Thursday, March 29, 2007

Attribution (Annotation G1-8/Goddard)

“Dialogue Attribution,” he said.
“Is distracting,” I said.
“Is it distracting?” she said.
“In Faulkner’s story,” he said.
“It is distracting,” she said.


“That Evening Sun,” is completely dialogue driven. Nearly the entire story is told trough the conversations of the characters. Everything revealed is discovered through the voices of the characters themselves. Often times there are upwards of five characters speaking at one time and several conversations are going at once. This in itself may be difficult to follow, however Faulkner has given the readers all they need to know and everything that is said is given attribution. Despite the clarity of who is saying what and when, the attribution to every line of dialogue becomes annoying at times and completely distracting.
“You’re worse,” Caddy said, “you are a tattletale. If something was to jump out, you’d be scairder than a nigger.”
“I wouldn’t,” Jason said.
“You’d cry,” Caddy said.
“Caddy,” Father said.
“I wouldn’t,” Jason said.
“Scairy cat,” Caddy said.
“Candance!” Father said.
It’s incessant. It’s on every page, with every character and it doesn’t stop. I gives me the sneaking impression Faulkner had the normal typewriter of his day but there was a special button “said” which he liked to use.
The dialogue itself is fascinating, no doubt about it. All the events of a Monday morning in Jefferson are told exclusively through conversation. The information is dense too; I had to read the story three times. On the third read, I read the story aloud to an audience. About the time everyone left the main house and went through the hole in the fence and to Nancy’s house a few thought plagued me. First, Faulkner must have been drunk as he wrote this piece, and the attributions at the end of each and everything anyone said were for his benefit and not for the benefit of the readers. How else would he be able to keep everyone straight? Secondly, Faulkner had to have worked in a mode of utter silence. As he wrote, I doubt he read anything aloud. Reading “That Evening Sun,” is tolerable when quietly read to oneself.
“Reading it out loud to others is a grating experience,” I said
“Because it doesn’t flow,” she said.
“There are too many pauses,” he said.
“Conversation isn’t like that,” he said.
“What’d you say?” she said.
The last thought during the read aloud visit of Faulkner, it was less confusing to listeners and to reader alike to simply leave off half the ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ attributions. There was no breech in the story, and it seemed to flow a little better.
In the last examination of “That Evening Sun,” read quietly to myself, I knew exactly what was going on and ignored the attributions entirely. Better flow? Absolutely. Less distracting? Absolutely. It is practically unnecessary, the voices of the characters and what they said should be enough, after all they have voices of the their own.

Faulkner, William. “That Evening Sun.” 50 Great Short Stories. Ed. Milton Crane. New York: Bantam Books, 1952. 352-367.


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