Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

William McMahon, James Heldman, Frank Steele

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Because human nature is so often irrational and passional, William Faulkner many times offers portraits of people who are the antithesis of rationality and morality. Thus, it is not surprising to observe Faulkner's extensive use of aberrant, or deviant, characters, especially aberrant women, since the author generally associates this group with the volatile, passional elements in life. These disturbingly abnormal women possess as a group certain characteristics that become a remarkably consistent pattern in the Faulknerian canon.

Faulkner's aberrant women invariably have at least one trait in common: they become destructive forces that bring about the ruin of others and often themselves and, hence, are associated with death. Also, these women have, to some degree, fallen short of achieving fulfillment as women by means of sexual love and motherhood, which are natural feminine roles. Another trait that Faulkner's aberrant women have is an incongruous blend of masculine and feminine characteristics, a blend which is taboo in the author's Yoknapatawpha world. Also, they possess an inability to accept the pleasure principle manifested by the erotic impulses. Finally, many critics believe that Faulkner's aberrant women show an affinity for evil.

These aberrant traits are manifested in Temple Drake in i, Caddy Compson in The Sound and the Fury, and Joanna Burden in Light in August. Temple Drake is an adolescent temptress, Caddy Compson a social outcast, and Joanna Burden a sterile spinster; these women, along with several others, venture outside of their traditional spheres and, as a result, bring about despair and death. The author may be using this type of character to imply that the corruption of women is indicative of a cultural disintegration, since women generally represent the nucleus of family and community affairs.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America