Martin Kreiswirth challenges the accepted notion that The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner's fourth and possibly finest novel, represented an unprecedented turning point in the writer's literary career, a quantum leap in his imaginative development. He argues that Faulkner's earlier work, both published and unpublished, not only distinctly prefigured techniques, narrative strategies, and creative procedures used in the writing of his fourth novel, but also provided him with materials and methods to which he could return.
Viewed in the context of his literary development, the author says, the writing of The Sound and the Fury constituted for Faulkner not so much a mysterious leap as a moment of initiation; it marks that crucial point in his career at which he revisited his past, saw it anew, and reworked it into his future.
Focusing his attention on the works that preceded The Sound and the Fury--and specifically on the strategies and conventions that informed those works--Kreiswirth reassesses Faulkner's imaginative growth and offers new insights into the place and significance of The Sound and the Fury itself.
He provides detailed analyses of such works as the New Orleans short fiction, the abandoned novel Elmer, Mosquitoes, Flags in the Dust, and particularly Faulkner's neglected first novel, Soldier's Pay. These texts are reexamined not only as anticipations of later developments but as literary achievements in their own right.