The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 8, No. 2

Two Soldiers

by William Faulkner

Two Soldiers

In the months following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, William Faulkner wrote “Two Soldiers,” a short story about two brothers separated by war. It was published by The Saturday Evening Post on March 28, 1942, as German U-boats camped along the eastern seaboard and the first American troops landed in Britain. With the country whipped into the hysteria of a big war’s opening days, Faulkner’s story focused upon an emotional conflict—recognizing that politics change not just the world, they change people.
           Faulkner advanced his call to humanism with his Nobel Prize–acceptance speech eight years later, while American soldiers were deploying to Korea and the world was experiencing new kind of panic post–Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Faulkner protested the generalized fear seizing our cultures, the resulting objectification and alienation that threatened to stymie compassion and creative expression. “I decline to accept the end of man,” he said, famously, summoning writers to remind people of the human capacities for love and hope and pity. “The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man,” he said, “it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
           In the late summer of 2003, first-time writer-director Aaron Schneider released a short-film adaptation of “Two Soldiers.” Within a citizenry habituated to color-coded terror alerts, Faulkner’s old salvo of perseverance and hope reached new ears. On February 29, 2004, Two Soldiers received the Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action).

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