The Sound and the Fury
Faulkner’s Tragic Focal Point in The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner presents the story of Caddy in The Sound and the Fury in a unique and precise way by showing how her family views her. Caddy’s life becomes the central conflict in the lives of the Compsons, and her story, paralleled with the ultimate demise of the family and its members, is portrayed in the four separate narratives of the novel. While Caddy remains voiceless throughout the entirety of Faulkner’s book, it is her absence that singularizes her importance in the novel and her brothers’ obsession with her purity that reveal her character and her influence upon the decline of the Compson family.
Benjy’s section, consisting mainly of childhood flashbacks, reveals Caddy’s initial innocence. Benjy sees his sister as a living mother figure, and he always turns to her for comfort. He associates her with all the love and goodness that he has ever known. Benjy can “smell” Caddy’s purity, which he associates with the clean, pure smell of trees. He becomes very upset when she seems unclean to him. For example, when Benjy catches Caddy and a boy kissing in the swing, he cries and pulls her away. He remembers, “Caddy took the kitchen soap and washed her mouth at the sink, hard. Caddy smelled like trees”(48). Benjy is comforted when he can again smell her purity. In the same way that Benjy depends on Caddy’s purity for comfort, Caddy also finds comfort from her shameful life in the innocence and faithfulness of Benjy. Benjy remembers Caddy once saying, “‘It’s still raining. I hate rain. I hate everything.’ And then her head came into my lap, and she was crying, holding me, and I began to cry”(57).
When Caddy leaves, Benjy has lost his only real source of love and comfort. T.P. tells Benjy, “You can’t do no good looking through the gate. Miss Caddy done gone long ways away . . . You can’t do no good crying . . . She can’t hear you”(51). Benjy’s life becomes sadder after her departure, and he is often upset, thus increasing the burden he is on the family. Benjy’s section is the only section where Caddy is shown in any kind of innocent light, due to the ironic fact that mentally retarded Benjy is the only one who is able to see her goodness.
Faulkner uses Quentin’s obsession with Caddy’s purity, which ultimately leads to his suicide, to further illustrate her central importance. Quentin, like Benjy, needs his sister’s purity for comfort. He becomes very upset when she begins her promiscuous behavior. In his anger he often asks his college roommates, “Did you ever have a sister? Did you? Did you?”(78) Quentin cannot understand why he is losing his sister. He develops a hatred for all of the men that “take” Caddy away from the family and away from himself. Partially out of wanting to protect the “purity” of the ironically shameful Compson name, Quentin develops the notion that he should have Caddy all to himself. He tells his father, “Father, I have committed incest”(79). When looking off the bridge he thinks of Caddy and wishes, “If it could just be a hell beyond that, then you will have only me, then only me”(116)2E Quentin’s need to save Caddy’s purity evolves into an anxious sate of depression that is only intensified by his father’s philosophical advice. Mr. Compson tells Quentin that life is meaningless and that “time is dead, as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels”(85). Mr. Compson, a doomed alcoholic, repeatedly tells Quentin that nothing is important, that virginity (Caddy’s) is “just a word”(116). Quentin, who refuses to accept the fact that his sister’s purity is unimportant, kills himself in a desperate attempt to prove his father’s theory wrong, and to escape the progression of time that is forcing Caddy, and in turn the entire Compson family, into a meaningless end.
Jason blames Caddy and her promiscuousness for the problems of the Compson household and, more importantly to him, his own troubles. Jason’s contempt for Caddy and the shamefulness of the rest of the family cause him to be a very bitter, self-pitying man. He is embarrassed to even be a part of the Compson household. While walking around town he thinks, “there I was, without any hat, looking like I was crazy too”(233). Furthermore, Jason feels Caddy’s promiscuous behavior directly cost him a job. When his mother reminds him that Caddy’s former husband Herbert was going to give Jason a job before he discovered her pregnancy, he coldly replies, “Well he was probably lying too”(221). Jason, a very greedy man, never forgives Caddy for his financial burden and even resorts to stealing the money she sends her daughter, Quentin. When Quentin asks to see the money, he retorts, “Not after the way you’ve acted. You’ve got to learn . . . when I tell you to do something, you’ve got to do it”(215). Jason vengefully tries to control his niece because of his inability to control his sister. Quentin’s Caddy-like behavior only drives him further along an angry downward spiral, coupled with a gambling problem and a prostitute girlfriend, that leads him to reject all goodness he encounters.
In conclusion, Faulkner reveals different parts of Caddy’s story though each of her brother’s own stories and the way her actions affect each member of the declining Compson family. Though each of the narratives, it is apparent that each brother fails to find happiness because he is unable to hold on to his sister, Caddy. This is how Faulkner reveals her importance: through the tragic demise of the family without Caddy. What proves most interesting, however, is that the focal point of the tragedy is the most tragic character of all.
Caddy, despite her efforts, ends up like Shakespeare’s Macbeth’s sad view of man, utterly alone on center stage, viewed by a critical audience, and part of a story with no happy ending.
The Sound and The Fury Essay: Psychological Criticism of Caroline Compson
Southern aristocratic mothers generally did not take care for their children, and instead, they usually had an “African-American woman [care] for (and essentially raise) Southern white children” (Tucker, 35). Caroline Compson is the neurotic and inconsiderate mother of Quentin, Caddy, Jason, and Benjy. Incapable to show any love to her children, Caroline is essentially the reason for the downfall to the Compson family. William Faulkner’s novel ‘The Sound and The Fury’ asserts the problems of Caroline Compson through her children in order to prove that she causes harm to her family due to her manipulative ways. Mothers have a lasting impression on their children, as they are usually the first to connect with the children. Neglecting and manipulating children leave a psychological impact on them and cause problems later in life.
In Benjy’s section, it is easy to pick up on Caroline’s distaste for her youngest son. She is inconsiderate of Benjy’s condition and does not quite understand it. When the family is in the room with the fireplace, Caroline is sitting in a chair and Caddy is trying to give Benjy a cushion to calm down, but he continues to cry. Caroline believes that “he must learn to mind [her]” (64) and tells him to “stop that [crying]” (64), but Benjy just keeps crying which leads to Caroline to begin crying from frustration. Caroline also feels obligated to keep Benjy in Jefferson, Mississippi instead of sending him to the insane asylum in Jackson. She is laying in bed, feigning sickness when Benjy burns his hand and begins to holler. Caroline acts like she cares when she asks “What is it now. Cant [she] even be sick in peace. [Does she] have to get up out of bed to come down to him, with two grown negroes to take care of him.” (59). Caroline has never once in her life lifted as much as pinky for Benjy, but because she feels as if she has been purposely disrupted, she acts like she is the only one capable of handling Benjy. Caroline is sure that “Benjamin [is] punishment enough for any sins [she has] committed [she] thought he was [her] punishment for putting aside [her] pride and marrying a man who held himself above [her]” (103). This thinking causes Caroline to reject Benjy, ultimately treating him like a pest.
Jason and Caroline’s relationship is an odd mother-son relationship. While Caroline wails and complains, Jason simply mocks her throughout the novel. The manipulative mannerism of Caroline really comes out as she tries to make Jason feel bad for her. When Jason is trying to leave for work, Caroline claims that she is “just a trouble and a burden to you” (181). Since Jason is quite immune to his mother’s manipulative ways, he simply mocks her. Despite the fact Caroline possibly knows that Jason is not affected by her self-pitying personality, she still attempts to get attention from him by pretending to be a victim. Caroline also constantly states that Jason is her favorite because “[he] is not a Compson except in name” (196). She is trying to make him feel loved, but in truth, she only cares because he acts more like her family, a Bascomb. Only one person truly cared for Jason is Damuddy. Caroline does not like the fact that “Damuddy spoiled Jason” (63), and even complains that it “took him two years to outgrow it” (63), much too long in her opinion. Caroline may act like she cares for Jason, but she is simply trying to get him to do what she wants by trying to make him feel guilty.
Several factors play into why Caroline might have purposefully neglected her children. The time in this book is post-Civil War and it is known that the Compson family was a higher class, possibly first or second. Caroline was most likely raised by black servants, as she married into a higher class family. It is possible that due to the “patriarchally enforced notion of the mammy provides for a chasm between white mothers and their children, mentally, physically, and emotionally” (Copland). Thus, Caroline is simply filling in the fact that “ middle-upper class white woman was supposed to produce children [and] let the black ‘mammy’ raise and care for the child” (Copland). Dilsey, the black servant, is the one who cares for all the children, raising them since birth alongside her children. Caroline has a “difficulty in white mothering and/or establishing close connections with their children” (Copland), and in a sense, it makes a reasonable amount of sense on why Caroline neglects her children.
