This map plots the settings and references in The Sound and the Fury

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'Jefferson', Mississippi
Statue of William Faulkner in Oxford's Courthouse Square
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeStatue of William Faulkner in Oxford's Courthouse Square - Credit: Joseph A

The Sound and the Fury is set for the most part in Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi. This fictional town appears in many of Faulkner’s works and is modelled on Oxford, Lafayette, where he lived for the majority of his life. 

 

Confederate monument, Courthouse Square
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeConfederate monument, Courthouse Square - Credit: Joseph A

From what he called his “little postage stamp of native soil”, Faulkner created a microcosm of Southern culture. Oxford inspired his tragic depiction of a world desperately clinging to the tatters of its ransacked past. Like much of the Deep South, Oxford had suffered badly in the Civil War, during which it was captured by Union soldiers. Shops, businesses, homes and lives were all lost during the siege. Today, the Confederate memorial in Courthouse Square, a landmark featured several times in the novel, bears witness to the town’s fractured past. Although during Faulkner's time it was beginning to recover its prosperity, Oxford was nonetheless a small rural town with a population of just 3,000 in the middle of what was considered the most backward state in the union.

 

Fiddler's Folly, an example of Oxford's architecture
Public DomainFiddler's Folly, an example of Oxford's architecture - Credit: Historic American Buildings Survey

Faulkner's complex, often unflattering portrayal of the South's race and gender dynamics tended to make his fellow townspeople uneasy. Considering his fame as a writer in 1939, local newspaper The Oxford Eagle remarked, "Well, they sure wouldn't hire him to write a Chamber of Commerce booklet for the town."  

 

Isom Place, Oxford architecture
Public DomainIsom Place, Oxford architecture - Credit: Historic American Buildings Survey

 

 

 

Listen to a recording of Faulkner pronouncing Yoknapatawpha.                                                    

 

 

This picture of Tallahatchie River, Lafayette, evokes the atmosphere of Faulkner's South
Creative Commons AttributionThis picture of Tallahatchie River, Lafayette, evokes the atmosphere of Faulkner's South - Credit: cmh2315fl