Faulkner placed a significant emphasis on the theme of Nature within all of of his work, specifically in regards to its relationship with human beings and history. In the world of Yoknapatawpha County, difficulties arise as man seeks to dominate and exploit the land, subsequently distancing himself from nature and destroying the natural order. Growing up in the early nineteenth century, Faulkner witnessed the transformation and subsequent degradation of the natural world throughout the South, as the land was increasingly industrialized and the lumber industry flourished. Despite the allures of modernity, the shift away from the agrarian society with had formerly dominated the South towards the age of the machine essentially devastated those caught in its path. Faulkner's work thus presents the paradox of modern man's existence, being, as Ray West describes in his essay, "Faulkner's "Light in August": A View of Tragedy," "on the one hand, separated from nature, viewing nature as something created for his own use; on the other, viewing man in an existence close to nature, respecting the force and power and nature and acknowledging his responsibility and subjection to it" (West, 6).

Olga Vickery summarizes the overarching theme of the relationship between history and nature than run through the novels of Yoknapatawpha nicely in her critical study, The Novels of William Faulkner. The underlying idea beneath Faulkner's "vision of man as related to both the particular and the universal, to time and eternity" is essentially that "every man is fixed at birth by the specific coordinates of time and space, through which he comes to share in the history of his people and the geography of his land" (Vickery, 211). The history of the world is enacted upon the earth and history is, in itself, a record of those events which come to shape the lives of each individual, each nation, each piece of wilderness. In a sense, history is encoded in the earth, each brutal moment of it. Therefore, the history of the environment and the society into which one is born will have inevitable effects upon the individual and the individual in relation to his community. Within the South, men and women found themselves especially at odds with the natural world, the horrific realities of slavery and the plantation economy that had blood the earth for so long leaving a permanent stain upon their community. Beneath these disruptions across the earth's surface, however, the land nevertheless prevails, "maintaining its own rhythms through the seasonal cycles of life and death, growth and decay." Human nature similarly provides the constant within the ever evolving social and economic structures. Time and place then "merely provide the setting for the drama of mankind… at the same time, those individuals who contribute profoundly to the panorama of history find their hearts - the permanent and unchanging aspect of human nature - continually revivified by the primordial land with which they are intimately related as a result of deep and abiding connections with a specific place" (Vickery, 211-12).

There are then, essentially, two sorts of people to be found in Faulkner's universe; those connected to nature and those cut off from it. These natural beings who have retained their harmony with nature do not allow themselves to be influenced by the quips of society. They are open to experience and spontaneity. Rather than struggling over the conditions they inherit, these characters exhibit flexibility in their response to change. They also are constantly presented as untroubled by the passage of time. Despite the inherently brutal nature of the patterns of existence within the world they live, they move through nature's cycles with unquestioning strength and patience. The unnatural man, however, views nature as something separate from himself, capable of being owned and exploited. Subsequently alienated from himself, and therefore the natural world, he searches aimlessly for explanations of unnatural, inorganic concepts. Although his body remains intrinsically anchored within the natural world, he is essentially isolated from those roots.

The characters in Faulkner's stories most removed from nature are often associated with man-made structures such as mansions, roads, mills, although there are a number of smaller objects at play as well. (Addie Bundren's alienation from the natural world and, in turn, her children is amusingly represented by the coffin her body rests in). Absalom, Absalom!'s Thomas Sutpen perfectly exemplifies such a man, his abandonment of the natural world culminating in the mansion he builds. After arriving in Jefferson, within two years, he had raised "house and gardens out of virgin swamp, and plowed and planted his land with seed cotton" (AA, 30). Sutpen wrestles his immense plantation out of a plot of untainted, 'virgin' land, effectively destroying that land's purity. Driven by desire for wealth and stature, Sutpen seized "the hundred square miles of tranquil and astonished earth," dragging "house and gardens violently out of the soundless Nothing," slapping "them down like cards upon a table" (AA, 4). Having no voice the 'soundless' wilderness cannot voice its opposition and has no choice but to endure as the inevitable victim of man's rapacity.

