William Faulkner’s First Novel, Soldiers’ Pay

Andrew Scoblionko is an operations manager with extensive experience in higher education. An avid reader, he considers William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! his favorite fictional work. As a graduate student at Rutgers University, Andrew Scoblionko published an article on Faulkner’s first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, in The Faulkner Journal.

Published in 1926, Soldiers’ Pay focused on the “lost generation” which returned to the United States disillusioned from World War I. Faulkner wrote the novel in New Orleans, drawing on his own experiences in the war, which involved being rejected as a pilot from the U.S. Army due to height requirements. Subsequently training in Canada with the Royal Air Force as cadet, Faulkner did not finish training before the war ended. The novel centers around a fighter pilot who has been shot down by the enemy and is presumed dead. He is found alive in mysterious circumstances with a serious head injury and complete amnesia regarding his past life in Georgia. Burdened by a terrible scar and going blind, the protagonist ultimately takes a wife shortly before he dies. While the prose does not match Faulkner’s later works, critics have noted the novel’s similarity to books such as Light in August, which use sophisticated structural techniques to unify diverse subject materials.

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