Critical discourse on William Faulkner has long focused on the early period of his literary career. In recent years, Lothar Honnighausen presents the parallelism between the artist mask young Faulkner put on and metaphors in his fiction. James G. Watson remarks on portraits, private letters, and sketches in Faulkner's early years, and points out that Faulkner's life and works are full of the conception of the performance. Although both studies are richly suggestive, the artist figure in Faulkner's early fiction is not argued consistently. This paper will trace the process Faulkner describes the artist figure by altering a character "Pierrot" and represents the marginal artist as the transgressor beyond the racial boundary. We will mainly focus on the artist figure in Faulkner's poetry, drama, and early novels, Soldiers' Pay (1926) and Mosquitoes (1927). Further, we will examine how the artist figure is altered in Faulkner's major novel, Absalom, Absalom! (1936).
Faulkner closely imitates Pierrot in The Marionettes (1920) and Visions in Spring (1921). On the other hand, he begins to describe the artist figure by altering the pierrotique image since The Marble Faun (1924). Robert F. Storey's elaborate study of Pierrot will support our argument.
As French artists remarked on the silence of Pierrot, some characters in Faulkner's early novels contain the mute feature. Besides, other characters are described as the unsuccessful seducer just like Pierrot. Further, as nineteenth- century artists feel sympathy for Pierrot out of their alienation from society, Faulknerian artist figure is sometimes overlapped with a black person and transgresses the racial boundary.
" . . . I was waiting for them, and I got to talking to a funny man. A little kind of black man--"Since Patricia misunderstands the description of his appearance, she nearly looks on "Faulkner" as a black person. When John T. Irwin argues about the doubling in Mosquitoes, he points out that "the imagery doubling black / white"(167) is deployed to "Faulkner." While Pierrot impresses "whiteness" originally (white make-up and white clothes), Faulknerian pierrotique artist includes the possibility for overlapping with a black person as a marginal subject. It takes a long time from this moment for Faulkner to focus on the racial border in Light in August (1932) and Absalom, Absalom!, but we can notice the sign of it.
In Yoknapatawpha saga, Horace Benbow and Quentin Compson hold some vestige of the pierrotique artist, as Sensibar examines them elaborately. We will extend the examination into the artist figure overlapped with a black person. The French architect in Absalom, Absalom! is the most notable character for our concern. He is intimately related to Faulknerian ideal creation. Moreover, he potentially stands beyond the racial boundary between black / white.
But he was a good architect; Quentin knew the house, twelve miles from Jefferson, in its grove of cedar and oak, seventy-five years after it was finished. And not only an architect, as General Compson said, but an artist since only an artist could have borne those two years in order to build a house which he doubtless not only expected but firmly intended never to see again. Not, General Compson said, the hardship to sense and the outrage to sensibility of the two years' sojourn, but Sutpen: that only an artist could have borne Sutpen's ruthlessness and hurry and still manage to curb the dream of grim and castlelike magnificence at which Sutpen obviously aimed, since the place as Sutpen planned it would have been almost as large as Jefferson itself at the time; that the little grim harried foreigner had singlehanded given battle to and vanquished Sutpen's fierce and overweening vanity of desire for magnificence or for vindication or whatever it was (even General Compson did not know yet) and so created of Sutpen's very defeat the victory which, in conquering, Sutpen himself would have failed to gain. (AA 28-29)The mansion Sutpen wants eagerly is an extraordinary one, but the architect accomplishes it with his artistic gift. "Sutpen's defeat" signifies he cannot acquire the mansion he desires, and the architect's "victory" signifies he transforms Sutpen's feverish desire into an impressive mansion. In addition to this, the Sutpen mansion can be linked to Faulknerian ideal creation. This is what Faulkner said on the aim of the writer: " . . . [T]he day will come when he [the writer] must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall$B!=(BKilroy was here$B!=(Bthat somebody a hundred, a thousand years later will see"(FU 61). Whereas Faulkner compared his creation to a "scratch" modestly, he wished his creation would be handed down in the far distant future. When Quentin looks at the Sutpen mansion seventy-five years later, he recognizes the architect's preeminence undoubtedly. This is the architect's "victory" and can be linked to the scratch "that somebody a hundred, a thousand years later will see." Obviously Faulkner projects his ideal upon the architect, "the little grim harried foreigner."
The architect is portrayed not only as the idealized artist but also as a vulnerable stranger. A funny episode of the architect is narrated in the chapter 7. The architect, who attempts to escape from Jefferson, is hunt by Sutpen's black servants and dogs. He breaks his leg and loses his hat. His gaudy clothing gets muddy and the sleeve of his coat is torn-off. When General Compson presents him a new hat after building the Sutpen mansion, he gazes wordlessly at it and suddenly bursts into tears. As we have observed, Faulkner still takes up the pierrotique artist.
The personal history of the architect is never narrated in the story. However, he potentially locates beyond the racial border just as "Faulkner" in Mosquitoes does.2 According to Sidney W. Mintz, the majority of the upper class in Martinique consisted of the white, and Africans whose skin is not dark were often included among it (119), so there is some possibility that the architect is of mixed race.