After having been associated primarily with this design throughout the first several chapters of the novel; the money, the house, the plantation, the slaves, the family; Faulkner reveals that Sutpen was actually born into an environment that encouraged a close relationship with nature. Hailing from the mountains of West Virginia, where he grew up, "the land belonged to anybody and everybody and so the man who would go to the trouble and work to fence off a piece of it and say 'This is mine' was crazy" (AA, 179). He didn't know "there was a country all divided and fixed and neat" (AA, 179), admitting he never thought about wealth or property. The concepts simply had no place in his world. "The mountain society from which the Sutpens descended lacked the conditions which fostered perpetual tensions of social status… men within it were judged on the basis of individual strength and courage, not upon the ownership of goods" (Lind, 297). He recalls that his family moved once and, though they traveled endlessly, "they did not seem to progress… but just to hang suspended while the earth itself altered, flattened and bradded out of the mountain cove where they had all been born… the world, rising about them and flowing past…" (AA, 182). As is "the mountain way" (AA, 181), these folks seem to move through life as though being carried by its own current. Eventually, however, that tide washes the Sutpens closer to a different sort of people which forces Sutpen to confront his innocence and inspires his grand design. The turning point takes place before the white door of the immense house of a plantation owner, "where… he first felt, like Adam in Paradise, the shameful inadequacy of his natural garb" (Lind, 297), in his "patched made-over jeans clothes and no shoes" (AA, 188).

Faulkner uses the tragedy of the Sutpen family to convey the overall tragedy within southern history. For those born into this society, the very foundation of which depended entirely on the invasion, domination, and exploitation of the land through unspeakably violent means (swapping "blood and flesh for the largest amount of ground at is bargain price" (AA, 277)) there is no escaping the burden of its turbulent past, the anguished repetition of which is represented through Quentin Compson. Framing the story around Quentin, "too young to deserve yet to be born a ghost, but nevertheless having to be one for all that, since he was born and bred in the deep South" (AA, 4), specifically illustrates this historical connection. Through his very existence as a southerner, "he is doomed through some cause antecedent to his own existence, the victim of some larger fatality marked for the deep South itself" (Lind, 284).

Women in Faulkner's novels are often presented (though not always) as being more in touch with their environment. A number of his female characters are depicted along the lines of the archetypal figure of the Earth Goddess, belonging to the earth and, in turn, belonging to no man. Lena Grove, Light in August's earthy female protagonist, is a prime example of one of those characters who exhibits complete faith in nature. In the very first scene, she is presented plodding perseveringly along the unfolding road in the "hot still pinewiney silence of the August afternoon" (LIA, 8). Invoking a peaceful pastoral, this image of Lena immediately establishes her significance in regards to the world around her. Lena Grove (grove-of-trees) comes directly from the land. A farm girl, she is seduced by Lucas Burch, an employee at a nearby sawmill, whose very job serves to destroy the wilderness. Lena, however, seems to posses the unyielding sureness of nature itself. Serenely at one with the motion of nature, as she moves across the reader's field of vision, she merges "drowsily" (LIA, 8) with the landscape. Carolyn Porter notes in her book Seeing and Being that "by bringing us into the world of the novel through Lena's peculiar consciousness… Faulkner presents us with a world in motion" (Porter, 249), Lena's very self represented by those "long monotonous succession of peaceful and undeviating changes from day to dark and dark to day" (LIA, 7). However, unlike Lena, we do not possess the ability to inhabit time without regulating it, therefore we (as the reader), "need to stand back about find a way of encompassing the horrifying events we must witness" (Porter, 249). In this regard, we share a need to retreat into the role of viewer along with the character of Reverend Gail Hightower.

Windows are often featured prominently in Faulkner's stories as a kind of doorway to the outside world. His characters are constantly presented looking out their windows, even crawling through windows, in effort to seek salvation elsewhere, outside, closer to nature. We learn that Lena escapes the confines of her brother's house by crawling through her bedroom window on the evening escapades which result in her pregnancy. Similarly, when we are first formerly introduced to Hightower, Faulkner reveals him tucked away in a cramped room within his house, peering at the world "from the study window… So hidden… that the light from the corner street lamp scarcely touches it" (LIA, 57). Paralyzed by regret and shame, fixated on his family's history, the former reverend has removed himself from nature, from the community, from the very present in which he lives. Sitting "in that window from sundown to full dark every day that comes" (LIA, 73), Hightower watches the world pass him by. Ultimately, however, Hightower is reunited with nature, and, in turn, with himself and humanity, when he delivers Lena's baby which draws him back into the circle of nature Lena represents.

