William Faulkner was one of the leading novelists of this century, and he drew upon his own town of Oxford, Mississippi for his stories, his setting, and his themes. The Civil War was the defining moment in history for the South, and the fact that the South had lived by slavery before that was an indictment of the old families of the South and a reason for the people of the new South to atone. In each novel, Faulkner infuses the story with a political and social structure related to the slave-owning past of the South and showing the effect of that past on the present. He does so in a way that is somewhat experimental in terms of his use of language particularly. Faulkner often uses shifting points of view to break up reality and to emphasize that reality is a matter of perception and is seen differently by different people. As I Lay Dying has several different narrators, each with a unique point of view, all centering on the dying central character, their mother. The Sound and the Fury also uses different points of view and shows a number of related stylistic shifts as each character provides a different perspective, with the totality creating a sense of modern life that goes beyond the specific family involved.
Jean-Paul Sartre noted the way Faulkner treated past and present and states,
The past here gains a surrealistic quality; its outline is hard, clear, and immutable. The indefinable and elusive present is helpless before it; it is full of holes through which past things, fixed, motionless, and silent, invade it (Tuck, 1964, xiv).
This vision of the past is developed through its effect on family groups, and Faulkner uses linguistic devices and differing points of view to indicate the relationship between past and present showing how much the past still exists in the present.
In The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner portrays the decay of the Compson family as a representation of the disintegration of the family ...