Critical discourse on Absalom, Absalom! has focused on the significance of French colonial recently.3 Barbara Ladd, one of the critics who got a start on this argument, maintains the architect prefigures Charles Bon:
In the light of Faulkner's critique of millennialist ideology, it is certainly of some ironic import that the architect for Sutpen's mansion should be a colonialist Frenchman from Martinique, because in so many ways the slave culture that the Anglo planter in the Deep South inherited (if not the slave culture he envisioned) was established upon a West Indian--predominantly French and Spanish--foundation. . . .Later, Charles Bon will share not only a French cultural identification but also the Frenchman's spectral relationship to the U. S. slaveholder. (Ladd 143)Mostly as agreed with her interpretation, we will demonstrate that the affinity between the architect, Charles, and Charles Etienne De Saint Valery Bon is subtly implied through their clothes. Fujihira Ikuko suggests that "Faulkner is the writer who depicts characters' clothes and body meticulously"(59) and "their clothes are the sign of their fate"(60). Accorded closely with her suggestion, Etienne put on "his expensive esoteric Fauntleroy clothing"(AA 158) and lives luxuriously in New Orleans. When he moves to Sutpen's Hundred after the death of his mother, Clytie dresses him in "a new oversize overall jumper coat"(AA 159) and lets him work on a field. Thus, he recognizes a sudden change of his position.
The architect, Charles, Etienne are overlapped through their clothes in the narrative the Compsons pass down. In building of Sutpen's mansion, the architect's appearance General Compson would see, "the somberly theatric clothing"(AA 26) with "a frock coat and a flowered waistcoat and a hat"(ibid) might be handed down orally to Mr. Compson and Quentin. Mr. Compson vividly imagines the scene Henry Sutpen met Charles for the first time, and he narrates it graphically to Quentin:
--this man [Charles Bon] whom Henry first saw riding perhaps through the grove at the University on one of the two horses which he kept there or perhaps crossing the campus on foot in the slightly Frenchified cloak and hat which he wore, or perhaps (I like to think this) presented formally to the man reclining in a flowered almost feminised gown, in a sunny window in his chambers--(AA 76, emphasis mine)Mr. Compson projects the image of the architect onto Charles. The clothing Charles wears in his narrative is overlapped considerably with the architect's. Since he associates Charles with the architect consciously or unconsciously, he wants them to put on the similar clothes.
In the chapter 7, Quentin narrates the scene that Sutpen let his black servants and dogs hunt the architect who " . . . tried to escape in to the river bottom and go back to New Orleans or wherever it was . . . " (AA 177), as we mentioned. In this scene, the architect's clothing is described as "his embroidered vest and Fauntleroy tie and hat like a Baptist congressman"(ibid), so his clothing is overlapped with Etienne's.
The Compson family line through three generation has linked the architect, Charles and Etienne together, and this is clearly revealed in their dresses. General Compson might suppose the architect is of mixed blood, and the architect's exotic clothes would signify it to him. Because three strangers in Jefferson have been overlapped in his fathers' narrative, Quentin attributes Henry's fratricide to the mixed blood Charles might have.
The architect, who appears soon after Sutpen came to Jefferson, is also the omen of the Sutpens' fall. Ladd comments on French colonial in Absalom, Absalom! :
There is little doubt that Faulkner wrote Absalom, Absalom! out of a deep familiarity with the political and cultural situation in New Orleans and in Haiti, especially as it was perceived by and important to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century southerners like the ones Jason and Quentin Compson were modeled on. (Ladd 142)The decline of the Sutpens is mainly caused by marriage between Sutpen and Eulalia Bon in Haiti and marriage between Charles and an octoroon mistress in New Orleans, so this justifies her argument abundantly. On the other hand, Ladd mentions the period Faulkner stayed in New Orleans and Paris only briefly. We will observe the architect in the descent of the artist figure from Faulkner's early fiction.
When Faulkner makes an attempt at various forms of fiction early in his career as a writer, he takes up "Pierrot," the character that came into fashion in the nineteenth century French theater, in his drama and poetry. During his stay in New Orleans and Paris, he sets to the early novels and portrays the artist figure in the pierrotique image. The pierrotique artist acquires the aspect of the transgressor beyond the racial boundary at this time, as "Faulkner" in Mosquitoes is nearly mistaken for a black person. The French architect in Absalom, Absalom! presents Faulknerian ideal creation just as the artist figure in early fiction does. Simultaneously, he is considerably overlapped with Charles, and their bond implies the hybridization in French colonial, a crucial factor in the story.
Faulkner continues to find the potentiality of the pierrotique image lurked in his previous fiction and develop a new aspect of it gradually. As critics have pointed out, Faulkner expands his oeuvre by inserting short stories into a novel or taking up characters in his former novels again and again. The close examination of the artist figure enables us to catch a glimpse of Faulknerian creative manner. It looks as if Faulkner finishes the portrait of the artist with his peculiar touch after drawing repeatedly a rough sketch for Pierrot.
For decades, many critics have attempted to criticize severely the representation of the black race in Faulkner's fiction. Nevertheless, the writer such as Toni Morrison expresses deep respect for Faulkner, perhaps because the racial border between whites and blacks often blurs in Faulkner's fiction. We will recognize it from the scene "Faulkner" nearly transgresses the racial boundary or the fact Faulkner presents his ideal creation through the architect from Martinique.
"Misfire" is a term used in J. L. Austin's speech act theory. When the speech act is unsuccessful by external circumstances, Austin describes it as a "misfire."
2 At the 5th conference of William Faulkner Society of Japan, Tanaka Takako suggested to me the affinity between "Faulkner" in Mosquitoes and the French architect in Absalom, Absalom! .
3 Owada Eiko traces the process that Hortense J. Spillers and Ladd "rediscover" Haiti after the obliteration of this place from critical discourse on Absalom, Absalom! . (58-64)
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