The second reason why Caroline is unable to provide her children with love and care is due to being a hypochondriac. Most of the times, throughout the novel, when Caroline is in the scene, she complains of being sick and/or is in bed ‘sick’. When Benjy wants to go outside, Uncle Maury is quick to pick up on the fact that “[Caroline will] worry [herself] sick over him” (5). She agrees with him. Although it is unknown exactly why Caroline acts the way she does, har narcissistic mannerism can be based off of a type of trauma or psychological and emotional event that happened in her life while growing up. Parents who suffer problems in their childhood are more likely to repeat the same behavior seen in their parents.
The psychological reasoning behind Caroline’s bad parenting and harsh personality remains a mystery, it is no mystery that her cruel ways are the true reason for the Compson family downfall. The negligence seen in the novel is the foreshadowing of her children’s lives: Benjy ends up being sent to an insane asylum in Jackson; Quentin kills himself; Caddy has an illegitimate child and disappears; and Jason is a hateful and manipulative man. Caroline not only sets herself up for failure in properly raising her children, she also sets her own children up for failure, whether it be intentional or not.
Copland, Rachelann. “Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: The Fragmentation of Motherhood.” The Artifice. The Artifice, 8 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. Print.Tucker, Susan. Telling Memories among Southern Women: Domestic Workers and Their Employers in the Segregated South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1988. Awesome Stories. Awesome Stories, 01 Aug. 2011. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.
Unprepared Lives Lead to Unforgettable Mistakes
Adolescence is a confusing and vulnerable time in any young woman’s life. Unfortunately, the sexual decisions one makes as an immature youth can set a dreary path for a woman’s future. Unhealthy sexual lives such as these are displayed in Toni Morrison’s “Jazz” and William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” through the characters of Dorcas and Caddy. At the time, these women are too young and immature to realize how their decisions will affect the rest of their lives, and their sexual acts quickly lead to their demise. It is important to understand why Dorcas and Caddy would need to become so sexual in their young lives in the first place to understand the choices they made and the consequences that follow. Furthermore, their choices are similar in that they are influenced by their families and the cities. However, the characters are judged differently, in that Dorcas is seen as a victim and, unfairly, Caddy is seen as a sinner.
Dorcas and Caddy both suffer from tarnished families that lead them to make poor choices, eventually ruining their lives and the lives of those around them. Early in Dorcas’ life she loses both parents on the same day, her father to a car accident and her mother to a house fire. This horrific tragedy leaves Dorcas to be raised by her aunt, Alice Manfred, a quiet, fearful woman that “worked hard to privatize her niece,” (67). Alice Manfred was not evil, but she had been through situations that made her fear people, men especially, leaving her to raise her niece under “heated control” so that Dorcas would not be hurt by the pain men could cause her (77). Alice gave Dorcas no freedom at all and treated her as the child she was growing out of. She did not speak to Dorcas about the horrors and pains of the world and how to handle them; instead she kept a tight grip and a watchful eye on her. As a young girl, Dorcas began feeling trapped and lonely. Unequipped with life experiences, when she experienced her first ounce of rejection by two brothers at a high school party, she could not handle it, “So by the time Joe Trace whispered to her through a crack of a closing door her life had become almost unbearable,” and she was easily seduced by the older man (67).
Caddy grew up in a much larger family, with both of her parents, several brothers and sisters, an uncle, and a servant. However, her large family did not result in strong parenting. Mrs. Compson treated her children like they were a burden, describing her thirty three year old retarded son as “a judgment” on her, and Mr. Compson drank himself to death (5). Caddy, being the only daughter of the Compson family, became the mother figure for two of her brothers, in particular, Quentin and Benjy. This put a lot of pressure on Caddy, and as she began to grow into a young woman, the neglect she had received from her parents caught up to her. Caddy started looking to men for the love she had always wanted from her family. Unfortunately, these circumstances led to disappointing consequences for Caddy and other members of her family, which they deemed as unforgivable. Caddy and Dorcas’ childhoods reflect their need to search for love and acceptance outside of their homes, and at this young, vulnerable age, they knew no better than to do this by exploring their sexuality.
Dorcas and Caddy’s affairs were very different, and led to different consequences. Dorcas’ affair began when she was only eighteen years old, with Joe Trace, a much older, married man her aunt had known for years. Being so young, Dorcas was very vulnerable to Joe, and being so closely controlled by her aunt, she needed something in her life she could control. Early into the affair Joe rented a place to be alone with Dorcas and “to tell his new love things he never told his wife,” (36). In each other they felt special, loved, and revived. However, being so young and inexperienced, Dorcas did not understand what she had gotten herself into. Joe was married, and involving oneself in situations like these can have very painful results. Regardless, he often brought her gifts, and she loved the attention, but was incapable of letting her relationship with Joe grow any deeper than that. Dorcas needed the attention and once she got it she was fulfilled, did not need it anymore. Joe, however, needed much more, and following Dorcas’ rejection succumbs to violence, and shoots her.
After being shot, Dorcas tells those around her not to save her, and then bleeds to death. At her funeral, Joe’s wife slashes her face. The community looks upon as a martyr rather than an impure girl, because she died as a result of her actions. Dorcas’ death made her seem like an innocent girl caught up in a seductive, violent situation with an older man, but Caddy does not get the same sympathy. Caddy’s sexual experience did not end her life, but instead complicated it was before.
The consequences of Caddy’s actions affect her family. In “The Sound and the Fury,” Caddy has sex out of wedlock and becomes pregnant. This first mistake costs her family their reputation. Then, trying to hide that her pregnancy was illegitimate, she quickly marries her boyfriend who had promised her brother, Jason, a job in a bank. However, upon finding out about the pregnancy, her husband divorces her, which costs Jason the job. On top of all of this, Quentin, the unstable, older brother that looked to Caddy as a mother, learns of her sin and commits suicide. Finally, after Caddy’s baby is born, she is unable to care for her new daughter on her own, and Jason ends up being her guardian, which creates even more resentment towards Caddy.
The bitterness Caddy’s brother, Jason, holds for her is very apparent when he refers to Caddy’s daughter as, “The bitch that cost me a job, the one chance I ever had to get ahead, that killed my father and is shortening my mother’s life every day and made my name a laughing stock in the town.” Even worse, Caddy’s daughter Miss Quentin, is continually blamed for the family’s problems. Caddy never meant to hurt anyone. She was a scared, young girl, in a situation her parents had not prepared her to prevent or face. Caddy is not given any room to make mistakes in her life, even though her parents are the ones that made the ultimate mistake of not loving, nurturing or teaching her enough to be able to stay out of the kind of trouble she ends up engaging in.
The sexual choices Dorcas and Caddy make are similar in that they result from poor parenting, but are different in their effects. Dorcas is seen as a victim because Joe Trace was much older and killed Dorcas, and because Joe’s wife slashed Dorcas’ lifeless face. Though both Dorcas and Caddy were looking for love, attention, and happiness, Caddy’s case affected the reputations, jobs, and lives of her family members, who took her actions very personally. In “The Sound and the Fury” and “Jazz”, Faulkner and Morrison show how young women lacking support and comfort at home can turn to men to fill the void in their lives. Regardless of how family members or the community responded to these women, they are both innocent in their actions because of the poor conditions in which they were raised. They cannot be blamed for seeking out attention and love when they were not getting it at home in the first place.
“Obverse Reflections” in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury
Born in 1897 in Mississippi, William Faulkner knew black people as servants and laborers, not as equals. Yet, sharing the same space with blacks led him to a deeper understanding of their plight and circumstances. Despite his negative view of black society, in The Sound and the Fury Faulkner reverses the classic allegory of “black = bad” and “white = good.” The blacks represented in the novel are generally more concerned with self-respect and morality where the whites are preoccupied with self-absorption and overwhelming pride. As a result, the representation of the black community in the novel serves as a contrast to the representation of the deteriorating Compson family. As described by Quentin, the black characters are simply “obverse reflections” of white society (86). Likewise, Dilsey, Roskus, and the Deacon are used by Faulkner to accentuate the corrupt and nefarious values of their white counterparts.
Of these characters, Dilsey is especially important. Throughout the novel, Dilsey upholds a moral standard that sharply contrasts the prideful and self-absorbed nature of Caroline Compson. Similarly, she proves to be more of a mother to the Compson children than their own mother. Although she does significantly more work than any other character and remains dedicated to the Compsons despite their lack of appreciation, she is reduced to an “old half-dead nigger,” according to Jason (185).
