Master of Arts (MA)


James Nutter

Primary Subject Area

Literature, American


Bible, Christianity, Faulkner, symbolism


Literature in English, North America


During the years 1928-1932, William Faulkner wrote and published three novels containing varying but significant amounts of Biblical content and symbolism: The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), and Light in August (1932). In The Sound and the Fury, the characters of Benjy and Quentin Compson share some characteristics of Christ figures, but receive irony-laden treatment. The novel, however, presents the purest Christian character of this period of Faulkner's writing--the Compson family's Negro servant Dilsey. The Bible holds a similar influence over As I Lay Dying, specifically in the Old Testament. The Christian characters in this novel are ironically portrayed as bigots, while seemingly less moral characters are viewed as more spiritual. Light in August features both Faulkner's strongest Christ figure (the misunderstood Joe Christmas) and the most complicated minister (the jaded Rev. Hightower) of this early period. In all, this use of Biblical symbolism stems from a profound understanding of Christian thought and doctrine on Faulkner's part.