Humor in Faulkner’s Native Narratives
Faulkner’s portraits of Native Americans have been hotly debated, and it is true his lack of deep knowledge of Mississippi’s Native culture forced him to invent rather generously. To his credit, however, he presented multi-faceted characters, who range from the appalling to the appealing, displaying a full spectrum of human feelings. A little explored aspect of these tales is their humor. As Faulkner knew, Native cultures employed humor in virtually every aspect of their lives. This is apparent in his underrated story, “A Courtship,” but also in “Lo.” This essay outlines uses of the comic in these tales, and then relates it to authentic Native humor, showing how his artificial constructions both coincide and conflict with actual comic conventions in Native communities; the way in which his comic inventions create intimacy; and how the tales’ humor subverts accepted notions of nineteenth century history.
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