Walt's Look Around: William Faulkner - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: William Faulkner

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT

The setting for a book is important if you want to understand the story. The setting in which it was written is important if you want to understand the writer. 

We're 'Looking Around Mississippi' to the setting in which some of America’s most classic novels were written.

The town of Oxford is the thinly disguised city of “Jefferson” in William Faulkner’s stories. And just as the Confederate Soldier continues to man his post on the south side of the Courthouse Square, keeping watch over things, the spirit of Faulkner hovers over his hometown, too. Even though it took longer for Faulkner to be appreciated here where people knew him, than anywhere else.

"I have discovered since working here that it’s unusual to be appreciated or understood in your hometown," said William Griffin.

That’s William Griffith. He is the curator at Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. The house is owned by Ole Miss is and is open for tours everyday except Monday. And there are several reasons we need to put Rowan Oak on our list of Mississippi places to see. It’s a rambling old antebellum home, for one thing. Tour guide Omar Gordon says the way the house is laid out always brings comments from visitors.

"Why is it built the way it is, when was it built, who built it? Why are the rooms the way they are? Just the nuances of this house because its so old and its been renovated so many times," added Omar Gordon.

Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak is essentially like it was when Faulkner lived here. The furnishings, the lay out of the house and grounds. This is where modern Southern literature was born. Faulkner was the first to write about the new South, trying to find itself in the shadow of the old. And the truths in his work are so strong that they transcend the setting and are still relevant today. It got Faulkner the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949.

"I think Rowan Oak is important to visit because it interprets Mississippi’s only Nobel Prize winner," Griffin added.

And aspiring writers want to come here to maybe catch a piece of Faulkner’s spirit.

"I remember having a long conversation this past summer with a kid from Texas who drove down because he was at a changing point in his life and he wanted to come and visit Faulkner and be inspired. And that sort of gave him motivation to pursue this new dream of his to become a writer. So you meet all types and people are sort of drawn to the house and to Faulkner for a number of different reasons. But he inspires a lot of people," said Gordon.

Faulkner named Rowan Oak for the Rowan Tree of Scotland, which is supposed to keep out evil spirits and provide a sense of peace and security and the American Oak for strength and solitude. And it’s another Mississippi treasure, revered by the rest of the world, like Faulkner, himself, that we at home may have overlooked, and shouldn’t.

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