Essay, Research Paper: Sound And The Fury

Literature: William Faulkner

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William Faulkner's background influenced him to write the unconventional novel
The Sound and the Fury. One important influence on the story is that Faulkner
grew up in the South. The Economist magazine states that the main source of his
inspiration was the passionate history of the American South, centered for him
in the town of Oxford, Mississippi, where he lived most of his life. Similarly,
Faulkner turns Oxford and its environs, "my own little postage stamp of
native soil," into Yoknapatawpha County, the mythical region in which he
sets the novel (76). In addition to setting, another influence on the story is
Faulkner's own family. He had three brothers, black servants, a mother whose
family was not as distinguished as her husband's, a father who drank a lot, and
a grandmother called Damuddy who died while he was young. In comparison, the
novel is told from the point of view of the three Compson brothers, shows the
black servant Dilsey as a main character, has Mrs.! Compson complain about how
her family is beneath her husband's, portrays Mr. Compson as a alcoholic, and
names the children's grandmother Damuddy who also dies while they are young.
Perhaps the most important influence on the story is Faulkner's education, or
lack thereof. He never graduated from high school, let alone college, and in
later life wryly described himself as "the world's oldest sixth
grader." He took insistent pride in the pre-intellectual character of his
creativity, and once declined to meet a delegation of distinguished foreign
authors because "they'd want to talk about ideas. I'm a writer, not a
literary man" (76). In writing The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner pays no
attention to normal literary work. He often uses incoherent and irrational
phrases to bring the reader into the minds of the characters. This background,
together with a believable plot, convincing characterization and important
literary devices enables William Faulkner in The Sound and the! Fury to develop
the theme of the regression of the family. The structure of The Sound and the
Fury leaves much to be desired. First of all, the time sequence is chaotic and
only leads to confusion. The first section is told from the point of view of a
thirty three year old idiot, Benjy Compson, who can tell no difference between
the past or present. The Benjy section is very difficult to understand because
the slightest incident can trigger a memory from him and completely replace what
is happening in the immediate time frame. For instance, the first jump in time
occurs on just the second page of the book when Luster says, "Cant you
never crawl through here without snagging on that nail." Benjy
automatically thinks back to when he went with Caddy to deliver a letter to Mrs.
Patterson and got stuck on the fence near Christmas. When Caddy says in the same
memory, "You don't want your hands froze on Christmas, do you," Benjy
thinks of an earlier incident when Caddy tried to convince Mrs. Compson to let
him come outside with her (F! aulkner 4). The next section, told from Quentin
Compson's perspective, is as equally puzzling. Since Quentin has decided to end
his life, he reminisces about his past and the reason he chose to die. The
reason is his sister's act of adultery. Whenever he is reminded of events that
have to do with his sister's sin, he also goes back in time. When Quentin is
thinking about how good the weather will be for the Harvard boat race in June,
the month of brides, he thinks of Caddy's wedding day. He then thinks of the
roses at her wedding and of trying to convince his father that he committed
incest with his sister (77). Another uncertainty in this novel is the lack of
rising action or climax. The book is told on Easter weekend, 1928, and gives the
whole history of the family by retelling the events that occurred in the minds
of the characters. To begin, the first section tells what will happen in the
rest of the novel in the form of Benjy's memories. It informs the reader th! at
Mr. Compson and Damuddy dies, Uncle Maury is having an affair with a married
woman, Benjy gets castrated, and that Caddy gets pregnant, married, and then
denounced by her family when she is left by her husband. Since the first part
already tells what happens to the family, there is no suspense. The rest of the
novel is just the same events retold from a different view. There is nothing to
look forward to but the clarification of the events that already occurred. The
closest thing there is to a climax is when Quentin runs away with the money
Jason stole from her. But, since neither of the characters are the protagonist,
the event is not a dramatic enough change in the novel to be considered as a
turning point. Finally, the want of resolve makes the book seem barren. The
struggle Caddy went through is indecisive. Caddy spent her whole life battling
her parents to show that their way of life was iniquitous. Instead, she is the
one who gets pregnant and trapped in a lo! veless marriage, divorced from her
husband for having an affair before him, and having the daughter she bore
removed from her care because she was deemed an unfit mother. The last pitiful
account of Caddy in the book is when she tries to get a glimpse of her daughter
Quentin, who later runs away with a man from a traveling carnival (202).
