Faulkner Guide Questions
“That Evening Sun”
1. “That Evening Sun” tells the story of Nancy and the different perceptions that the characters have of her dilemma. Who, exactly, is Nancy? How do the perceptions of her by father and mother, the children, and Nancy herself differ?
2. Consider in particular the different perceptions of the three children, ranging from Jason’s failure to understand to Caddy’s partial understanding to Quentin’s clear understanding of her probable fate, at the end of the story. What comments and responses in the story indicate these varying degrees of understanding for each?
3. To what extent does this story depict both conflict within different parts of society and between different parts of society?
4. Discuss Faulkner’s use of the imagery of sunset in “That Evening Sun, “suggested in the title and in the body of the story, to emphasize Nancy’s fear of the night and her foreboding of death.
5. Discuss Quentin’s expression of a characteristically Faulknerian attitude toward modernity, progress, and urban development.
6. Quentin uses ornate language, such phrases as “the soiled wearing of a whole week.” What does his language suggest about his sensitivity, education, and character?
7. At first Quentin fails to understand why Nancy refuses to cook the children’s breakfast: “So we thought it was whisky until that day they arrested her again.” Do subsequent events suggest that Caddy and Jason come to understand, as nine-year-old Quentin does, why Nancy refuses to leave her cabin and cook breakfast for the Compsons?
8. Discuss the varying perceptions of the three children, ranging from Jason’s failure to understand to Caddy’s partial understanding to Quentin’s clear understanding of Nancy’s dilemma and her probable fate, at the end of the story.
9. Discuss “That Evening Sun” as a story in which the white Compsons fail to meet their responsibilities to their black servant Nancy.
10. Consider the different kinds of conflicts revealed in this story, both within and between groups.
11. In class, you learned about the reactions of editor H.L. Mencken to the story. Discuss Mencken’s editorial omissions and restorations. Would they be considered “somewhat loud for a general magazine” today?
12. Quentin appears to accept the fact that Nancy will be killed. Does the father’s reaction suggest that he also believes that Nancy will be killed? Or do his reactions suggest that he believes that Nancy is not in danger? Does he seem unconcerned about her fate? Do his comments and actions suggest that he realizes that there is nothing he can do to save her?
“A Rose for Emily”
1. Contrast the order of events as they happen in the story with the order in which they are told. How does this plotting create interest and suspense? How else does Faulkner’s arrangement of incidents affect the reader?
2. What is the effect of the final paragraph of the story? How does it contribute to your understanding of Emily? Why is it important that we get this information last rather than at the beginning of the story?
3. What details foreshadow the conclusion of the story? To what extent can the reader anticipate the ending?
4. To what extent do concepts of honor and tradition influence the action in “A Rose for Emily”?
5. Faulkner uses a number of gothic elements in this plot: the imposing decrepit house, the decayed corpse, and the mysterious secret horrors connected with Emily’s life. How do these elements forward the plot and establish the atmosphere?
6. How does the information provided by the story’s exposition indicate the nature of the conflict in the story? How important is the way Emily was treated by her father? What does Emily’s southern heritage contribute to the story?
7. With whom or what must Emily contend? Why is it significant that Homer Barron is a construction foreman and a northerner?
8. In what sense does the narrator’s telling of the story serve as “A Rose for Emily”? Why do you think the narrator uses we rather than I?
9. Explain how Emily’s reasons for murdering Homer are related to her personal history and to the ways she handled previous conflicts?
10. Discuss how Faulkner’s treatment of the North and South contributes to the meaning of the story?
11. In both of the assigned stories, what terms and allusions pose special challenges for international readers? Does either story require specialized knowledge of American cultural history?