William Faulkner entered the world in New Albany, Mississippi, just about 40 miles from the place where he would leave it some 60 years later. Born on 25 September 1897, William Cuthbert Falkner (we'll solve the case of the missing "u" a bit later) never strayed far from his southern roots. Aside from a few brief stints in New York City and New Orleans, Faulkner spent the vast majority of his life on Mississippi soil, breathing Mississippi air and writing about Mississippi people. Faulkner's ties to The Magnolia State run deep: his great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner (known locally as the "Old Colonel"), was a prominent lawyer, railroad financier, slave-owner, and Civil War veteran in Mississippi. Though the author William Faulkner never met the predecessor for whom he was named—the Old Colonel was murdered by a business rival in 1889—the elder Falkner loomed large in his great-grandson's imagination, influencing his writing and his vision of the South.
As a result of his family's stake in the railroad business, William Faulkner grew up in a financially comfortable—but not always happy—home. His father, Murry, drank heavily (alcoholism was a constant in Faulkner's life) and presided over the family in a tyrannical fashion, imposing silence at the dinner table and unexpectedly skipping town for days at a time.
Thus, by age eighteen, young Billy Falkner—social misfit, high school dropout, and budding alcoholic—had not managed to get his life off to a very auspicious start.