Quentin's role in the book also seems pointless. He tried to live a fruitful
life but only succeeded in killing himself. He got so involved with his sister
and her life that he forgot the value of his own. After Faulkner meticulously
describes how Quentin feels and thinks, he ends the character's life and shows
no significance of what Quentin went through to the reader. Undoubtedly, Benjy's
character seems the most meaningless. The only person who showed any sign of
love to him was his sister Caddy. He spent his whole life being shifted between
people who only thought of him as a burden. In the end, he is sent to an mental
institutio! n and is never heard from again. Therefore, the greatest fulfillment
of The Sound and the Fury does not come from the the sequence of events, climax,
or resolve, but the appreciation of the battle each character fights. Caddy,
Quentin, and Jason, each representing different elements of society, prove that
being a Compson can only lead to a futile life. Caddy's character represents the
rebellious side of mankind. The first signs off her defiance show when she is
just seven years old. When Caddy is playing in the branch, she squats down and
gets her dress wet. Even with all of the warnings from Versh and Quentin, she
does not care if her parents find out. Instead, she takes off her dress in front
of the servants, and then plays in the water. Even when Jason threatens to tell
on her, she tells him she does not care. In fact, she says she will tell their
parents herself (Faulkner 17). When she is older, about eighteen, Caddy commits
her biggest act of disobedience. She loses her virginity to Dalton Ames in an
attempt to deny everything her parents stand for, even if it means losing
something that she can never get back. When she returns home from her date, she
avoids Benjy because she know! s that he can sense sexual changes in her. In the
past, he would always moan and holler when he sensed that she was doing
something with a man that she was not supposed to do. All she had to do to make
him stop was to wash her face and mouth, but now she can not simply wash her sin
away, so she tries to stay away from him. Once he sees her, though, he starts to
cry and pushes her to the bathroom in an attempt to turn her back to normal
(69). Later in the book, Caddy is even willing to end her life because she knows
her parents will disapprove. When Quentin finds out that Caddy has lost her
virginity, he wants her to commit suicide with him. She readily accepts, and
when he puts the knife to her neck, she even tells him to make sure he pushes
hard (152). While Caddy represents rebellion, Quentin portrays morals because of
his obsession with his sister's sin. When the story is told from his point of
view, it is filled with his thoughts of her and the men in her life. In ! his
mind, he goes over the times when he confronted Dalton Ames and Herbert Head,
his father's nonchalant opinion about her sin, and the times when he talked with
her about it (76). Another example of Quentin's fixation on his sister is when
he tries to get her to commit suicide with him. He is so crazed over her loss of
ethics that he wants to end it all for both of them. He can not live in a world
without social laws, and he feels that Caddy should die also because she has
broken them. After she accepts his offer, though, he does not kill her because
it would only cause more chaos (152). In the end, however, he does commit
suicide to escape from a world without morals. When he wakes up in the morning,
he dresses in his best suit and writes two letters in an attempt to get his last
affairs in order. He then lets every part of his sister's violation replay over
and over in his mind before he ends his life (76). Ultimately, Jason depicts the
corrupt portion of society. H! e gets pleasure from causing other people
torment. When Luster wanted to go to the show one night Jason offered to sell
him the tickets that he was not going to use anyway. He knew that Luster had no
money, so he held out the tickets to tantalize him. When Luster said he could
not pay for it but asked him to let him have it since he was not going to use
it, Jason burned the tickets in front of him (254). Furthermore, Jason is
willing to steal to attain what he wants. When Caddy sends him money to take
care of Miss Quentin, he pretends to burn the checks, claming he will not accept
money from her. Instead, he keeps the money to use for himself and his mistress
(219). Finally, Jason feels no ties to anyone. He does not care whom he hurts as
long as he gets what he wants. Jason even sent his own brother Benjy to an
insane asylum in Jackson because he was ashamed of him. He grew weary of his
moaning and sent him off to where he could not bother him anymore (222). Theref!
