nagging is to spend night after night at the cinema. Tom knew that he was responsible for his family, but his dream of being a poet was incompatible with the reality, and his desire to break free and realize himself was so strong. Laura’s plainness and slight deformity of the leg were not a problem, but in a southern culture where women were supposed to please and cling to men by their looks, her disability was a major drawback. It was her mother Amanda’s implicit message to her daughter that led to Laura’s extreme low self-esteem and psychological disorder. The pure and fragile Laura is unable to communicate with people normally, has a pathological fear of the outside world, and is unable to survive on her own. She can only find comfort in a group of delicate and fragile glass animals she has collected. But her spiritual home, The Glass Menagerie, may disappear at any time.

The evil of slavery eventually led to the Civil War, and the defeat of the war was a fatal blow to the proud and confident southerners. Guilt, failure, poverty, and moral depravity became shadows of southern moral consciousness. Southerners consoled themselves by reminiscing and imagining the good old days. Hence the magical southern myth was born, an important part of the southern cultural tradition. The south, with cotton as the main product, enjoyed a stable and prosperous economy, and the people in the south were happy and harmonious. Even black slaves in plantations continued to breed under the protection of white people. There are even some southerners who believe that the mythical south is the real south. Yet conscience-conscious southerners were deep in their hearts torn between love and hate, memories and dreams, pride and fear, clinging and doubt for the sins of their forefathers, slavery, and lynchings.

-Coreen C.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Image result for to kill a mockingbird book cover

Published in 1960 and never forgotten since, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a dramatic coming-of-age tale about a small Southern town poisoned by prejudice during the 1930s, only about half a century after the end of the Civil War.

Told through the eyes of eight-year-old Scout Finch, this novel appears to merely be the story of a small-town girl, but if one observes carefully and makes connections, one will discover the twisting and turning threads of racial segregation lying just underneath the surface. Atticus Finch, Scout’s father and a man who believes that justice is blind, faces the most dangerous trial of his life when he attempts to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, from a rape charge.

In the background of all this, however, is a quaint depiction of Maycomb, a tiny village at the heart of Maycomb County. The reader watches Scout Finch grow from a young tomboy to a slightly older tomboy, as she loses her innocence in the face of the hate brought on by racial prejudice.

All in all, To Kill a Mockingbird is the kind of book that will stay with the reader long after they have finished it. Combining delightfully accurate prose with an undercurrent mocking the idea of segregation, this novel is an extraordinary one, pulling any and all readers into its pages and holding them there from the very first page to the very last word.

-Mahak M.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This month, I read To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee. The story follows Jean Louise (Scout), a young girl who loves to explore the world and her town, Maycomb. She also has an older brother named Jem Finch and a father, Atticus Finch, who is an attorney. The story follows Jean Louise’s daily life, leading up to a big case her father is working on defending Tom Robinson, who was accused of a crime he did not do.

This story takes place in the 1930 during the Great Depression. Racial tensions also ran high in the South during this time, which added to the story. During Atticus’ closing statement to the courtroom, the story becomes very intense. Atticus is by far the most convincing lawyer in Maycomb but he is defending an African American against a white person. Back then, colored people were thought of as property, not people, and they did not command any respect. Atticus’ client loses the battle, and the reader really feels how biased the court, and the South, was during that time

This part of the book was my favorite, because even though Atticus knew his chances of winning were slim, he still gave it his best effort. I also liked the segment just before the defense was presented, when a group of men were about to kill Tom. Before they have a chance to do it, Scout stops them. As the fight is about to start, Scout recognizes one of the men. She introduces herself and tells the man to say “Hi” to his son, Scout’s friend. After that, the man calls off his friends and they leave. This scene really moved me. It represents how everyone is human and shares common ground. When Scout asks the man to say “Hi” to his son, the man realizes that he has a family, just like Atticus or Tom. If he killed Tom, he would never be the same, and his family would always look at him differently.

Overall, I thought this book was very moving. It had a great mix of comedy, suspense, and dramatic impact. I would definitely recommend this to eighth graders and up.

-Daniel C.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is a classic historical fiction that is based during the Civil War. It tells a narrative about life from the Confederate’s point of view. Scarlett O’Hara, one of the main characters is savvy, realistic, and strong-headed. Scarlett has no problem adapting after the Union has won and things start to change. Her perseverance and intelligence is what gets her through the rough times. Another main character is Rhett Butler. While he and Scarlett are very much alike, they are also very different. Rhett manages to keep a calm and cool air about him while Scarlett sometimes has a short temper. He also, like Scarlett, uses the changing times to his advantage and lets nothing slow him down.

This book is definitely one of my favorites because although I know that slavery is terrible, it gives great insight and perspective about the lives of Southerners after the Union’s victory. Many struggled with keeping food on their tables and many had never known a life without slaves. Even so, while the war had hardened and changed many people, it never changed Melanie Wilkes. She was my favorite person in this book because she always saw the good in people.  She became such a lovable character by staying true to herself even after the war.

This book’s plot was not too complex and easy to follow. The author did a great job of developing the characters throughout the book and I guarantee you will be invested in these characters just as much as I was! It portrays the hard times and perseverance needed to survive back then. This classic is a great-read for every age. It’s a great way to look back at history because it can never be erased, but we can always learn from it. For younger readers, there may be a few words that are hard to comprehend. However, overall it definitely became a favorite for me. I would read this novel again!

-Brooke H.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

narrativeonthelifeoffrederikdouglassFrederick Douglass was an author and speaker in the 1800s, a human rights leader in the anti-slavery movement who had been a former slave.

In his slave narrative, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass recounts his life in slavery, and how he went from a plantation to living in a city, and vice versa. The examples he makes to illustrate points are effective, in that they show the reader different aspects of the slave system. Douglass details the evils of slavery, pointing out many ways that slave owners subjugate their slaves, both physically (though this was alluded to concerning Douglass himself, there are other graphic examples that highlight the slaveholders’ brutality), and mentally. However, Douglass does make distinctions between different slave-owners, and shows the reader (at the time the audience were people in the North) that, since all slave-owners were not the same person, that they had different personalities and dealt with their slaves in different ways. Though opportunities in Birmingham allowed him to first see the road to freedom, Douglass did not, as he grew older, keep the knowledge to himself, and throughout the narrative establishes that he wants all slaves to lead a free life.

I liked reading this narrative by a historically large figure for a few reasons. For one , it didn’t only bring to light the evils of slavery – evils that most people know the general gist of, like whipping, physical and mental abuse, etc., but also gave specific examples of things that an actual slave experienced and was not simply derived from historical documents written by white plantation owners or visiting people. On top of that, I thought that this narrative was well-written despite its shortness.

-Aliya A.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library