If Quentin claims blacks are simply “obverse reflections” of their white counterparts, then it can certainly be said the parallels between Mrs. Compson and Dilsey are undeniable (86). While Mrs. Compson is a self-pitying hypochondriac, consumed with pride for her Bascomb family name, Dilsey is a genuinely noble woman who seeks neither the title of a lady or of a servant. Interestingly, although Mrs. Compson strives to preserve her family name and their traditional southern values, it is in fact Dilsey who comes the closest to representing a southern lady despite her skin color. Where Mrs. Compson fails as a matriarch, Dilsey steps in to care for the Compson children as well as her own. For example, moments before Quentin’s suicide, Quentin wails, “if I had just had a mother so I could say Mother Mother” (172). Yet, instead of reflecting on his own mother’s reaction to his death, he instead anticipates “what a sinful waste Dilsey would say.” Even in a moment of severe distress, Quentin returns back to the comfort of Dilsey. Conclusively, it is particularly interesting how Faulkner reverses the traditional expectations of white and black women. Where white southern women were historically expected to care for their families unconditionally and uphold a standard of womanhood, Caroline Compson fails miserably. It is instead the female black servant who chooses to take the Compson children into her loving care. In short, Faulkner uses Dilsey to highlight the corrupt and deteriorating Compson family values. Despite her skin color, by the end of the novel she becomes a symbol for the renewal of traditional southern values and the Compsons’ only hope for familial preservation.
Although the novel only briefly involves Dilsey’s husband, Roskus, the few instances in which we encounter him are sufficient to provide an indication of his entirely different character from Mr. Compson’s. While Mr. Compson lavishes himself with “a decanter of whiskey and a litter of dog-eared Horaces and Livys and Catalluses,” Roskus remains humble, hopeful, and genuine (330). Despite having “the rheumatism too bad to do more than he have to,” Roskus perseveres and, like Dilsey, does the majority of the work for the Compson family (9). But unlike Dilsey, Roskus acknowledges the inevitable disintegration of the once aristocratic Compsons. Repeatedly mentioning “there ain’t no luck in this place,” Roskus is consistently disgusted by the Compson family’s behavior towards the Compson children. Prompted by the birth of their mentally handicapped son, the Compsons become increasingly worried about the preservation of their family name. For instance, the decision to change their son’s name from Maury to Benjy only further proves to Roskus that the family is doomed; once again he repeats that “there ain’t no luck in this place… I seen it at first but when they changed his name I knowed” (29). In Roskus’s mind, God will soon repay the Compsons for their sins. Although Roskus’s preoccupation with bad luck and superstition plague his mind, he ultimately ends up predicting the Compson family decline long before any other character. A loving and god-fearing father, Roskus resents the way both Compson parents are “raising [children] not to know [their] own mammy’s name” (31). Where Mr. Compson is an unsuccessful parent, Roskus is caring and forgiving towards his children. Unfortunately, Mr. Compson is no more fit for the head of a household than his deplorable wife. He is a weak man, entirely oblivious to the needs of his family as a result of his constant drunken stupor, too preoccupied with day-dreaming of the life he did not achieve. Much like his wife, Mr. Compson wallows in self-pity, regarding himself as a victim of his circumstances that he feels he has no control over. Yet, Roskus, a black male servant crippled by genuine physical ailments, continuously works toward and hopes to improve his life. Where Mr. Compson is passive in his suffering, Roskus rises above his situation and works to better himself. Once again, stereotypical male roles of the period have been reversed by Faulkner. Although the white male is traditionally anticipated to live up to patriarchal expectations, in this case it is Roskus who exceeds the capabilities of Mr. Compson.
While the previously mentioned parallels highlight the differences between two characters, the relationship between Quentin and the Deacon accentuates their similarities. Despite the Deacon attempting to project a pseudo self-image, Quentin works to see beyond his projections. Both outsiders within their society, Quentin and the Deacon are attracted to the “otherness” in one another, eventually leading Quentin to come to the conclusion that “a nigger is not a person so much as a form of behavior; a sort of obverse reflection of the white people he lives among” (86). Forced to re-evaluate his traditional southern values while away at Harvard, Quentin gains a new perspective on the Compson family’s deterioration. Beginning with Gerald Bland’s “nigger” stories, Quentin slowly starts to discern the unfavorable similarities between his own family and the Blands, as well as the harsh treatment of their “niggers.” On page 99, Quentin confesses he sees glimpses of Roskus in the Deacon and begins to feel a tinge of guilt for the South’s injustices towards the black community. Despite the Deacon’s obvious lies about attending divinity school, during the conversation Quentin notes the “worn, gentle quality of his nigger hands” and dismisses his lie because “he had been a guide, mentor, and friend to unnumbered crops of innocent and lonely freshmen… he stank no higher in heaven’s nostrils than any other” (98). This is one of the most important moments in The Sound and the Fury because Quentin is able to create a genuine bond with the Deacon despite his skin color. Quentin is finally able to rise above his family’s hateful and racist world views and, in the words of the Deacon, “you and me’s the same folks, come long and short… I draw no petty social lines. A man to me is a man, wherever I find him” (100). In short, Quentin’s relationship with the Deacon summarizes what he has learned (or previously failed to learn): what it means to be “other.” By referring to the Deacon as a “natural psychologist,” Quentin realizes the inherent interdependence between the white and black communities (97). Coming to the conclusion that both he and the Deacon are part of a socially constructed hierarchy, he sympathizes with the Deacon for having to assume various roles based on white people’s desires. All in all, Quentin learns identity is defined by the social expectations of others. His interactions with the Deacon lead to his chief realization that a “nigger” is an abstract, mental construct created and perpetuated by white people. On that note, it is this realization that leads him to conclude his southern heritage, and family traditions, are based on corrupt and despicable values. In this way, the Deacon helps to reveal to the audience (and Quentin) one of the most prominent reasons for the Compson family deterioration.
The Sound and the Fury thus reverses the traditional Southern allegory of “black = bad” and “white = good.” By drawing parallels between the novel’s black and white characters, Faulkner uses Dilsey, Roskus, the Deacon, and other members of the black community to highlight the Compson family’s deep-rooted corruption and inevitable deterioration. In a broader sense, the “obverse reflections” of the Compson and Gibson families shed light on the downfall of the entire Antebellum South, a society that relied on the exploitation of slaves and, more generally, the entire African American population.
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. Toronto: Random House, 1984. Print
Loss, Immorality and Melancholy
When the Civil War ended, the Southern countryside and its people were crippled nearly beyond all hope. Of the most dramatic decline, Southern aristocrats took the cake. Before the war, the first half of the nineteenth century saw the rise of a number of prominent Southern families such as the Compsons. These aristocratic families embraced traditional Southern values. Men were expected to act like gentlemen, displaying courage, moral strength, perseverance, and chivalry in defense of the honor of their family name. Women were expected to be models of feminine purity, grace, and virginity until it came time for them to provide children to inherit the family legacy. The Civil War and Reconstruction devastated many of these once-great Southern families economically, socially, and psychologically. The Compson family in his novel The Sound and the Fury represents Faulkner’s acknowledgment of the interruption of Southern aristocratic values, triggered by economic, social and psychological devastation from the Civil War and Reconstruction Period. The Compsons represent a deviation from these old Southern ideals. Almost every main character depicts a loss of touch with reality, an emergence into immorality, and characteristics of melancholia and general disinterest.
One may see Quentin’s unarguable obsession with time in the novel in two lights: that Quentin cannot overcome the past and so becomes trapped in a perpetual, maddening cycle, or that Quentin’s obsession with time touches upon a larger sense of a loss of the old South. Quentin’s ongoing struggle to reconcile Caddy’s actions with his own traditional Southern value system reflects Faulkner’s broader concern with the then-present clash between the Old South and the modern world. Men and women like Quentin, who attempt to cling to these increasingly outdated Southern ideals, feel their grasp is slipping and their sense of order disappearing. Their reliance on a set of outdated ideals leaves them ill-equipped to deal with the realities of the modern world they live in. Mr. Compson, Quentin’s father, passes on to Quentin his vague acknowledgment of the importance of family honor, but he is hindered by his alcoholism and a defeatists belief that he has no control over what happens to his family. Quentin’s obsession with his moral code is just one indication of his overall inclination toward thought rather than action. Quentin is clearly very bright, but his mania over abstractions paralyzes his ability to do anything about it. He spends all his time mulling over unformulated concepts—time, honor, virginity, and so on—that have no physical presence. Existing only as words, these abstractions make it impossible to act upon. Quentin is largely incapable of effective action: he frequently comes up with ideas, but never carries them out successfully. Quentin devises the double suicide pact with Caddy as a means of escape, but Caddy rejects the idea and eventually leaves him behind. Likewise, Quentin talks frequently about confronting Dalton Ames and Gerald Bland, but his words win him nothing but two embarrassing beatings. This word without action falls short from the old Southern idea of defending yours and your family’s honor at all costs. The only actions we see Quentin take are meaningless and impotent, conforming to his Southern code but having no real outcome. In fact, the only real action Quentin succeeds to do in his section is a cowardly one, his own suicide, which most will agree is a weak “cop-out.” He dies without the honor the Old South once deemed so pivotal. And thus, Quentin is no more than a sterilizing, immovable character, largely cerebral and unsuccessful.