Standing in stark contrast to both Lena and Hightower is Joe Christmas. Christmas is a man set entirely at odds with nature, whose entire existence is tragically impaired by the troubled world into which he was born. In William Faulkner and Southern History, Joel Williamson explains that "to begin with, all children of all times are born innocent, natural… Immediately, however, their world-view is impacted by mothers, fathers, siblings, and the broad social and physical environment (the history) into which they happen to be born" (Williamson, 359). Doc Hines, Joe's maniacal grandfather, allows Joe's mother to die in childbirth, immediately severing the child's fundamental connection to nature. As Joe grows older and becomes increasingly troubled by his vague racial identity, Joe submits himself to a hostile and isolated existence. Christmas' alienation from the natural world is illustrated subtly in a number of interesting ways through his interactions with nature and the way nature responds to him. In a grotesquely, comical scene, as he attempts to ride McEachern's horse to get to Bobbie after striking the old man down, though he whips the horse viciously the pitiful beast can barely move, "its breathing deep and labored and rasping, each breath a groan" (LIA, 201). Rather than pulling off a triumphant arrival to his lover's front door, Joe clops into town, "like a moving picture in slow motion… Save for the rise and fall of the stick and the groaning respirations of the animal, they might have been an equestrian statue strayed from its pedestal and come to rest in an attitude of ultimate exhaustion" (LIA, 210). What should illustrate the fluidity of motion within nature instead appears as nothing more than a piece of man-made stone. As he creeps through the night towards Joanna's house for the first time, the crickets in the grass keep "a little island of silence about him" (LIA, 229), ceasing at even the slightest movement he makes. Nature, it seems, cannot accommodate Joe Christmas. He is without its motion, stagnant, stuck and therefore unrecognizable to the natural world. However, at the same time, the character is repeatedly compared to animals. He kneels to the ground and eats "like a dog" (LIA, 155) as a young man in McEachern's house. Fifteen years later, standing beneath Joanna's window, he makes "no more noise than a cat" (LIA, 229). These metaphors reduce Christmas to a sort of beast yet we consistently see him rejected by that world of beasts. Although contradictory, it is precisely that contradiction which describes what puts Joe at such odds with nature. While he is frequently presented as something less than human, more animal than man, his perception of himself as an unnatural being is the very thing which makes it impossible for nature to accept him. It is clear that Faulkner considered change and motion as inescapable facts of life on earth, the only alternative being death. This explains why characters such as Christmas and Sutpen must ultimately die while Hightower receives a second chance. Because Joe refuses each opportunity that comes his way for potential progress, he ultimately has no place in nature.

Faulkner's 1929 novel, The Sound and the Fury, focuses solely on the Compson family's alienation from nature, the story of which is consistently intertwined with religious ideas of the Fall and man's disastrous banishment from the Garden of Eden. The four Compson children, like Joe, are inherently crippled from the start as a result of the environment they are born into. The majority of the novel is centered on the Compson's property which establishes it as a world unto itself, an Eden on Earth. There are numerous images reminiscent of John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, that illustrate this crucial connection. In fact, the vision around which Faulkner remarked he had structured the novel, the muddied undergarments of a little girl as she climbed up a pear tree in order to peer through a window where she could catch a glimpse of her grandmother's funeral, is full of allusions to Eve, Eden, and the Tree of Knowledge. This image foreshadows Caddy's moral fall and subsequent alienation from her family which has clear ties to Eve's own mistakes and subsequent banishment. Mary Dell Fletcher contends in her essay "Edenic Images in "The Sound and the Fury,""that "just as Eve disobeys God, her own Father, by eating the apple in order "to gain forbidden knowledge," Caddy disobeys her pa, so as to discover the truth for herself and "see as he sees" (Fletcher, 144).

