William Faulkner on Marriage

William Faulkner, 27, still a bachelor, residing on the ground floor of 624 Pirate’s Alley (now Faulkner House Books) offered his views on “What is the Matter with Marriage?” in a $10.00 contest sponsored by the New Orleans Item-Tribune. Apparently he won. His response was published in the newspaper on April 4, 1925. The complete uncorrected text of the article follows:


Marriage Is Not At Fault, Writer Asserts; Fault Lies With Those Who Are Wed

Writer Gives Views


Poet, philosopher, student of life, WILLIAM FAULKNER, says that passion is a fire which quickly burns itself out. Love is enduring, he believes, a fuel that feeds a never-dying fire.

     “What is the Matter with Marriage?”

All kinds of answers have been coming in from people who have ideas as widely varied on the subject as it would seem possible to have them.

Last Sunday, the first article was published in the Item-Tribune asking the question, “What is the Matter with Marriage?” It was not Barbara Brooks’ idea that marriage is a failure. But it was her idea to get [sic] offering a prize of $10 for the best letter of not more than 250 words telling just what it is that is causing so many marriages to go the way they shouldn’t. Answers must be in the Item-Tribune office not later than April 13.

Hundreds of letters from men and women who were not making a success of married life have been received by Barbara Brooks. Rather than getting better, the situation has been growing worse. The letters have been increasing.

The following article by William Faulkner is teeming with interest. Marriage, he says, is all right, but the trouble lies with some of those who enter into it.

Mr. Faulkner has been in New Orleans for some time writing books of poetry. His first book “The Marble Faun” is fresh from the press. He has a thorough understanding of life, and its complexities, and is therefore qualified to speak.

“What is the matter with marriage?” I do not think there is anything the matter with marriage. The trouble is with the parties thereto. Man invariable gains unhappiness when he goes into a thing for the sole purpose of getting something. To take what he has at hand and to create from it his heart’s desires is the thing. Men and women forget that the better the food, the quicker the indigestion.

Two men or two women—forming a partnership, always remember that the other has weaknesses, and by taking into account the fallibility of mankind, they gain success and happiness. But so many men and women when they marry seem to ignore the fact that both must keep clearly in mind that thing which they wish to create, to attain, and so work for it together and with tolerance of each other.

None of us will believe that our sorrows are ever brought about by ourselves. We all think that the world owes us happiness; and when we do not get it, we cast the blame upon that person nearest to us.

The first frenzy of passion, of intimacy of mind and body, is never love. That is only the surf through which one must go to reach the calm sea of real love and peace and contentedness. Breakers may be fun, but you cannot sail safely through breakers into port. And surely married people do want to reach some port together—some haven from which to look backward down golden years when mutual tolerance has removed some of the rough places and time has blotted out the rest.

If people would but remember that passion is a fire which burns itself out, but that love is a fuel which feeds its never-dying fire, there would be no unhappy marriages.

There is nothing wrong with marriage. If there were, man would have invented something else to take its place.

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