If Quentin has failed to establish himself as a man of action, courage and strength (or, for that matter, any man at all) his older brother Jason isn’t changing any minds about the Compson family heritage any time soon. Jason establishes himself as the most selfish, self-absorbed, lying and cheating offspring of the Compson family. He has no notion of a hard day’s work, nor is he interested. He is the most detrimental to the future of the Compson family name because he performs financial incest, stealing thousands of dollars from his sister and niece to fatten his own bank account rather than make his own money. There is nothing too honorable in an old miser who sits on his fortune and keeps to himself, but there is something even more sickening about a man who didn’t even earn the money he hordes. Although intelligent, Jason submits to his own hatred and wallows in a false sense of victimization. He resents his sister Caddy for costing him the job at her ex-husband Herbert’s bank, but fails to appreciate the fact that without Caddy he would never have been offered the job in the first place. “I wouldn’t lay my hand on her. The bitch that cost me a job, the one chance I ever had to get ahead, that killed my father and is shortening my mother’s life every day and made my name a laughing stock in the town. I won’t do anything to her” (205). He takes pleasure in tormenting everyone around him and takes strength from a conviction that, because he has been wronged, he is always right. Considering that Jason is the new head of the Compson household, this shows the family truly has sunk to new and unfathomable low. Whereas his ancestors had prominent positions in Southern society, his grandfather a Civil War general and his great-grandfather the governor of Mississippi, Jason works in a supply store and steals from his own family. He is hardly of the same material as the ancestors who built up the family name. Ironically, however, Jason is the only one of the Compson children to win Mrs. Compson’s love even though she is blind to his abuse of her trust. It is unclear why Mrs. Compson favors Jason so much, but perhaps it is because he shares Mrs. Compson’s tendencies toward misery and self-pity more than anyone else. One thing that sets Jason apart from his brothers Quentin and Benjy is that he is completely unconcerned with the past. Jason is wholly focused on the present and on manipulating the present for future personal gain. He does recall past events, but only concentrates on the effect those events have on him here and now. Jason dwells on Caddy’s divorce, for example, only because it has left him in a menial and unfulfilling job. However, despite Jason’s constant attempts to twist present circumstances to his own benefit, he does not really have any aspirations. He maintains overwhelming greed, selfishness, and focus on future gain, but does not use these to work toward any higher goal. This lack of ambition explains Jason’s disinterest in restoring the family name. He is not concerned with being a better person because he does not care about the reputation of the family in the past. Rather, he is concerned with manipulating the here and now, which only succeeds in sinking the Compsons into further regression.
At the conclusion of the novel, Dilsey is the only loving member of the household, the only character who maintains her values without the corrupting influence of self-absorption. She thus comes to represent a hope for the renewal of traditional Southern values in a pristine and positive form. The novel ends with Dilsey as the torchbearer for these values, and, as such, the only hope for the preservation of the Compson legacy. Faulkner implies that the problem is not necessarily the values of the old South, but the fact that these values were corrupted by families such as the Compsons and must be recaptured for any Southern greatness to return. It is also important to note that Dilsey is a black servant, and the irony here is the very person whose ancestors were once slaves plays the biggest role in restoring the very Southern culture that enslaved them. Though the Compson family has fallen, Dilsey represents a source of hope. While the Compsons crumble around her, Dilsey emerges as the only character who has successfully resurrected the values that the Compsons have long abandoned—hard work, endurance, love of family, and religious faith. “I seed de beginnin, en now I sees de endin” (302). Dilsey’s comment reveals her insight into the Compson family tragedy and her ability to see it in the context of a greater cycle. Dilsey has been present since the beginning, when the Compson children were only babies, and she is still here at the end, at the climax of the family’s disintegration. In this sense, Dilsey represents the only constant in the novel. She has maintained the pure Southern values of faith, love, and family that the Compsons have long abandoned. Dilsey also endures the test of time, surviving because she has faith in her own vision of eternity that is completely free of worldliness or petty human concerns, something pretty much all of the Compsons lack. Dilsey’s faith in a spiritual eternity enables her to see the tragedies of the Compson family with perspective and distance. Her acceptance of the passage of time makes her a calming and comforting presence. Dilsey accepts that she, like the Compson family, has a beginning and an end. She uses the time she is given to do as much good as she can, rather than wasting it on obsessions with the past. She treats Benjy as her own, and is not ashamed of him like the rest of the family is. She proudly takes him to church with her, and treats him as she would her own child. She does not see Benjy as a retard or a burden, and she does not claim defeat because of him. Rather, she treats him normally and with respect, because she sees he is still a human, and that his condition is only temporary. Although she works in chaos daily, this does not inhibit her from performing even one of her chores. She works on despite the disorder surrounding her, and proves to be about the only person in the novel to get anything done. With Dilsey acting as the unflinching, stable constant in the novel, it is Faulkner’s opinion that the Compson’s dysfunction is going to eventually follow Dilsey’s example and repair themselves. Although a lot of holes remain—Quentin and Jason Sr. are dead and Caddy and Miss Quentin have disappeared—Dilsey pays no mind to the things that are lost, and she does not believe any one else should either. There is some hope left for the Compsons, although they will bare some ugly scars.
The Compsons’ corruption of Southern values results in a household that is completely devoid of love. Both parents are distant and ineffective. Caddy, the only child who shows an ability to love, is disowned. Though Quentin loves Caddy, his love is neurotic, obsessive, and overprotective. None of the men experience any true romantic love, and are thus unable to marry and carry on the family name. Even though it is not Benjy’s fault he is mentally retarded, his condition is still crippling to the family’s future because he lacks the intellectual skills to advance it and also is physically castrated, therefore leaving no opportunity to produce offspring as well. Quentin’s obsession with old Southern morality renders him paralyzed and unable to move past his family’s sins, yet ironically makes him unable to find within himself the gallantry so typical of a man from the Old South. Jason’s self-righteousness sterilizes the opportunity for any advancement, even though he is the most qualified for the job. Yet the novel finishes not with these examples and images of complete decline, but with Dilsey. Indeed, Dilsey has, in effect, resurrected the original values of the Compsons’ ancestors. The Compsons become carried away with the greatness of their own name, neglecting the strength of family in favor of self-absorption. Dilsey, on the other hand, is the antithesis of self-absorption. She maintains a strong spirit and a profound respect for an unpretentious, unadorned, yet powerful code of values. Dilsey is the redeemer of the Compson legacy, and provides an almost graceful landing after the resounding fall of the once-great household. In some respects, Dilsey’s new role represents a reversal of the traditional Southern order: a black servant, once considered the lowest position in Southern society, is now the only torchbearer for the name of a prestigious white family. Faulkner’s alarming investment in Dilsey reflects that a bumpy road is ahead, as most diversions begin, but the journey will be half the fun, so to speak. His conclusion is that there are indeed some changes afoot, but the changes play into the very society they sprang from. Therefore, the conclusion of the novel pays no mind to the values of the past, but rather pushes itself toward the future, although dark and uncertain.
Minter, David. “Faulkner, Childhood, and the Making of The Sound and The Fury.” American Literature 51.3 (1979): 376-393.
Railton, Ben. “‘What Else Could a Southern Gentleman Do?’” The Southern Literary Journal. 35.2 (2003): 41-63
Williamson, Joel. Faulkner and Southern History. Oxford University Press: New York. 1993.
Quentin’s Erotic Consciousness
As Quentin Compson travels through the countryside with his college friends, the reality of the situation becomes terribly confused by memories and past feelings. After a little girl follows him for miles around town, his own sexuality reaches the forefront of his consciousness and transforms itself into disjointed memories of his sister Caddy. Quentin’s constant obsession in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, surrounds a defining sexual act with his sister. Though the physical act never appears in plain language, Quentin’s apparent lapse into an inner monologue demonstrates his overwhelming fixation with Caddy as well as a textured representation of their relationship. Sexual language pervades his inner consciousness – scents, sounds and colors represent his passion and desire. Elements of nature, when associated with his sister, become erotic; the tiers of description, no matter how seemingly mundane, tend to be steeped in sexuality.
Quentin’s lapse into past events with Caddy begins in the midst of typical conversation with his friends as they drive through town. His attention to reality is shattered by an unconscious slip into thoughts of his sister. As the eyes of the little girl snap Quentin into a reverie of sexual exploration, his words wander haphazardly, even before the image of his sister, prone on the banks of the river, comes to mind. “If I tried to hard to stop it I’d be crying and I thought about how I’d thought about I could not be a virgin, with so many of them walking along in the shadows and whispering with their soft girlvoices lingering in the shadowy places and the words coming out and perfume and eyes you could feel but not see?” (93). Although this roaming sentence refers to “girlvoices” – the womanly wiles that haunt Quentin – his words move into a new realm of conscience that solely focus on his sister.
