The title of this novel is The Sound and the Fury. This title is derived from one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing plays, Macbeth. Within Macbeth, Shakespeare describes life as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.” And if life is “a tale told by an idiot,” there is justification as to of why Faulkner begins the book through the eyes of Benjy, a thirty-three year old retard.
The author of The Sound and the Fury is William Faulkner. He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. After dropping out of high school, Faulkner pursued his studies at the University of Mississippi. And he was a member of England’s Royal Navy in World War I.
Attempting to leave his mark in history as a great author, Faulkner created a host of characters comprised of the faults of human nature in the South. And Faulkner is characterized by the range of his technique and tone along with the themes concerning the South.
Faulkner bought a pre-Civil War mansion called “Rowanoak” in Oxford, Mississippi which would be his home until the very day he dies.
The first section of the book is seen through the eyes of Benjy, the retarded son of the aristocratic Compson family. In Benjy’s section, Benjy has no concept of time and portrays everything in the present, and in this case, April Seventh, 1928. The events that take place on this day are insignificant.
However, these events bring about memories which are highly significant. Benjy doesn’t understand any abstract concepts such as integrity and time. Instead he just absorbs memories from what he sees and what he hears. He does, however, have the ability to sense any bad occurrences that are out of place. One example of this can be seen when Caddy loses her virginity. Benjy is able to sense this and moans continuously. Caddy is Benjy’s only source of affection and is entirely dependent on her.
The next major character found in the book is Quentin. The second section of the book is seen through the eyes of Quentin many years before. Quentin is the oldest of the Compson children, and has romantic ideals about virginity. He is obsessed with his sister, Caddy, and is upset with her for wanting to marry a man named Dalton Ames. And he only becomes more upset when his father pays no negative regard toward Caddy’s promiscuity or about honor within a family. This eventually leads him to commit suicide.
He is the only character in the novel who is obsessed with honor and sexuality. And when he can’t find any love from his mother, he turns to Caddy. Quentin does not want to forget how he handled Caddy’s promiscuity because he believes that if he were to forget the entire experience would be meaningless although he is haunted by it. And in the end, Quentin commits suicide by drowning himself in the river.
The next major character of this novel is Jason Compson. And the third section of the book is seen through his eyes and revolves around him. From this section, the reader learns that Jason is a selfish, demented, and emotionless bachelor who would never give in to the idea of marriage. Jason is selfish in that he believes that he is always right and that the world should work the way that fits him best. He is demented in that he enjoys quarreling with people. One good example of this is when he arrives to work late in hopes that he will have the chance to argue with his boss. And he is emotionless in that he doesn’t feel for anyone and doesn’t believe in love.
The next major character found in the book is Dilsey. And although the last section is from the author’s point of view, it revolves around Dilsey, the cook for the Compson family. She treats Benjy like a normal person and assumes that his needs are the same as the rest of the family. She is in sharp contrast with Jason in that she is loving and does not hold grudges. And when someone makes a mistake she believes in helping the person instead of becoming upset. And she is a symbol of salvation and faith.
Mr. Compson may only appear a few times in the book but his presence is felt throughout it. This is especially true in Quentin’s section. Mr. Compson does not care about Caddy’s promiscuity because it does not come to him as a surprise. This gives the reader evidence that Mr. Compson sees women as inferior. He completely disregards honor which upsets Quentin. Mr. Compson only believes in pretending to be a gentlemen and that humans can only pretend and that there is no good or perfect human. Mr. Compson eventually dies of alcoholism.
Another important character found in the book is Caddy. From Benjy’s memories, the reader’s earliest view of Caddy would be daring and mischievous. And this is because Caddy climbed a tree to see what was going on in the house at the time of her grandmother’s funeral. Caddy is also the only character in the novel who Benjy shows affection towards. And as a result of this Caddy allows Benjy to depend on her. And Benjy has a deep love for Caddy, who to him was more like a mother figure.
And she is the only one who can quiet Benjy. Caddy is a very controversial character within the book. She admits that she does not love the men that she has sex with. This was just a way for her to assert her independence from the aristocratic assumption which is not understood by her brother, Quentin, or her father. She does, however, enjoy sex. This can be seen in the quote “when they touched me, I died.” She is willing to commit any violation, even incest, in order to break free from the assumed aristocratic order.
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