Around this central scene are several other Edenic images and illusions, most notably the frog and snake in the action leading up to the scene around the tree. While playing in the stream with her brothers and Versh, Caddy, having gotten her dress wet, ignores Quentin's scolding and undresses, standing before them in her underclothes. Infuriated Quentin slaps her, knocking her down and causing her to muddy her drawers, "the literal stain which later functions symbolically" (Fletcher, 143). Later on as they walk back towards the house, the children stumble across a "frog at the brick wall, squatting in the middle of it" (TSAF, 26). Jason pokes at it with his foot and Versh warns him, "he'll make a wart on you" (TSAF, 26). It is impossible to ignore the connection to Paradise Lost in this instance, where Satan in found, "Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve/Assaying by his Devilish art to reach/The organs of her Fancy…" (Milton, IV, 800). "By expansion," Fletcher explains, "the wart caused by contact with the frog is the outward manifestation of internal blemish - original sin" (Fletcher, 143). Soon thereafter, the children are confronted with another ominous figure, the one perhaps most commonly associated with Satan, when a snake crawls out from under their house. Jason claims that he isn't afraid of snakes and Caddy responds by saying that "he was but she wasn't" (TSAF, 45). Even as a child, Caddy's defiant will is evident. It is then that she, eager, unafraid, and curious about the unusual proceedings about the household, scales the pear tree to reach "a vantage point for looking into the parlor and hence into the adult world" (Fletcher, 144). The tree scene clearly symbolizes the Fall as it foreshadows Caddy's own immoral behavior, the disruption within the Compson children's lives which will drive them to their alienation from one another and the natural world. As Dilsey puts Caddy to bed that evening, she reprimands Caddy for the mess she has made out of her clothing. "Just look at you… It done soaked clean through into you" (TSAF, 91), symbolizing the irrevocable stain of Caddy's sin.

The episodes at the stream and later at the tree both effectively present all of the main characters together in a precise moment which foreshadows the driving action within the novel. The image of Caddy in the tree further signals the actions of Caddy's daughter, Quentin, who clambers down this same tree to meet her own lovers. Of course, the presence of Faulkner's ever alluring window is not lost on the reader either. This successfully establishes a sense of unity and continuity, the very foundation's of nature's existence. While Caddy, "the voice that breathed o'er Eden" (TSAF,130), is associated with the phenomenas of nature throughout the novel, (Benjy often repeats the sentiment that Caddy smells like the leaves, the trees, "like trees in the rain" (TSAF, 22) and Quentin's memories are overwhelmed with the scent of honeysuckle which he connects with his sister), in the following sections featuring the narratives of Quentin and Jason very little attention is paid to nature. Each are fixated on man made concepts. Quentin, ashamed with what he perceives to be the moral degradation of his family as a result of his sister's promiscuity, is obsessed with time and cannot move past the shame he feels in regards to his family's fallen honor.This is not necessarily a remarkable event. The onslaught of the modern age has presented Quentin with a fairly modern, but common, conflict. The invention of the timepiece, the watch Quentin has inherited from his Father, illustrates "the subjection of the spiritual to the mechanical" (Spilka, 457-58). The watch, which seeks to divide the natural progress of time into neat sections, represents Quentin's attempts to order his own life according to the neat, abstract categories within the society he was raised. Jason similarly refuses to let go of the past and has grown greedy and spiteful. His life is spent stealing and stowing away hoards of money for himself. Essentially, both represent a life removed from nature, from Eden's garden, banished after the Fall to roam. Over the course of the three brothers' narratives, there is a gradual progression from the enclosed, private world of the Compson property to the completely public world seen in the final scene which also seems to illustrate this alienation.

