TASK: How do you understand Faulkner’s extraordinary statement in his Nobel Prize speech “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself … alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat”?
I understand Faulkner’s statement to mean that humanity and the human spirit is a very complex concept and is a highly interesting subject to write about. Just before this particular bit in Faulkner’s speech, he says that young people writing today have forgotten about this and how engaging it can be to read.
The human heart in conflict is something that everyone on earth, alive or dead, can relate to in some way, shape or form whether it’s through heartbreak, loss, disappointment, betrayal, love or any other human emotion. When Faulkner says only the human heart in conflict is the only thing “worth writing about”, I believe he means that it is something anyone can write about. You don’t need great skill or mastery over the English language (or any language for that matter) to effectively convey what it’s like for someone to be in pain over anything, whether it be physical, mental or emotional.
Writing about something that absolutely everybody in the world can relate to, writing characters whose shoes everybody in the world can walk around in, writing about situations that everybody has experienced is worth the agony and the blood, sweat and tears because the end result will be something that audiences can relate to and love. I think Faulkner’s key point here is perfection doesn’t always happen in real life – it practically never happens – and it’s important for other art forms, including literature, to remember that and write about non-perfect, flawed, human characters. And, most importantly, all the work, time and effort that goes into writing these human characters and stories will be so worth it in the end.