50 Favorite William Faulkner Quotes

Last updated on Dec 21st, 2022

50 Favorite William Faulkner Quotes

William Cuthbert Faulkner stands as one of the most famous and most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. He was born in New Albany, Mississippi on September 25, 1897.

Most of his early work was poetry, but he is primarily known for his novels set in fabricated Yoknapatawpha County (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom!). Apart from poetry and novels, Faulkner also wrote short stories, essays, and screenplays. His literature had a great influence on both popular and Modernist literature.

Faulkner won many awards, among the most important are: the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction (A Fable in 1955 and The Reivers in 1963), and two National Book Awards.

Below are some of our favorite quotes from William Faulkner.

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 Quotes
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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.Lion in the garden; interviews with William Faulkner (1926-1962)

All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. - William Faulkner Quotes
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All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.The Paris Review interview (1956) with Jean Stein

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. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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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.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 105

Man knows so little about his fellows. In his eyes all men or women act upon what he believes would motivate him if he were mad enough to do what that other man or woman is doing. - William Faulkner (Light in August Quotes)
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Man knows so little about his fellows. In his eyes all men or women act upon what he believes would motivate him if he were mad enough to do what that other man or woman is doing.Light in August (1931), (Modern Library, ed. 1950), Page 41

I decline to accept the end of man. - William Faulkner Quotes
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I decline to accept the end of man.Speech at the Nobel Prize Banquet after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature (December 10, 1950)

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. - William Faulkner Quotes
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I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.Speech at the Nobel Prize Banquet after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature (December 10, 1950)

The past is never dead. It's not even past. - William Faulkner (Requiem for a Nun Quotes)
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The past is never dead. It’s not even past.Requiem for a Nun (1951), (Random House, ed. 1966), Page 92

Between grief and nothing I will take grief. - William Faulkner (The Wild Palms Quotes)
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Between grief and nothing I will take grief.The Wild Palms (1939), (New American Library, ed. 1968), Page 228

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. - William Faulkner Quotes
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We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.On Fear: The South in Labor (Harper's Magazine, June 1956)

There is no such thing as memory: the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less: and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream. - William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom! Quotes)
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There is no such thing as memory: the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less: and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream.Absalom, Absalom! (1936), (Modern Library, ed. 1951), Page 143

Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words. - William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying Quotes)
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Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.As I Lay Dying (1930), (Random House, ed. 1964), Page 165

Between what did happen and what ought to happened, I dont never have trouble picking ought. - William Faulkner (The Town Quotes)
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Between what did happen and what ought to happened, I dont never have trouble picking ought.The Town (1957), (Random House, ed. 1957), Page 100

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. - William Faulkner Quotes
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Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.The Paris Review interview (1956) with Jean Stein

So vast, so limitless in capacity is man's imagination to disperse and burn away the rubble-dross of fact and probability, leaving only truth and dream. - William Faulkner (Requiem for a Nun Quotes)
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So vast, so limitless in capacity is man’s imagination to disperse and burn away the rubble-dross of fact and probability, leaving only truth and dream.Requiem for a Nun (1951), (Random House, ed. 1966), Page 261

And even a liar can be scared into telling the truth, same as an honest man can be tortured into telling a lie. - William Faulkner (Light in August Quotes)
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And even a liar can be scared into telling the truth, same as an honest man can be tortured into telling a lie.Light in August (1931), (Modern Library, ed. 1950), Page 87

Maybe the only thing worse than having to give gratitude constantly is having to accept it. - William Faulkner (Requiem for a Nun Quotes)
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Maybe the only thing worse than having to give gratitude constantly is having to accept it.Requiem for a Nun (1951), (Random House, ed. 1966), Page 155

A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you'd think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you’d think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 129

When you have plenty of good strong hating you don't need hope because the hating will be enough to nourish you. - William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom! Quotes)
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When you have plenty of good strong hating you don’t need hope because the hating will be enough to nourish you.Absalom, Absalom! (1936), (Modern Library, ed. 1951), Page 303

It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That's how the world is going to end. - William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying Quotes)
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It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.As I Lay Dying (1930), (Random House, ed. 1964), Page 38

A gentleman can live through anything. - William Faulkner (The Reivers Quotes)
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A gentleman can live through anything.The Reivers (1962), (Vintage Books, ed. 1962), Page 302

Be scared. You can't help that. But don't be afraid. Ain't nothing in the woods going to hurt you unless you corner it, or it smells that you are afraid. A bear or a deer, too, has got to be scared of a coward the same as a brave man has got to be. - William Faulkner Quotes
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Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid. Ain’t nothing in the woods going to hurt you unless you corner it, or it smells that you are afraid. A bear or a deer, too, has got to be scared of a coward the same as a brave man has got to be.The Bear, in The Saturday Evening Post (May 9, 1942)

Proof is but a fallacy invented by man to justify to himself and his fellows his own crass lust and folly. - William Faulkner Quotes
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Proof is but a fallacy invented by man to justify to himself and his fellows his own crass lust and folly.Beyond (1933)

Poets are almost always wrong about facts. That's because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth. - William Faulkner (The Town Quotes)
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Poets are almost always wrong about facts. That’s because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth.The Town (1957), (Random House, ed. 1957), Page 88

Time is a fluid condition which has no existence except in the momentary avatars of individual people. There is no such thing as was - only is. - William Faulkner Quotes
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Time is a fluid condition which has no existence except in the momentary avatars of individual people. There is no such thing as was – only is.The Paris Review interview (1956) with Jean Stein

