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The Sound and the Fury
By William Faulkner
1929

Main Characters

Caddy - The book tells her story in the first three sections discussing parts of her childhood and growth continuing with her illegitimate daughter in the third section.

Benjy - He is the narrator of the first section and 33 at the time, but has a mental illness which makes him deaf and dumb.

Quentin - He is the narrator of the second section during his freshman year at Harvard during which he commits suicide.

Jason - He is a brother of the three previous main characters and the narrator of the 3 section who describes his relationships with Caddy and her daughter.

Minor Characters

Dilsey - She is a black servant of the Compson household and the one to see their doom in the fourth section.

Caroline Compson - She is the mother of the main character and a hypochondriac.

Three main settings

The Compson house - Most of the story takes place here at the house of the Compson family.

Boston - The second section happens in Boston as Quentin prepares for his suicide.

Mottstown - Parts of the fourth section happen here has Jason chase Miss Quentin trying to get back the money she stole from him.

Plot

The book begins with a section narrated by Benjy.  The narration moves back and forth through times since Benjy, being an idiot, has no sense of time.  In the present, Benjy is 33.  However, we see incidents from his past experiences such as Damuddy’s funeral, and the various experiences with Caddy.  Near the end of his section, he is mistaken to have sexually assaulted a girl and we find out that he is castrated later in the book.  The second section is narrated by Quentin and shows his preparations for his suicide.  In the start of the section, he breaks his watch in somewhat of an attempt to escape time.  He prepares his suicide notes and gives them to Deacon whom he tells to deliver the notes the next day.  He travels around Boston but gets arrested for trying to take a young Italian girl home.  He gets in a fight with a guy named Gerald bland, and later drowns himself.  The third section is narrated by Jason.  This shows the way he takes money from Caddy intended for Quentin.  It also shows Quentin’s developing sexuality and rebelliousness.  Jason partly attempts to discipline her, but it seems more for his entertainment than for a caring for the girl.  The fourth section is from an omniscient viewpoint and focuses largely on Dilsey.  Dilsey goes to an Easter service where she hears the preacher preach a sermon which reflects the Compson household.  Through the sermon, she also sees the inevitable doom facing the Compson household.  This section also follows Jason to Mottstown following Quentin who stole $7,000 from him.

Symbols

Quentin’s watch - The watch was given to him by his father and symbolizes life and time.  By breaking the watch, Quentin attempts to escape time and ultimately his life.

Dilsey - Dilsey symbolizes the only form of reason and logic in the Compson house.  All other characters are doomed to life ineffectual lives but she sees the fall that is happening while not experiencing it herself.

Style

Faulkner’s style in this novel is very unconventional.  He arranges the novel in four sections which doesn’t have the typical chronological part, but shows parts of the story at a time from any which time period.  His writing is very characteristic of the narrator with Benjy writing simply from a very objective point of view, Quentin being neurotic, and Jason being sadistic.

Philosophy

Faulkner shows in this book the tragic fall of a family in this book.  He seems to warn against weak family ties showing that to be a great cause of the tragedy of the Compson house.

Quotes

“They took the flag out, and they were hitting.  Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit.  Then they went on, and I went along the fence.”  Benjy narrates this section in the beginning of the book showing his viewpoint of what seems to be golfers.

“When the shadow of the sash appeared in the curtains it was between seven and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch.  It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it’s rather excruciatingly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father’s.  I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.”  Quentin narrates this section reflecting on his watch and the time when his father gave it to him.

“Once a b---- always a b----, what I saw.  I says you’re lucky if her playing out of school is all that worries you.  I says she ought to be down there in that kitchen right now, instead of up there in her room, gobbing paint on her face and waiting for six niggers that cant even stand up out of a chair unless they’ve got a pan full of bread and meat to balance them, to fix breakfast for her.”  This begins the section narrated by Jason and introduces Quentin, Caddy’s daughter.

“In the midst of the voices and the hands Ben sat, rapt in his sweet blue gaze.  Dilsey sat bolt upright beside, crying rigidly and quietly in the annealment that the blood of the remembered Lamb.”  This is the author narrating in the fourth section during the Easter service.