Elizabeth Wagele

The Career Within You


What Is Author William Faulkner’s Personality Type?

This great writer was an introverted, independent outsider.

Posted Mar 01, 2016

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele
Source: Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

William Faulkner (1897 to 1962) was one of the greatest American writers. He won the Nobel Prize for literature. He wrote The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), A Light in August (1932), and many other novels and short stories as well as screenplays. Faulkner spent most of his life in the small town of Oxford, Mississippi, observing the townspeople, inventing stories, developing a unique writing style, and leading an active life.

I believe Faulkner was an INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) type in the MBTIR system. His Sensation preference was also highly developed (for example, he liked to hunt, fly airplanes, play golf, chop wood, and train horses; and he always knew how to find his way out of deep hunting grounds). He was an introvert who felt like an outsider.

I think Faulkner was a type 5 in the Enneagram system, the Observer, with a 4-Romantic wing. One of his strongest personality traits was his independence. He had a live and let live attitude—didn’t like telling people what to do and hated it when others tried to control him. He backed off from confrontations, was pensive, creative, individualistic, withdrawn and witty; more of a listener than a talker. When he went to dances he watched and listened. He could be moody and rebellious, especially toward formal education. He preferred to read a large variety of books independently—to be self-educated.

William Faulkner was kind and generous. Some in his town called him eccentric and arrogant. During his early years he liked to draw and write poetry.  

People thought him a little strange. Sometimes he didn’t seem to see people he knew as he passed them on the street, or seemed to be staring into space. His brother, John, called him a tender man with a shell around him to protect his feelings. John said William refused to talk to anyone about his writings as an attempt to keep from getting hurt.

Faulkner didn’t believe in rewriting. When he finished something he was through with it and never looked back. When he went to Hollywood to write for movies, he complained that everything there was for show.

Faulkner was attracted to French decadence writing and regional realism. His writing was influenced by Sherwood Anderson and the French Symbolists, among others, and was both realistic and inventive. He drew on the local color of Mississippi.

Faulkner’s kindness especially showed in his treatment of his and his family’s black employees. When they became too old to work, he saw to it that they were settled and had someone to care for them. He made sure someone sent him regular reports on how they were doing. Although many in his family were segregationists, Faulkner was clearly in favor of integration.

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• Also, see my Psychology Today blog on 4-Romantics in the workplace.