To the man grown the long crowded mile of his boyhood becomes less than the throw of a stone. - William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom! Quotes)
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To the man grown the long crowded mile of his boyhood becomes less than the throw of a stone.Absalom, Absalom! (1936), (Modern Library, ed. 1951), Page 366

Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 143

When grown people speak of the innocence of children, they dont really know what they mean. - William Faulkner (The Reivers Quotes)
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When grown people speak of the innocence of children, they dont really know what they mean.The Reivers (1962), (Vintage Books, ed. 1962), Page 46

The reason you will not say it is, when you say it, even to yourself, you will know it is true. - William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying Quotes)
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The reason you will not say it is, when you say it, even to yourself, you will know it is true.As I Lay Dying (1930), (Random House, ed. 1964), Page 38

What makes a fool is an inability to take even his own good advice. - William Faulkner (Light in August Quotes)
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What makes a fool is an inability to take even his own good advice.Light in August (1931), (Modern Library, ed. 1950), Page 236

Your illusions are a part of you like your bones and flesh and memory. - William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom! Quotes)
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Your illusions are a part of you like your bones and flesh and memory.Absalom, Absalom! (1936), (Modern Library, ed. 1951), Page 348

Menfolks listens to somebody because of what he says. Women don't. They don't care what he said. They listens because of what he is. - William Faulkner (Requiem for a Nun Quotes)
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Menfolks listens to somebody because of what he says. Women don’t. They don’t care what he said. They listens because of what he is.Requiem for a Nun (1951), (Random House, ed. 1966), Page 274

One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can't eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours - all you can do for eight hours is work. - William Faulkner Quotes
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One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours – all you can do for eight hours is work.The Paris Review interview (1956) with Jean Stein

Victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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Victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 93

People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too. - William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying Quotes)
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People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.As I Lay Dying (1930), (Random House, ed. 1964), Page 168

Love in the young requires as little of hope as of desire to feed upon. - William Faulkner (Light in August Quotes)
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Love in the young requires as little of hope as of desire to feed upon.Light in August (1931), (Modern Library, ed. 1950), Page 154

It isn't love that dies, it's the man and the woman. - William Faulkner (The Wild Palms Quotes)
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It isn’t love that dies, it’s the man and the woman.The Wild Palms (1939), (New American Library, ed. 1968), Page 159

An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. - William Faulkner Quotes
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An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.The Paris Review interview (1956) with Jean Stein

Life was created in the valleys. It blew up onto the hills on the old terrors, the old lusts, the old despairs. That's why you must walk up the hills so you can ride down. - William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying Quotes)
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Life was created in the valleys. It blew up onto the hills on the old terrors, the old lusts, the old despairs. That’s why you must walk up the hills so you can ride down.As I Lay Dying (1930), (Random House, ed. 1964), Page 217

Necessity has a way of obliterating from our conduct various delicate scruples regarding honor and pride. - William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom! Quotes)
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Necessity has a way of obliterating from our conduct various delicate scruples regarding honor and pride.Absalom, Absalom! (1936), (Modern Library, ed. 1951), Page 153

All men are just accumulations dolls stuffed with sawdust swept up from the trash heaps where all previous dolls had been thrown away. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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All men are just accumulations dolls stuffed with sawdust swept up from the trash heaps where all previous dolls had been thrown away.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 218

A man. All men. He will pass up a hundred chances to do good for one chance to meddle where meddling is not wanted. He will overlook and fail to see chances, opportunities, for riches and fame and welldoing, and even sometimes for evil. But he won't fail to see a chance to meddle. - William Faulkner (Light in August Quotes)
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A man. All men. He will pass up a hundred chances to do good for one chance to meddle where meddling is not wanted. He will overlook and fail to see chances, opportunities, for riches and fame and welldoing, and even sometimes for evil. But he won’t fail to see a chance to meddle.Light in August (1931), (Modern Library, ed. 1950), Page 21

Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don't have time to bother with success or getting rich. - William Faulkner Quotes
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Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.The Paris Review interview (1956) with Jean Stein

There are some things for which three words are three too many, and three thousand words that many words too less. - William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom! Quotes)
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There are some things for which three words are three too many, and three thousand words that many words too less.Absalom, Absalom! (1936), (Modern Library, ed. 1951), Page 166

Memory believes before knowing remembers. - William Faulkner (Light in August Quotes)
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Memory believes before knowing remembers.Light in August (1931), (Modern Library, ed. 1950), Page 104

Any live man is better than any dead man but no live or dead man is very much better than any other live or dead man. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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Any live man is better than any dead man but no live or dead man is very much better than any other live or dead man.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 125

Poor man. Poor mankind. - William Faulkner (Light in August Quotes)
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Poor man. Poor mankind.Light in August (1931), (Modern Library, ed. 1950), Page 87

A man never gets anywhere if facts and his ledgers don't square. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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A man never gets anywhere if facts and his ledgers don’t square.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 286

If happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can. - William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom! Quotes)
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If happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can.Absalom, Absalom! (1936), (Modern Library, ed. 1951), Page 121

Every man is the arbiter of his own virtues but let no man prescribe for another man's wellbeing. - William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury Quotes)
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Every man is the arbiter of his own virtues but let no man prescribe for another man’s wellbeing.The Sound and the Fury (1929), (Modern Library, ed. 1956), Page 221

The reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time. - William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying Quotes)
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The reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.As I Lay Dying (1930), (Random House, ed. 1964), Page 161