William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” Country Songs

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William Faulkner was an American writer and Nobel prize winner. He was born in Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and plays.

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Everybody knows that Faulkner’s fiction is alive wither sound of African American music. In Soldiers Pay, individuals first dance to a blues orchestra and then listen to the singing of a country church, while “”Flags in the dust”” includes scenes in which Elnora sings Gospel as she works for the Sartorius family, a blind street musician performed the blues in the town square. Young Bayard Sartorius enlists a Negro band to entertain the unmarried women of Jefferson. “”That evening sun “”famously takes its title from W.C. Handy “”St Louis Blues”” a song most remembered and recorded by the “”Empress of the Blues, “” Bessie Smith. A lot of critics have addressed these and other blues moments in Faulkner’s stories. H.R. Stone back suggested that these individuals and events of “”Pantaloon in Black”” pulled from “”East Riders””.

While Jane Haynes notes provocative parallels between the blue ballads about “”Stag lee”” and the scene in Hamlet in which V.K. Ratliff imagines Flam Snoops defeating the Devil. From talking about the blues elements and African American musical traditions in Faulkner’s stories, It is surprising that scholars have said nothing about a body of Southern songs with which the Mississippi author is likely to been familiar, white folk or country tunes or “”hillbilly music””. As record companies called it in the 1920’s and 30’s. Few of the critics who have the presence of popular culture in Faulkner’s stories so much acknowledge country music, almost half of them hardly discuss it in any specific detail. Hugh Ruppersburgs claim that Lena Groves opening statement in Light in August. “”I have come from Alabama””, talks the first line of Stephen Fosters “”O’ Susannah”” Although the name Joe Christmas’s first love, waitress and prostitute Bobbie Allen involves “”Barbara Allen””.

She is a “”American folk ballad of love cruelly ended””. Erich Nun’s study of depictions of a variety of different music genres. These rare discussions of Country songs in Faulkner’s stories says that the authors novel of the early 1930’s associate working class white individuals with such music. No scholar, has never examined specific references to country music in As I Lay dying. A narrator from this period that focuses almost upon the people who made and consumed hillbilly songs. Richard Grey suggested that As I Lay Dying has a special balladic quality, but most of it makes only a general observation that its strategy is similar to that of a folksong or ballad. In case in which a story was being remembered is given a significance by the sense of the other tales that lie behind it. Mark Lucas noted that only in passing that the Nobel resembles one of the most vulnerable forms of folk song and that is called the disaster ballad. Although , It’s a fact that more than any other Faulkner novel, As I Lay Dying is common with allusions and parallels to a host of country songs recorded and released in the late 1920’s. Arthurs like the fiction of Sherwood Anderson and James Joyce or the poetry of Homer and T.S. Eliot.

The phrases, and attitudes of Southern Folklore. As they carry the body of Addie Bundren from the corner of Yoknapatawpha County to the town of Jefferson for the burial. The gender politics of folk song traditions and dramatizes country music’s relationship to the culture which is known to be the twentieth century culture. No less, the Bundren families journey. The history of country music embodies tension between a region. Folk tradition on one hand, and an aggressively commercial, whether its modern, national, and potentially equal culture on the other. If it used to be common for scholars to read Faulkner’s attitudes toward mechanization, and pop culture as hostile, critics recognize the complex and multifaceted nature of the authors treatment of modernization. John Matthews for example, acknowledges that the Bundrens are constituted by the dialectical history of capitalist agriculture, commoditized economic and social relations, and the homogenizations of the mass culture. Although he complicates the traditional critical consensus when he noted that Faulkner’s novel also dramatizes mass movements that put others in touch with the energies of progress. In the story As I Lay Dying , paragraphs detailing Cash Bundrens desire for a “”graph phone”” and multiple allusions to country songs which is a genre once old fashioned, escapist commodity and engagement with reality. It is not so much that Faulkner’s novel tells of a families movement from rural backwater to modern city as some would say.