Faulkner's perspective on the relationship between history and the natural world is perhaps best illustrated in his short story, "The Bear" from Go Down, Moses. Revolving around the annual hunting trip Isaac McCaslin makes with an assortment of other Jefferson locals, including General Compson, the story stresses the irreconcilable opposition between civilization and nature, "that doomed wilderness whose edges were being constantly and punily gnawed at by men with plows and axes who feared it because it was the wilderness" (GDM, 183). Issac joins the hunt for the first time when he is ten and quickly learns the ways of the woods. He strives to be both humble and patient and respectful as a hunter and, under Sam Father's guidance, "learns how to retain his purity and bring himself into harmony with the forces of Nature" (Lydenberg, 66). At the center of the story is Old Ben, a great, old bear who has evaded the party's efforts for years, commanding, not only their respect, but their awe. To Isaac he represents the very incarnation of the "apotheosis of the old wild life" (GDM, 183). Indeed, within the story, he comes to represent the wilderness itself, "which the little puny humans swarmed and hacked at in a fury of abhorrence and fear" (GDM, 183), his death, six years later, essentially marking the end of that wilderness. Isaac's humility is key in his understanding of the natural world. He views the wilderness as sacred and pure, a place out of all time and history. Despite being tainted by his very existence as a human being of the modern world, Isaac recognizes the connection between himself and that wilderness, for "it was in him too" (GDM, 190). The hunting party as a whole essentially represents man's relentless need to control nature. Although there is a strong sense of nobility and tradition within the hunt itself, "the ancient and unremitting contest" (GDM, 182), as John Lydenberg points out in his essay "Nature Myth in Faulkner's "The Bear," "as Southerners… their original sins have alienated them irrevocably from nature… What might in other circumstances have been right, is now a violation of the wilderness and the Southern land" (Lydenberg, 64).

Set against the story of this doomed wilderness is the saga of the doomed McCaslin family, the juxtaposition of which represents the inextricably linked degradation of both. Faulkner is thus able to illuminate "the story of white men's greed and lust, their exploitation of both nature and black slaves… seen to thwart the minds and bodies of people in the South, in the present as well as the past" (Brogger, 165). Here, again, the influence of history is an inescapable burden, entrenched within the very land that they live. Upon discovering the appalling acts of incest committed by his grandfather, Old Carothers McCaslin, Isaac (now twenty one) refuses to accept the family plantation (his by inheritance). His speech to his cousin, McCaslin Edmonds, articulates the social commentary that underlines the drama surrounding Old Ben, the attitude that views civilization as nature's inevitable enemy. "I can't repudiate it," he says, "it was never mine to repudiate. It was never Father's and Uncle Buddy's to bequeath me to repudiate because it was never Grandfather's to bequeath to them to bequeath to me to repudiate… He made the earth first and peopled it with dumb creatures, and then He created man to be His overseer on the earth… not to hold for himself and his descendants inviolable title forever, generation after generation, to the oblongs and squares of the earth, but to hold the earth mutual and intact in the communal anonymity of brotherhood" (GDM, 243-44). In Isaac's eyes, the notions of ownership and property are evil, blasphemous forces, inseparable from the abuse they foster, which defies God's will. While he is undeniably tainted as a descendant of the South, his refusal to accept the land which had witnessed such atrocities at least ensures that he does not repeat those same crimes against nature.

At the end of the story, Isaac returns to the woods to share the story of their fate. By then, most of the land has been sold off to a logging company. He looks around, in "grieved amazement" at the mill in construction, the "miles and miles of stacked steel rails red with the light bright rust of newness," the "wire corrals" (GDM, 302) which now section off the wilderness. The final scene of Boon sitting underneath the Gum Tree, seemingly "alive with frantic squirrels… his head bent, hammering furiously at… the barrel of his dismembered gun" (GDM, 314-15), presents a heartbreaking vision of nature's fate. "Don't touch them! Don't touch a one of them! They're mine!" (GDM, 315), he cries, in defiance refusal to acknowledge the diminishment of the wilderness, as well as the dispossession. Ultimately, his attempt is futile, for he can neither possess, nor even protect, the tree or the squirrels and he is reduced to nothing more than the "steady savage somehow queerly hysterical beating of metal on metal, emerging from the woods" (GDM, 314).

It is an overwhelmingly bleak vision, presenting the rapidly encroaching lumber industry as yet another crime against nature which will, in turn, nurture more of its own tragic repetition. As mankind continues to view the wilderness as nothing more than a means for profit, he shall continue to alienate himself and his descendants from the environment they are so closely connected to. However, represented through characters such as Isaac, Lena Grove, and Reverend Hightower, Faulkner appears to imply that through openness to nature and the relinquishment of oneself, in a way, to its laws of motion, perhaps a regeneration of the individual, and ultimately society as a whole, can be achieved.

Works Cited

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