William Faulkner Best Quotes 💬

William Faulkner’s insightful quotes continue to resonate with readers decades after his death.

William Faulkner

American writer

William Faulkner was the master of dialogue and used intricate sentence structures to express his thoughts from various perspectives.

On Reading, Learning, and Writing

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.

William Faulkner dropped out of high school to pursue what he termed ‘undirected learning.’ It was in this way he was able to read far and wide and develop a taste for writing.

In writing, you must kill all your darlings.

One of the most typical pieces of advice provided by seasoned authors is to “kill your darlings.” When you choose to cut a piece of creative writing that you may have worked arduously to develop, but that is necessary for the benefit of your overall plot, you are choosing to kill your darlings.

This was Faulkner’s approach to writing and learning. You have to have the presence of mind to remove all bias and emotional attachment to certain aspects of your work, to create something authentic.


Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.

Faulkner often introduced upstanding characters into his stories, like Dilsey in ‘The Sound and the Fury’. His great-grandfather fought in the American Civil War, so the concept of honor, respect, courage, and diligence were highly esteemed virtues to Faulkner.

You cannot swim for new horizons until you dare to lose sight of the shore.

Faulkner was a pioneer in the literary style of modernism and stream-of-consciousness. Because of the intricacy of his style, critics and audiences were initially put off by the difficulty of his work. Faulkner dared to challenge the conventions of writing in his writings. He was rewarded for his valiant efforts years later, as he won a Nobel Prize years after the publishing of his magnum opus, ‘The Sound and the Fury’.


The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

Faulkner’s character in ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ Benjy, repeatedly confused the past and the present in his recollection. Perhaps, stylistically, Faulkner was trying to communicate his belief that the past and present are more interwoven than we think, and our current state is merely an extension of the past.

Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.

Culled from ‘The Sound and the Fury.’ This quote was gotten from Quentin’s narration. Quentin was trapped by time and felt lost in a time when his most cherished ideals of the Old South were gone. For Faulkner, beating time was accepting the changing times and adapting to new circumstances, however unpleasant they may seem.

Values of the Old South

It used to be a gentleman was known by his books; nowadays he is known by the ones he has not returned.

Born and raised in Mississippi, Faulkner was inculcated with the values of honor, respect, and gentlemanliness. As is replete in his works, this Southern code of conduct is fast fading, and this change was most captured by Quentin Compson from ‘The Sound and the Fury.’ He is holding on to the image of the Old South in a world that has moved on.

Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature.

From Faulkner’s character, Mr. Compson. Mr. Compson is a pessimist and cynic who does not hold the Southern code of conduct in the same esteem as his son, Quentin, does. Mr. Compson stated that female virginity was a male invention and had no utility. With this character, Faulkner expresses the changing of the times in the Old South.

It’s not when you realize that nothing can help you -religion, pride, anything – it’s when you realize that you don’t need any aid.

The Compson family from ‘The Sound and the Fury’ relied heavily on past glory as a means of dealing with the present reality of the South. However, as the book progresses, we soon learn that not even their name is enough to halt the passage of time. Being trapped with a victim mentality, the family is crippled and unable to make any progress.

On Love and Living Well

That’s what they mean by the love that passeth understanding: that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which we bring here with us, . . . carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again.

Culled from the book ‘As I Lay Dying.’ The book As I Lay Dying is neither itself didactic nor moralistic, and Faulkner does not intend to imply that God is punishing the Bundren family. The extent to which the characters themselves consciously and unconsciously interpret their lives using the principles and justifications offered by the Bible is revealed in this chapter, though. Love, in Faulkner’s book, was something that went beyond the crutches of human understanding.

 My father said that the reason for living is getting ready to stay dead. I knew at last what he meant and that he could not have known what he meant himself, because a man cannot know anything about cleaning up the house afterward.

The comment made by Addie Bundren’s father, a character from ‘As I Lay Dying,’ “The reason for living is getting ready to stay dead,” is highlighted in this quote as she discusses her realization of its validity. Addie Bundren has lost interest in life, yet she also appears to be quite aware of her existence, purpose, and impending death. Faulkner sought to bring an ever-present awareness of death to the consciousness of the living, as he believed this ever-present awareness made us live better.


What was William Faulkner’s writing style?

William Faulkner used a stream-of-consciousness style that was somewhat difficult to understand. He often told stories from multiple perspectives in a free-floating style, weaving between the past and the present.

What genre did William Faulkner write in?

William Faulkner’s genre was modernism and Southern Gothic.

What is William Faulkner’s most popular quote?

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.”

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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