After all in its factors that might stimulate the development of a mass market for phonograph records, a 1923 trade publication suggested that in addition to resolving “”isolation, lack of amusements, and long winter evenings with little or nothing to do, recorded music might fulfill the need for something that will influence the children to remain on the farm, rather than encouraging restless modern children to flee the country for the city. Bonnie Allen’s name in light in August for instance, could have been inspired by the appearance of Barbara Allen in myriad folklore. Musical shows at Oxfords Opera House, also at one time owned by Faulkner’s grandfather. Radio performances and recordings of that piece by such artists as Vernon Dalhart, and Newton Gaines. At the time of Faulkner’s appearance as a novelist in the mid to late 1920’s, different cultural forms and new media were making folk songs everywhere. After the arrival of American radio, country music became an big part of the nations landscape. That is an initial half hour program of square dance music in 1923. The 3 radio stations soon after the arrival of American radio were Fort Worth’s WBAP was airing by 1927, they would be airing a regular Friday night country show. Then in 1924, WLS in Chicago would become the national barn dance program, and then in 1926, the year of Faulkner’s debut novel George D. Hay, a former reporter for the Memphis commercial appeal paper the Mississippi’s author read regularly proudly renamed his country show on Nashville’s WSM “”The Grand Ole Opry””.

As Bill Malone notes in these early days of American broadcasting, such programs were picked up by listeners as far away as New York, Canada, Hawaii, and Haiti. Never mind Mississippi. If Phono graph records couldn’t compete with the radios ability to transform country music across major distances they would accept performances that listeners could enjoy repeatedly. The popularity in 1923 of a phonographic disc of Fiddling sung by John Carson encouraged companies to rush in to the South and the Southwest with their field units, recording almost any country musicians they could find. A more significant watershed occurred in 1927 when Ralph Peer utilized the new electrical recording during sessions in Bristol, Tennessee. He made the first phone graph records of two of the most important acts in country history, that is the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers. The first great generation of country music on record coincided with the most prolific period of Faulkner’s career. During which the author developed his chronicle of Yoknapatawpha County in such works as the Sound and the Fury and other short stories as well as I Lay Dying. Stories of Faulkner’s antipathy later in recorded music are a legend, although it is probable that a man who identified “”Yes, Sir That’s My Baby”” as his favorite song and he also enjoyed listening to Bessie Smith’s blues records on a phono graph. He discovered country songs during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s whether it was on the radio or on record.

If Faulkner never did tune in to the Ole Opry or in Jimmie Rodgers “”Blue Yodel””, he had the opportunity to become familiar with the lyrics of the traditional ballads and songs of numerous volumes of folklore that appeared during the first three decades of the twentieth century. The publication of Harvard professor Francis James Childs multi volume The English and Scottish Popular Ballads between 1882 and 1898 stimulated interest in traditional songs and folklore on both sides of the Atlantic. In the years after the composition of As I Lay Dying, anthologies of black and white American musical traditions who included Dorothy Scarborough, Howard W. Odom. As I Lay Dying ends with cash imagububg the Bundrens clustering around the new family phono graph, its novel constantly renewed by a stream of mail order records. This conclusion invites speculation as to the particular songs the family members will select and enjoy together. Will the luckless agriculturalist Anse find solace in “”Got the Farm Land Blues”” and will his new wife adjust from town habits to rural ways, appreciate that musical tale of “”hard times in the country””, “”Down On Penny’s Farm””? How could such a woodworker as the eldest son, Cash, resist the lure of a record named “”The House Carpenter””? Might not the bitterly resentful Jewel Pointedly choose “”A Lazy Farmer Boy”” as a critique of the families patriarch? Sing young Vardaman desires and electric locomotive he has flimpsed in a toy shop window, will he lobby for Jimmie Rodgers “”Waiting for a Train””? Pregnant and unwed, would Dewey Dell dare order a song called “”Single Girl, Married Girl””? Regardless of faulkners knowledge of country songs then, the scenarios, recurring topics, and popular verses of commercial hillbilly recordings of the late 1920’s illuminate the implications of the ending of As I Lay Dying.

