Faulkner's writings often deal with the search for meaning, racism, the connection between past and present, and with social and moral burdens. Much of his writing was drawn from the history of the South and of his family. He was born and raised in Mississippi, so the stories of the South were ingrained into him, and he used this material in his greatest novels.
Unlike earlier American writers, like Melville and Whitman, Faulkner wasn't writing about an established American myth. He was writing about the "decayed fragments of myth," with the Civil War, slavery and so many other events hanging in the background. Irving explains that this dramatically different backdrop "is one reason his language is so often tortured, forced and even incoherent." Faulkner was searching for a way to make sense of it all.
Faulkner's first two books were failures, but then he created The Sound and the Fury, a work for which he would become famous. Howe writes, "the extraordinary growth of the books to come will arise from his discovery of his native insight: the Southern memory, the Southern myth, the Southern reality." Faulkner was, after all, unique. There has been no other quite like him. He seemed to forever see the world in a new way, as Howe points out. Never satisfied with "the familiar and well-worn," Howe writes that Faulkner did something that no other writer except James Joyce has been able to do when he "exploited the stream-of-consciousness technique." But, Faulkner's approach to literature was tragic, as he explored "the cost and heavy the weight of human existence." Sacrifice may be the key to salvation for those "who stand ready to bear the cost and suffer the weight." Perhaps, it was only that Faulkner was able to see true cost.