Faulkner uses a system of italics to show Quentin’s innermost revelations; as he shifts from thoughts of virginity to more personal memories, the language changes from an encompassing statement about women to a singular elucidation of his sister. The first piece of italic language punctuates a piece of dialogue and immediately implies a question of virginity. “ever do that Have you ever done that In the gray darkness a little light her hands locked about” (93) is the repetition of Caddy’s question to Quentin on whether or not he had ever had sex. Faulkner continuously inserts the image of Caddy sitting on the ground next to her brother with her hands locked around her knees. Strangely, the image brings a sense of chastity to a sexually charged situation, as if she is locking her knees together to insist against any improper movements towards the contrary. The next piece of language, again interrupting a friendly dialogue between friends, has “her face looking at the sky the smell of honeysuckle upon her face and throat.” Faulkner sets the reader up for the continuation of a few themes be these beginning interceptions into normal conversation. Her face looking up at the sky, the smell of honeysuckle, the gray darkness or light – all these descriptions continue to be executed in the remaining consciousness language. Moreover, honeysuckle and gray light continue to be used as markers for sexual language. Though these natural elements seem innocuous, they elicit a visceral response from Quentin; he immediately turns the natural into the erotic through his association of nature with passion for his sister.
The image of “running” recurs many times in Quentin’s memories of his sister. Running with her, running after her – both descriptions follow each other over and over, whereas the most indicative eroticization of this theme is Faulkner’s Shakesperean allusion to lovemaking, “running the beast with two backs.” After the sexual moment with Quentin is over, Caddy finds her lover, Dalton Ames, and blends into his tall shadow. Quentin insinuates their connection at the very beginning of his stream of consciousness, “and they two blurred within the other forever.” He is smitten with pain and jealousy, observing his beloved sister with another, stronger man. However, the overwhelming sense of guilt about his own actions most likely fuels the jealousy. Although his words are constantly stained by inklings of sexuality, he maintains an almost overt religious confession immediately after his Shakespearean metaphor. “There was something terrible in me terrible in me Father I have committed Have you ever done that” implies an act of contrition, a supposed repentance for his incestual act, to his own father and to a higher power. His focus on virginity remains, as he repeats the phrase “Have you ever done that” as Caddy’s constant question. “There was something terrible in me” has the figurative sense of a mental incapacity to follow a moral path as well as a more grotesque literal interpretation of a physical loss of virginity or release of burning desire.
Caddy’s words combine with Quentin’s thoughts in many tiers of understanding. The constant reference to his virginity, “Poor Quentin you’ve never doe that have you” continues to solidify the sexual act in his mind. Repetition of certain concepts and phrases cement the moment for Quentin and haunts him dramatically. The ramifications of the event, the feelings and passions involved, repeat themselves endlessly in a cluttered internal monologue. He understands disgust and veritable evil surrounding his deeds and again refers to the punishment of his father. Sexual language, at its most transparent point, erupts in Quentin’s self-revelatory statements. “Ill tell Father then itll have to be because you love Father then well have to go away amid the pointing and the horror the clean flame?I fooled you all the time it was me you thought I was in the house where that damn honeysuckle trying not to think the swing the cedars the secret surges the breathing locked drinking the wild breath the yes Yes Yes yes.” The honeysuckle terrorizes Quentin to such a point that it is irredeemably connected to his own sexuality and his attraction to his sister. His inclination to confess confuses itself with the lie and the punishment; he does not know whether to admit to incest or let the family believe that Caddy was impregnated by another man. The overt sexual language at the end of the passage takes over rationality as metaphor to orgasm. The acts are thoroughly secret, but become more frenzied and physical as the words continue to the culmination of “yes Yes Yes yes.” Just as Caddy’s throat and face so affected him, the wild breath, the locked breath drives him to utter distraction.
The italic inner monologue shifts to a flow of disjointed, unpunctuated prose at a point where Quentin asks Caddy if she loved any of the men she was involved with. Quentin comes upon her “lying in the water her head on the sand spit the water flowing about her hips there was a little more light in the water her skirt half saturated flopped along her flanks to the waters motion in heavy ripples going nowhere renewed themselves of their own movement I stood on the bank I could smell the honeysuckle on the water gap the air seemed to drizzle with honeysuckle and with the rasping of crickets a substance you could feel on the flesh.” This interminable sentence, so rife with sexual innuendo and erotic signals, demonstrates Quentin’s unnatural and undying obsession with his sister. Her body, lying prone in the water while it washes over her hips, gives the reader an odd sensation of a birth metaphor as well as a complete concept of freedom. The sounds of water, constantly gurgling and bubbling in the background of Quentin’s thoughts indicates his connection of water and sexuality. The scene of Caddy in the stream is so erotically inviting, so full of the undeniable scent of honeysuckle, that Quentin can barely suppress his desire.
The wetness, the gray light, the water and honeysuckle permeates the atmosphere to such an extent that Quentin must act. The phallic scene with his pocket knife is the moment where life and death meet in a climax of the senses. Caddy’s face reaching up to the sky, his knife upon her neck, his body braced over her – taught and ready to combust – combine in such a way to make Faulkner’s metaphorical usage of the knife as a sexual act to overwhelm the scene entirely. “don’t cry Im not crying Caddy push it are you going to do you want me to yes push it touch your hand to it dont cry Quentin but I couldn’t stop she held my head against her damp hard breast.” The knife against her neck is a deadly substitution for his sexual act. To Quentin, passion shared with his sister is essentially a death sentence. He dies by committing suicide as if sex was an allegorical act. As Caddy holds his head against her breast, she becomes a protecting mother figure to a boy who has overcome his boundaries. Her heart doesn’t beat in the same way as it does with Dalton Ames; her blood pumps surely and calmly rather than pounding through her arteries when she asks Quentin to touch his hand to her neck and speak the name of her lover. The eroticism that pervades the movement of his pocket knife to her neck in a double metaphor of death and sex that combines with the environment to evoke such passion. Although Faulkner rarely refers to sexual acts directly, the use of language through Quentin’s consciousness and internal monologue is so rampant with erotic metaphor and passionate depth, that a simple object, such as a pocket knife, transforms into the most vital of symbols.
Faulkner’s Tragic Focal Point in The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner presents the story of Caddy in The Sound and the Fury in a unique and precise way by showing how her family views her. Caddy’s life becomes the central conflict in the lives of the Compsons, and her story, paralleled with the ultimate demise of the family and its members, is portrayed in the four separate narratives of the novel. While Caddy remains voiceless throughout the entirety of Faulkner’s book, it is her absence that singularizes her importance in the novel and her brothers’ obsession with her purity that reveal her character and her influence upon the decline of the Compson family.Benjy’s section, consisting mainly of childhood flashbacks, reveals Caddy’s initial innocence. Benjy sees his sister as a living mother figure, and he always turns to her for comfort. He associates her with all the love and goodness that he has ever known. Benjy can “smell” Caddy’s purity, which he associates with the clean, pure smell of trees. He becomes very upset when she seems unclean to him. For example, when Benjy catches Caddy and a boy kissing in the swing, he cries and pulls her away. He remembers, “Caddy took the kitchen soap and washed her mouth at the sink, hard. Caddy smelled like trees”(48). Benjy is comforted when he can again smell her purity. In the same way that Benjy depends on Caddy’s purity for comfort, Caddy also finds comfort from her shameful life in the innocence and faithfulness of Benjy. Benjy remembers Caddy once saying, “‘It’s still raining. I hate rain. I hate everything.’ And then her head came into my lap, and she was crying, holding me, and I began to cry”(57).When Caddy leaves, Benjy has lost his only real source of love and comfort. T.P. tells Benjy, “You can’t do no good looking through the gate. Miss Caddy done gone long ways away . . . You can’t do no good crying . . . She can’t hear you”(51). Benjy’s life becomes sadder after her departure, and he is often upset, thus increasing the burden he is on the family. Benjy’s section is the only section where Caddy is shown in any kind of innocent light, due to the ironic fact that mentally retarded Benjy is the only one who is able to see her goodness.Faulkner uses Quentin’s obsession with Caddy’s purity, which ultimately leads to his suicide, to further illustrate her central importance. Quentin, like Benjy, needs his sister’s purity for comfort. He becomes very upset when she begins her promiscuous behavior. In his anger he often asks his college roommates, “Did you ever have a sister? Did you? Did you?”(78) Quentin cannot understand why he is losing his sister. He develops a hatred for all of the men that “take” Caddy away from the family and away from himself. Partially out of wanting to protect the “purity” of the ironically shameful Compson name, Quentin develops the notion that he should have Caddy all to himself. He tells his father, “Father, I have committed incest”(79). When looking off the bridge he thinks of Caddy and wishes, “If it could just be a hell beyond that, then you will have only me, then only me”(116)2E Quentin’s need to save Caddy’s purity evolves into an anxious sate of depression that is only intensified by his father’s philosophical advice. Mr. Compson tells Quentin that life is meaningless and that “time is dead, as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels”(85). Mr. Compson, a doomed alcoholic, repeatedly tells Quentin that nothing is important, that virginity (Caddy’s) is “just a word”(116). Quentin, who refuses to accept the fact that his sister’s purity is unimportant, kills himself in a desperate attempt to prove his father’s theory wrong, and to escape the progression of time that is forcing Caddy, and in turn the entire Compson family, into a meaningless end.Jason blames Caddy and her promiscuousness for the problems of the Compson household and, more importantly to him, his own troubles. Jason’s contempt for Caddy and the shamefulness of the rest of the family cause him to be a very bitter, self-pitying man. He is embarrassed to even be a part of the Compson household. While walking around town he thinks, “there I was, without any hat, looking like I was crazy too”(233). Furthermore, Jason feels Caddy’s promiscuous behavior directly cost him a job. When his mother reminds him that Caddy’s former husband Herbert was going to give Jason a job before he discovered her pregnancy, he coldly replies, “Well he was probably lying too”(221). Jason, a very greedy man, never forgives Caddy for his financial burden and even resorts to stealing the money she sends her daughter, Quentin. When Quentin asks to see the money, he retorts, “Not after the way you’ve acted. You’ve got to learn . . . when I tell you to do something, you’ve got to do it”(215). Jason vengefully tries to control his niece because of his inability to control his sister. Quentin’s Caddy-like behavior only drives him further along an angry downward spiral, coupled with a gambling problem and a prostitute girlfriend, that leads him to reject all goodness he encounters.In conclusion, Faulkner reveals different parts of Caddy’s story though each of her brother’s own stories and the way her actions affect each member of the declining Compson family. Though each of the narratives, it is apparent that each brother fails to find happiness because he is unable to hold on to his sister, Caddy. This is how Faulkner reveals her importance: through the tragic demise of the family without Caddy. What proves most interesting, however, is that the focal point of the tragedy is the most tragic character of all.Caddy, despite her efforts, ends up like Shakespeare’s Macbeth’s sad view of man, utterly alone on center stage, viewed by a critical audience, and part of a story with no happy ending.
