"Beyond" (Text Key 1311)

short story

"Beyond" is one of the few Faulkner short stories for which we can identify sources in Faulkner's life: his wife's step-grandfather was a Republican federal judge in a primarily Democratic community and an outspoken agnostic; his in-laws, the Oldhams, had lost a son about the same age as Howard Allison, and Faulkner used the boy's epitaph for Howard's gravestone. We also have Faulkner's own explanation of the turning point of the story he once called "a tour de force in esoteria." Writing to his agent Ben Wasson, Faulkner was specific about the judge's decision: "The agnostic progresses far enough into heaven to find one whom his intelligence, if not his logic, could accept as Christ, and who even offers him an actual sight and meeting with his dead son in exchange for the surrender of his logic, agnosticism. But he naturally and humanly prefers the sorrow with which he has lived so long that it not only does not hurt anymore, but is perhaps even a pleasure, to the uncertainty of change, even when it means that he may gain his son again."

The story was originally called "Beyond the Gate," and was written by April 1930, the date when The Saturday Evening Post rejected it under that title. Harper's published it in September 1933 as "Beyond." Faulkner did not include the unpublished version of the story when he compiled the collection These 13 (1931); he did include the Harper's version in his next collection of stories, Doctor Martino (1934), and in Collected Stories (1950). In proposing the latter volume, editor Robert Haas did not suggest including the story, probably because he doesn't seem to have had a copy of Doctor Martino to hand at the time, but it did not take Faulkner long to choose the story for the book and to place it at the beginning of the volume's final section, also called "Beyond." The Collected Stories version is the basis for our edition.

Dating the Story: "Beyond" has a fairly straightforward internal chronology that puts the present time of the story in 1931, and the jasmine that is blooming at the time of the judge's death identifies the season as spring or perhaps very early summer.

SOURCE: Joseph Blotner, ed., Selected Letters of William Faulkner.

First Publisher: 
Harper's Magazine
First Publisher Date: 
September 1933
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Vintage International
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New York
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How to cite this resource:
Towner, Theresa M., and Lorie Watkins. "Faulkner's 'Beyond.'" Added to the project: 2018. Additional editing 2020: Erin Kay Penner, Theresa M. Towner. Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu

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