The Theme Of Sacrifice: A Comparison Of The Primitive Practices Recorded In The Golden Bough With Representative Works Of Faulkner

Date of Graduation

Spring 1978


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Wesley Hall


A close reading of Faulkner's fiction reveals that he fuses an understanding of the religious practices of primitive people found in The Golden Bough with a knowledge of Christian symbols to create his own mythology. The practices recorded in The Golden Bough, together with Hebrew rituals, form a rich background against which to discuss the meaning of Faulkker's work, particularly those novels concerned with sacrifice. The focus of this paper is on Faulkner's use of pagan and Christian symbolism, especially as it relates to the theme of sacrifice. First, the many parallels between The Golden Bough and Faulkner's "The Bear" lend rich insight into the symbolic meaning of this classic story. Second, a comparison of the Sartoris men and their doom to the role of the priest-kings in The Golden Bough helps to explain the origin of the Sartoris curse and their ineffectual struggle against it. The story of Joe Christmas also has many parallels to the ancient ceremonies surrounding the killing of a scapegoat. Fourth, having an understanding of the patterns of sacrifice in The Golden Bough helps one see how Faulkner has blended Christian and primitive ideas in Requiem for a Nun. Finally, the imagery of the Blood of the Lamb, Dilsey's sacrificial life, and the primitive understanding of the role of the scapegoat blend into a richly significant pattern in The Sound and the Fury. Faulkner has melded together all the materials in his "workshop" to give the reader a picture of the cycle of life and death and rebirth as he sees it in the twentieth century.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Frances B. Bixler