The Roles of Southern Women in a Changing Society
In the postwar South, the relationships between men and women were beginning to shift. Gwendolyn Chabrier writes, “While the prewar South was traditionally a patriarchy, at the time of the war and particularly afterwards, that paternal system was undermined” (Chabrier, 66). But although ideas of gender were changing, the transition from traditional ways of thinking to altogether different viewpoints is not an easy one. In the Compson family, we are presented with two greatly contrasting images of women. Caroline is the traditional southern womansubmissive, domestic, dependant on men. Caddy, however, has transcended boundaries set for women in the past, by disregarding the importance of maintaining the innocent virgin image that a woman must uphold until marriage. However, neither woman is able to reconcile their way of life with a changing society. Caroline’s attempts to recreate the past fail, and Caddy is banished from her family because of her refusal to conform to the family’s image of a woman. In a time where traditional Southern thought is losing its importance, yet before a set of ideas emerge to serve as a replacement, women are torn between the traditional mores of the past, and the emerging, still uncertain ideas of modern times. Faulkner portrays a time where women are faced with the dilemma of defining their places in the midst of changing times, while still encountering lingering traditional ideas and standards of how a woman should live.Chabrier writes, “The Old South is dead, or at least dying, but the New South has barely begun to breathe, and Faulkner’s families are caught between those two worlds just as Faulkner himself was caught” (Chabrier, 2). Caroline represents one extremea woman who is obsessed with her image as a proper Southern “lady” and upholding the ways of the past. Several times Caroline refers to the importance of being a lady. “I was taught that there is no halfway ground that a woman is either a lady or not,” she notes (Faulkner, 103). But exactly what is a “lady?” One’s family background is certainly a factor. Caroline is both proud of being a Bascomb, yet resentful that she was of a lower social class than her husband. “I was unfortunate I was only a Bascomb,” she remarks (Faulkner, 103). However, despite her ambivalent feelings, Caroline sees her heritage as an important part of her identity. It is because of this mindset that Caroline does not want Caddy’s daughter, Quentin, to know about her mother. It is as if by cutting off Caddy, whom Caroline sees as the source of trouble, Quentin has a better chance of becoming a proper Southern lady. “It’ll be hard enough as it is, with the heritage she already has,” Caroline comments (Faulkner, 198). Though her plan ultimately fails, Caroline’s actions reveal the importance she places in family heritage.Caroline’s characteristics fit the image of the pre-Civil War Southern lady, as she is submissive to male authority, fragile, and virtually helpless. Chabrier writes, “[Faulkner’s] fictional families, like his own and other Southern families, were the offspring of a patriarchal society in which the woman was relegated to a ceremonial pedestal” (Chabrier, x). Caroline demonstrates her lack of authority by failing to provide any sort of motherly role to her children, and later loses control of Quentin, not even having the power to make her attend school. Caroline is like an ornament without an actual, practical use. Always sick, she needs Dilsey to assist her with even the simplest tasks, such as refilling her hot water bottle, or picking up the Bible where it had fallen on the floor. Caroline orders Dilsey to put the Bible within reach, complaining, “That’s where you put it before. Do you want me to have to get out of bed to pick it up?” (Faulkner, 300). She is completely submissive to her husband, and later to Jason, never contradicting them or able to make any decisions of her own. The sickly Caroline displays her weakness by crying whenever Jason disagrees with her, always yielding to his final decision in a wave of tears and self-pity. She urges Dilsey to adopt the same attitude with Jason, rebuking her for not immediately following Jason’s commands. She says,He’s head of the house now. It’s his right to require us to respect his wishes…It’s neither your place nor mine to tell Jason what to do. Sometimes I think he is wrong, but I try to obey his wishes for you all’s sake (Faulkner, 278). Caroline’s insistence on clinging to old values such as an extreme submission to male authority contributes to her weakness as a mother and as a grandmother. Chabrier comments, “Women, beginning in pre-Civil War South, while trained to be the ideals of perfection and submission, were unmistakably given a social position inferior to that of men” (Chabrier, 58). Unfortunately, Caroline fits the role of “Southern Lady” in a time when this image is losing its importance. The Compson family is deteriorating, their land assets are decreasing, yet Caroline refuses to see what is happening, and change with the present. She believes that because she is a “lady,” she will always have special privilege in society and even in the eyes of God.Self absorbed in her illusions, Caroline tells Dilsey that her son, Quentin, could not have had intentions to hurt her by committing suicide. “Under God’s heaven what reason did he have? It can’t be simply to flout and hurt me. Whoever God is, He would not permit that. I’m a lady” (Faulkner 299-300). Caroline clings to her naïve delusions of privilege while her family falls apart around her. Chabrier comments, “[The Southerner] must function in a universe in which both he and his accompanying value system are outmoded” (Chabrier, xi). Caroline banishes her daughter from the family, loses Quentin to suicide, her husband to a natural death, and is left with only the controlling and bitter Jason, and the “idiot,” Benjy, whom she knows Jason will commit to the state hospital after she dies. Despite her emphasis on the importance of family heritage and her great efforts to maintain her image as a lady, Caroline is left lonely, unloved, and helpless. Chabrier remarks on the Southerner’s reluctance to cease living in the past. Faulkner’s work is a mirror of Southern society, which is a traditional, homogeneous world unwilling and unable to adapt to change. It is a society whose inhabitants try to continue their uniform perception of the world from a commonly held view of life and morality (Chabrier, 2).Because of Caroline’s efforts to maintain an outdated image, rather than become involved in affairs of the present, she is left completely powerless in the hands of Jason, uninvolved with decision making, helpless, and without hope. In contrast to her mother, Caddy has no concern for customs of the past. She displays this attitude through her lack of respect for authority, and her absence of concern in maintaining her image as an innocent virgin, as an unmarried woman should. From the time she is a child, she displays her tendencies to oppose her father’s wishes by climbing the tree in the middle of the night to watch the funeral. Despite Versh’s warning, “Your paw told you to stay out that tree,” Caddy climbs it nonetheless. She counters, “That was a long time ago…I expect he’s forgotten about it. Besides, he said to mind me tonight” (Faulkner, 39). Aside from this “unladylike” behavior of tree climbing, Caddy differs from her mother in her ease in undermining male authority. John Earl Bassett notes, “While the rest of the family remain frozen in time like Quentin, or ensnared in a self-centered past like her parents, or outside time like Benjy, Caddy is an attractively rebellious individual, the one Compson to assert her own independence from the stultifying environment of her youth” (Bassett, 411). As Caddy grows older, she takes her rebelliousness a step further by beginning to “experiment” with boys, despite the societal stigma against premarital sex.To Caddy’s mother, Caroline’s, generation, there are only two labels for unmarried women: virginity, connected to purity and innocence, and the opposite, promiscuity. Caddy, part of the new generation, does not see the importance in making such a distinction, and thus continues to have sexual relations, completely discounting society’s view that the value of a young woman is based upon her sexuality. Michael Gresset comments, It does not take [Caddy] long to solve the only problem with which she is confronted: that of environment.’ Within the social unit of the family, integration soon proves impossible: therefore…she will exclude herself from it, like a foreign body expelled (Gresset, 174).Whether Caddy is “promiscuous” or merely “progressive,” her lack of concern for being the image of a proper Southern lady, and resulting pregnancy, leads to her banishment from the family, and eventually separation from her daughter.Though Caddy, in some ways, acts as a foil to her mother, Caroline, their fates are similar. Like Caroline, Caddy ends up lonely, without any possibility of raising her daughter. Caddy pleads with Jason, first offering him money to retunite her with her daughter, then merely begging him to treat Quentin well.Listen, Jason…Don’t lie to me now. About her. I won’t ask to see anything. If that isn’t enough, I’ll send more each month. Just promise that she’llthat sheYou can do that. Things for her. Be kind to her. Little things that I cant, they wont let… (Faulkner, 209).Like her mother, Caddy is without power to influence Jason’s behavior. Carolinesickly, old, and living in past illusionsis completely dependent on her son. Caddy, who chooses not to pay attention to past traditions and perceptions of being a lady, is also dependent on Jason, forced to rely on him to raise her daughter. Chabrier writes, “Faulkner’s women are not themselves at the source of feminine evil but are instead the victims of codes and standards of behavior which are deleterious to them” (Chabrier, 78). Though Caroline and Caddy have opposing values, each is a victim of their environment. In a time of great social change, Caroline’s old views on family structure and social hierarchy are losing the importance they had in the past. On the contrary, Caddy’s disregard of tradition and image is frowned upon by a society that cannot easily dispose of old ways of thinking, leading to the separation of her daughter. Each women finds it impossible to define their place in a time of social flux, resulting in tragedy for both.Works CitedBassett, John Earl. “Family Conflict in The Sound and the Fury.” Critical Essays on William Faulkner: The Compson Family. Ed. Arthur F. Kinney. