Soldiers' Pay by William Faulkner
William Faulkner's 1926 novel Soldiers'
Pay describes the return of a young officer, Donald Mahon, to his
hometown in Georgia after World War I. Mahon is injured beyond recovery,
and on the train another soldier and a war widow take him under their
care. When they reach his home, where he was believed to be already dead,
his surprised family and friends receive him with a mixture of misguided
hope for his recovery, curiosity about his experiences and condition, and
disgust for his wounds. Throughout the novel, characters demonstrate their
attitudes toward the war through their reactions to Mahon and other
soldiers. While the townsfolk show respect for soldiers who died, those
who survived remain on the fringes of society, present but not fully
participating in social activities. Soldiers are simultaneously heroes,
burdens, and bleak reminders of the war. Ultimately, none of the soldiers
"gets his girl," and the war casts its shadow over the
relationships and lives of all the main characters and townspeople.
Photograph of a dance
Eugene O. Goldbeck
This Eugene O. Goldbeck (1919) photograph captures a scene of returning soldiers relaxing at a dance.
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