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Faulkner and Racism ARTHUR F KINNEY The single most indelible fact about William Faulkners work is his persistent concentration on observing and recording the culture and country in which he was born what is most striking now as we look back on his legacy from our own is the enormous courage and cost of that task Faulkners Lafayette County in northeastern Mississippi not far from the battle sites of Brices Cross Roads Corinth and Shiloh is still marked in its town squares with statues of soldiers of the Confederate Army of the United States in full battle dress and more often than not facing South towards the homeland they mean to protect with their lives But what for Faulkner is most haunting is not the communal psychology of war so much as the agonizing recognition of the exacting expenses of racism for him the most difficult and most grievous awareness of all Racism spreads contagiously through his works unavoidably Its force is often debilitating and its consequences often beyond reckoni ng openly The plain recognition of racism is hardest to bear and yet most necessary to confront There is a much keener racial awareness at work ten years later however in Faulkners novel of the war of Northern aggression The Unvanquished 1938 This novel at times works more indirectly though as if Faulkner was himself still shy at showing racist thought racist tension and racist tragedy There is for instance the slave Looshs proud page 268 betrayal of the white Sartoris family based on Faulkners own ancestors when he steals their familys heirloom silver which they have taught him to hide from marauding Yankee soldiers Granny sees him leaving the plantation In the words of an older Bayard looking back on the event He was coming up from his cabin with a bundle on his shoulder tied up in a bandanna and Philadelphy behind him and his face looked like it
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