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982. pp. 408-424.Chabrier, Gwendolyn. Faulkner’s Families, A Southern Saga. New York: The Gordian Press, 1993.Chabrier analyzes the conflicts that arise within families in Faulkner’s writing, exploring the relationships between married women and their husbands, parents and children, white people and black people, and incestual relationships that arise in several of Faulkner’s novels and short stories. Chabrier points out that Faulkner “is, first, a Southerner, and his conception of family can be understood only within this very specific framework.” The problems portrayed in Faulkner’s families are largely a reaction to a changing Southern society. Chabrier calls Falknerian families “doomed to incomprehension, isolation, rejection, ambivalence, domination, rebellion, and guilt.” The author argues that the post-Civil War period brought great change to Southern family structure, but these changes were not easily adapted, as the South remained haunted by its past, refusing to move on, causing tension in all aspects of family life. Recommended.Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: Vintage International, 1984.Gresset, Michael. “The Ordeal of Consciousness: Psychological Aspects of Evil in The Sound and the Fury.” Critical Essays on William Faulkner: The Compson Family. Ed. Arthur F. Kinney. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982. pp. 173-181.
History’s Fury: Henri Bergson and Friedrich Nietzsche Shed Some Critical Light on The Sound and the Fury’s Jason Compson
I remember the first time I really heard classical music. As long as I can remember I have loved music, but growing up, no matter how many times my parents dragged me, kicking and screaming, to the symphony, or my piano teacher tried to teach me a Mozart piano sonata, I was overcome with boredom. Nothing about this collection of instruments, or notes, no matter how intricate, how subtle, how stirring a piece was, meant anything to me. I remember that my only joy at the symphony was to wait until a movement was over, praying that some fool would clap when everyone else knew full well that we had to wait until the entire (seemingly unending) piece was done. Even as I got older and began to realize that there must be something to these musicians who those I respected deemed geniuses, I never could get a hold of the music, something eluded me. Last year I took Music theory, I began to love the notes and the cadences when on the page, but still when put together my only appreciation was in my ability to distinguish a Plagal cadence from a half cadence or a major scale from a minor one. Then one day my roommate played for me her favorite piece of music, Beethoven’s La Pathetique. All of a sudden, it made sense, those years of struggling to understand what it was all about disappeared, and I understood in an instant the genius of a man who could produce a sound that made the world, with all its shortcomings seem alright, that took the futility out of existence. All of a sudden I was desperate to hear as much classical music as I could, to make up for lost time.Henri Bergson, in his essay, An Introduction to Metaphysics, explains as best one can, the meaning of that instant where, for me, classical music made sense. In Bergson’s terms, I was experiencing a moment of “intuition,” a moment in which I had an “absolute knowledge” of La Pathetique. I was experiencing a moment, which I could never have gleaned from all the symphonies or music classes in the world. In this instant of intuition I experienced as Bergson says: “the kind of intellectual sympathy by which one places oneself within an object in order to coincide with what is unique in it and consequently inexpressible” (Metaphysics, 24). Without this moment of intellectual sympathy, classical music would never have made sense, no matter how many times I learned that it was the purest form of music, no matter how many times I distinguished the plagal cadence from the half cadence. All of these lessons were what Bergson terms “analysis” or, “the operation which reduces the object to elements already known” (24). No matter how many times one analyzes an object they cannot truly comprehend it until they have done so intuitively.For all his talk of intuition being the only pure knowledge, Bergson’s article is extremely analytical. Because he is trying to place absolute knowledge in the debate between rational and empiricist philosophy, his essay is very complex. The intuition of which he speaks seems out of grasp for an every day person. However, it is just the opposite, intuition is the simplest feeling in the world. The simplicity of intuition becomes much clearer through reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s essay titled, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life. Nietzsche clarifies Bergson’s notion of intuition by putting it in the context of history. His point is that history, be it individual or communal, is useful up to a certain point, but that all truly great deeds are done when the agent, if only for a moment, forgets all that he has known and becomes “unhistorical.” Therefore no matter how much import we place on a knowledge of history, “we must…consider the capacity to perceive unhistorically to a certain degree as the more important and fundamental so far as it provides the foundation upon which alone something right, healthy and great, something truly human may grow” (History, 11).The startling similarity between Bergson’s moment of intuition and Nietzsche’s unhistorical moment can be clearly seen when we compare the two philosophers notions of the fleeting duration of these moments. Consider Bergson: “while we can…by…imagination, solidify duration once it has elapsed…this operation is accomplished on the frozen memory of the duration” (Metaphysics, 30). Nietzsche is essentially positing the same thing about an unhistorical moment when he writes, “[t]he unhistorical resembles an enveloping atmosphere in which alone life is generated only to disappear again with the destruction of this atmosphere”(History, 11). An unhistorical moment is, like a moment of intuition, expressible only in terms of the past, and yet it is in these moments of our lives that we discover the greatness of things or do the greatest actions. From a historical, perspective they are moments of greatness which are remembered by the ages, but from a personal perspective they are the moments in our everyday lives which push us on, remind us that there are great things to be done and be seen. Without these moments of intuition we never truly know anything but reduce everything to symbols. Further, without these moments in which we forget everything but what is right before us, as Nietzsche tells us, we can “like the true pupil of Heraclitus, hardly dare in the end to lift a finger”(11-12). Or, put more simply, we cannot achieve any satisfaction in our lives.William Faulkner knows a thing or two about intuition himself, or else he would not ever have been able to write a character who entirely lacks any knowledge of it. Jason Compson is the literary equivalent to a man who has never had a moment of intuition, has never experienced a moment in which he is able to forget the rest of his life. Faulkner makes this clear through Jason’s inability to perceive any emotion, or existential moment in life, and therefore, his need to reduce all of these moments to their crudest symbols. What makes Jason such an ingenious character is further illuminated through Nietzsche, who posits that the only way to live without needing moments of unhistoricity, is to be superhistorical. The superhistorical man is one who realizes the “unhistorical atmosphere in which every great historical event came to be”(12). He has no unhistorical moments, neither does he have need for history whatsoever: “the past and the present is one and the same that is, typically alike in all manifold variety…and [has] eternally the same meaning” (13). Further, he has no need for the future; as Nietzsche tells us, no one would if asked, want to repeat the previous ten years of their lives, but most would give the reason for their answer as a hope that the next ten years will be better. The superhistorian, on the other hand, “does not see salvation in the process, for [him], rather, the world is complete and achieves its end at every single moment” (13). He would not relive the last ten years because they will be the exact same as the next ten. Faulkner’s Jason Compson, attempts to make up for his lack of intuition by being a superhistorian, and yet is constantly burdened by the past. Without having experienced an unhistorical moment, yet still unable to relinquish the past, Jason is doomed to be miserable and make others equally so.The very structure of the Jason section in The Sound and the Fury, is emblematic of his inability to experience intuition. The chapter, like those which surround his brothers Benjy and Quentin, follows Jason through a day. Unlike Benjy for whom time has no meaning, or for Quentin whose notion of time is so intuitive he must kill himself to escape it, time for Jason is only its most obvious symbol, the clock. In class we termed Jason’s problem with time manic linearality. An unhistorical moment is one in which we lose time entirely; time, at least the conscious time of the clock, is of no import and has no meaning, for it is only a symbol. Since Jason is a man who has never experienced a moment out of clock time, he is entirely reliant on this symbol. He does not understand why anyone would mistrust the clock, as is clear when his boss looks at his watch and then at a clock on the town courthouse. Jason says “[you] ought to have a dollar watch….It wont cost you so much to believe it’s lying” (Sound, 306). He is constantly reminding the reader what time of day it is: “[a]long towards ten oclock I went up front. There was a drummer there. It was a couple of minutes to ten” (237). Every hour has some scheduled significance for Jason and we soon learn that ten is when the reports from the stock market comes into the town’s telegraph office.As is clear from both aforementioned examples Jason is as manically