Even if the author had only a passing familiarity with country music scene of his day. Faulkner and the first generation of country recording artists produced works that engage with the same essential themes, for example, to determinedly traditonalist South’s rapid initiation into modernity and the effects of this initiation upon gender, family, and human identities. The most explict instance of As I Lay Dying debt to country music is that its plot specifically talks about a spousal death, burial, and, rapid remarrriage. That is virtually identical to one stanza of a song recorded by Uncle Dave Macon in April 1926 and released on the Vocalion label that summer. The sixth verse of “”Way Down the Old Plank Road”” runs: My wife died on Friday night, Saturday she was buried, Sunday was my courting day, Monday i got married. Although the Bundrens take ten days to transport Addies coffin to Jefferson for burial, and upon their arrival, the widowed Anse secures a new wife within house, Macon’s blithe lyrics about his spouses death and instant replacement clearly anticipate both the overarching narrative and the climatic twist of Faulkner’s novel.

Whether the author owned Macon’s record, He heard him perform the number on the Grand Ole Opry or simply was familiar with a folk tradition that informed the song is beside the point. Just as Macon’s song capsulate the main storyline of As I Lay Dying, the proposal remembered by Miss Emily speaks about specific elements of the narratives treatment of spousal death and burial. Like the backwoodsman who became wealthy Oxford citizen, the younger Anse is sufficiently affluent and eligible to court the town bred Addie, boasting of his ownership of a new house and a good farm. Like the proposal in Palmers story, Anse and Addie’s marriage ultimately hinges upon a arrangement regarding burial rights, years after their betrothal, Addie is careful to exact a promise from her indolent husband that he will have her buried in Jefferson. No less than Macon’s song and the proposal collected by Palmer, As I Lay Dying lays bare a rural culture in which the hard lives and early deaths of women were so common that courtship and marriage involved considerations of female mortality.

What is particularly striking about the ways in Faulkner’s novel is both Macon’s song and Palmers informant is that As I Lay Dying reverses the emphases of such antecedents, wrestling agency from the male speaker and it instead to the female protagonist. In Faulkner’s story, it is Addie, not Anse, who provides the graveyard humor and articulates a averring convert with funeral rites. in the narratives flashback to the couples courtship, the woman responds to the man’s clumsy overtures with comedy and sharp authority. Although Anse is provincial to be intimidated by his potential brides urban origins, he suggests that he may be able to talk his way into acceptance by her family. “”They might listen”” After all, Addie responds, “”But they’ll be hard to talk to… They’re in the cemetery””.

By joking about her deceased family, Addie both preempts and invites the customary marriage proposal by which a man promises to purchase his spouses coffin. Anse, however, lacks the grimly honest sense of humor, the knowledge of such a tradition, or they will necessary to make such an offer. Where the clumsy rural bachelor is capable only of awkward hints about why he has come to see Addie, the latter asks him saying “” Are you going to get married?”” and as she liters remembers it “”I took Anse””. If Addie’s acceptance of Anse’s Timid proposal seals her into a life of childbearing and childrearing in which she is largely left of power or fulfillment, spousal burial obligations ultimately provide her with agency and leverage. Addie clearly has no expectation that Anse will be willing to expend resources upon the purchase of a coffin, even if it is “”one of the most distinctive and inevitable privileges a husband could normally expect to exercise””. As Dianne Luce noted, Anse rejects the newfangled fashion for store bought caskets and remains committed to the pre-World War 1 tradition of homemade coffins. Anse’s abnegation of this thoroughly modern duty, leaves an opening for Addie to dictate the nature of her funeral rites, by exacting a pledges from her husband to “”take me back to Jefferson when I died””, Addie enacts what she terms her revenge. Not only does she shin the Bundren plot at New Hope in favor of her old family cemetery, but she obliges the sedentary Anse to embark on a forty mile journey, with a coffin, across flooded rivers and through the heat of July.

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