ore, in struggling to deny and escape the world of the Compsons, Caddy, Quentin,
and Jason are each doomed to live their lives in vain because there is no
evading the family curse. The mixture of literary devices in The Sound and the
Fury give a rare and personal view of the characters. Point of view is one of
the most important methods used because it shows each character from different
perspectives. Benjy is nonjudgmental and shows each character from the stand
point of someone who is not personally involved. Through him, each character is
shown purely for what they do and say. Quentin's view is different from the fact
that he is more meticulous. He sees every error that each member of the family
makes. He dwells on the sordid side of life, so each character is shown for
their covetous side. For instance, the only view we get of Mr. Compson is from
Quentin. Since Mr. Compson does not live by principals, Quentin is the most
likely person to dwell on him. Jason gives the last personal view of the story.
He is self-centered so he only thinks of people by the way their acts affect
him. Through his eyes, every character is seen as petty and usel! ess unless
they serve his purpose. When he spoke of his mistress he said, "I've got
every respect for a good honest whore," but when he calls Miss Quentin a
"little whore," the respect is obviously left out. By using contrast
and foils each character's personalities are seen more clearly. Mrs. Compson and
her daughter, Caddy, are two very different people. Mrs. Compson is lazy and
self-pitying. She exaggerates small problems and shifts her responsibilities
onto the black servants, then complains that they don't do it quickly enough
(59). On the other hand, Caddy is very strong and independent. She took care of
herself and her brothers when Mrs. Compson laid in bed. While her mother cares
for appearances, such as always keeping Benjy away from the company, Caddy
becomes a mother figure to him and takes him everywhere with her. Quentin and
Jason also contradict each other. Quentin is very sensitive about the world
around him. The very act of committing suicide because of! what his sister did
goes against everything Jason believes in. Jason can only think of himself and
would never dream of making such a drastic sacrifice for someone else's mistake.
The only feelings he has toward his sister are those of hatred because she cost
him a job at her ex-husband's bank. Dilsey and Maury Bascomb counter each by the
roles they play in the family. Dilsey helps keep the family together and in
order. She even buys Benjy a birthday cake and takes him to church with her when
everyone else ignores him. Unlike Dilsey, Maury does nothing useful. He lives
with his sister's family and repays them by using their money for liquor and
sending their children to deliver letters to Mrs. Patterson, a married woman he
is having an affair with. The technique that most defines the novel is
Faulkner's use of stream of consciousness. This technique allows Benjy's true
thoughts to show. Through his mind, it is possible to show what his limitations
are. The reader! gets to see how Benjy associates words and objects through his
simple musings. The first occurrence is when the people playing golf call for
their caddie and Benjy remembers his older sister (3). By using stream of
consciousness, Jason is shown for who he really is. All of his egotistical,
greedy, and pompous thoughts are shown in detail. When he thinks about is
brother Benjy "running up and down the fence, bellowing like a cow,"
there is no mistaking his lack of compassion for others (222). This method
proves the most useful in Quentin's section. Since it is hard to comprehend why
most people commit suicide, this mode proves invaluable by giving a true first
hand look. Even though it is difficult to understand, the chopped fragments of
different conversations can be pieced together to give a precise reason why he
justified such an extreme measure. If nothing else, this novel gives the
complete aspect of each character's mind and personality. This background,
together with a believable plot, convincing characterization, and important
literary devices, enables William Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury to develop
the theme of the regression of the family. The only purpose of this theme is to
make the story seem more tragic. Faulkner makes no attempt to reform the
characters in the book, which gives the reader the impression that the
characters are condemned by their environment and heredity. In turn, it makes
any attempt at improvement in real life seem useless. He succeeds in making The
Sound and the Fury notorious with ill-fated, hopeless, and irredeemable
characters. Even though the book is filled with grave adversity, it is
worthwhile because of the memorable characters and the author's unique style of
writing.

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