obsessed with money as he is with clock time. Still, Jason does not take risks with money; he does not take risks with anything. Nietzsche posits that any great action requires unhistorical moments in which to conceive them: “no artist will paint his picture…nor any people [achieve] its freedom without first having desired and striven for it in…an unhistorical condition” (History, 11). Since Jason never strives for an unhistorical condition he never risks, nor achieves anything great. The stock market consumes Jason’s thoughts and yet he says: “I never risk much at a time” (Sound, 238). Jason has never experienced a moment of trust, therefore he does not even trust the symbol upon which he relies. Money, to Jason, is the symbol of everything he has lost, while at the same time the only thing he lives for. Money is only the approximate symbol of an object’s worth, and yet to Jason who is completely reliant on symbols, it is the trustworthiest judge. This is clear when a man comes in to his store to buy a hame string. Jason is annoyed that the man is spending so much time “deciding whether he wanted a twenty cent hame string or a thirty-five cent one”(242). He counsels the man to take the more expensive piece of machinery, but when the man inquires how he, who is not a farmer, knows which is better, Jason replies, “[b]ecause they don’t ask thirty-five cents for it….That’s how I know its not as good”(242). Without any inner notion of worth, Jason must rely entirely on monetary symbols to determine which machine is better.More disturbingly Jason uses this monetary symbol of worth to qualify his relationships and emotions. Love is about the easiest way to relate an unhistorical moment, for it is probably the most widely experienced form of intuition. Nietzsche, in fact uses love in his essay to “illustrate with an example” the unhistorical: “think of a man tossed and torn by a powerful passion for a woman…how his world is changed!”(History, 11) Jason has never experienced this passion, and therefore can only relate to love with symbols. His only lover is a whore from Memphis named Lorraine. He exchanges money for sex in place of a real relationship, which, as anyone who has experienced any kind of love knows, he could not quantify. When Lorraine, who clearly has an affinity for him, sends him a letter complaining that Memphis is no fun without him and that she misses him. Jason, unable to imagine the emotion of longing, muses: “I reckon she [misses me]. Last time I gave her forty dollars” (Sound, 240). Love to Jason is only as worthy as the dollars and cents he puts into it.Jason does not have any more intuition of familial love than he does the passionate love of a woman. Caddy, who knows her brother well, offers him fifty dollars for a chance to see her baby daughter. After getting her to give him a hundred dollars, Jason holds the baby up to the window of a moving car, as Caddy waits outside. When she goes to beg him for another chance to see the baby, and asks him how much it will cost this time he says, “[w]ell if one look through a hack window was worth a hundred…”(259). Jason, having no ideal of love himself quantifies even the love between mother and child. This inability to intuit love is no clearer than when he remembers a scene from his father’s funeral. In the memory, he is watching the gravediggers fill the grave, “like they were slapping mortar on it or building a fence, and I began to feel sort of funny” (251). There are two aspects to this quote which show Jason’s profound lack of conscious emotion: the images of mortar and fence building, two mundane scenes, are not those one would usually use to describe the profound grief at watching one’s father’s grave get filled. Even after a falling out with one’s parent the sight of their grave would evince more emotive similes. Secondly, Jason comments that watching this scene makes him feel “funny”; a page later, after seeing Caddy for the first time since she has left their home, standing over their dead father’s grave, Jason starts to feel “funny again”(252). Jason could be experiencing any number of emotions, and yet in both instances his inability to intuit them, let alone express them, is clear with the abstract use of the word “funny.”It is clear that Jason is affected by his father’s death. Mr. Compson was an alcoholic, and died from a disease related to drinking. Jason makes very clear the fact that he never drinks: “I’d just as soon swallow gasoline as a glass of whiskey” (291). Yet he does not acknowledge his father’s memory, and in fact diminishes, every time he can, any connection to his father. This trend of diminishing the import of his personal past is Jason’s attempt to be superhistorical. This aforementioned Nietzschian term might be dubbed a super-intuition of history. A superhistorian is so aware that history is only a collection of unhistorical moments, that he sees no need to use it to help his present, nor any need to change it for the future: “one who has adopted [this standpoint] could no longer be tempted at all to continue to live and cooperate in making history” (History, 12). After all, if the past and the present are one “static structure…of unchanged meaning,” then what is the point of working towards a future that will soon be the present and will be the same as the present which has passed.Throughout the Jason section of The Sound and the Fury, he makes comments that seem to be those of an unambiguous superhistorian. In fact, the chapter starts and ends with the line “once a bitch, always a bitch” (Sound, 223, 329). To whom he is referring is not clear; regardless, Jason’s lack of belief in the ability of people to change is apparent. Jason is his most superhistorical when talking to others or making general comments about race and gender. He condemns the entire Jewish population by saying: “its just the race. You’ll admit that they produce nothing. They follow the pioneers into a new country and sell them clothes” (238). The man to whom he is talking suggests that it is not even the Jews to whom Jason is referring, for even stereotypically the statement does not make sense. However, that is just the point of the superhistorian, all cultures are essentially the same: “[a]s hundreds of different languages correspond to the typically fixed requirements of men, so that one who understood these requirements could learn nothing new from all those languages” (History, 13). Thus the Jews might as well be the Armenians as Jason’s companion suggests, or the Buddhists, for to the superhistorian they are one and the same.Jason uses this superhistorian logic to convince his mother she should burn a check that Caddy has sent for her daughter Quentin. What his mother does not know is that the check she is burning is a fake, that Jason is actually stealing the money for himself. Although she has repeated the same ritual for years, this time she questions her actions, and tells Jason that she will swallow her pride and leave this check in tact. To this he replies: “[w]hat would be the good in beginning now, when you’ve been destroying them for fifteen years….If you keep on doing it you have lost nothing” (Sound, 273). If no moment in history really ever changes its course, then why bother varying from routine or attempting to better one’s circumstances.Further, Jason seems to say, if no one person ever betters history then what they have to say or do is really of no consequence. When his boss tells him that he knows Jason has been doing shady things with his mother’s money, Jason reasons that there is no point in trying to stop his boss from chastising him: “when a man gets into a rut, the best thing you can do is let him stay there” (284). Further, when his boss expresses concern over Jason’s recurring headaches and suggests that he go see a dentist, Jason thinks to himself, “[i]t’s a curious thing how no matter what’s wrong with you a man’ll tell you to get your teeth examined and a woman’ll tell you to get married”(311). This statement is ridiculous except from a superhistorical point of view, for if all advice leads to the same future and does not inform the present whatsoever, then every man may as well be telling him to get his teeth fixed and every woman telling him to get married.Jason might convince us that he is a superhistorian, if Faulkner had not burdened him with so much history. The reader might believe that he is a superhistorian if he did not constantly contradict himself by letting slip his bitterness over his personal past and the past of his race, the white southern farmer. Jason remarks to himself as he watches some pigeons fly around the town courthouse: “It’s a good thing I don’t have anymore ties than a pigeon”(309). This is his inherent contradiction, and the key to understanding his inability to truly be a superhistorian. In explaining the superhistorian Nietzsche quotes a poem by Giacomo Leopardi. The poem has a few lines lamenting the world but resigning to its futility. The last stanza of the quote is, “Calm, calm” (History, 13). If Jason were a true superhistorian, if he truly had less ties than a pigeon, then he too would be calm. However, as is made clear from his eternal headaches, his griping and his downright rage, Jason is anything but calm.Although he tries to rationalize the misery of his life by being above life itself, history is always there to tie Jason down. It reminds him constantly of what has been taken from his people. Throughout the chapter the reader learns how much Jason’s vision of his past informs his present. He is constantly lamenting the state of the south post-slavery. A number of times he makes derogatory comments about the laziness of the black servants who work for him and live in the town: “the only place for them is in the field where they’d have to work from sunup to sundown” (Sound, 313). Embarrassed by the reputation his family has in the town Jason, in an imaginary conversation with his mother says, “you don’t hear the talk that I hear…I shut them up too. I says my people owned slaves here when you all were running little shirt tail country stores and farming land no nigger would look at” (298). Jason reconciles the present state of his family by harkening back to what he sees as their proud past even though it is not a past in which he has any part.The past in which Jason does take part also informs his present. The chapter is full of his lamentations about the treatment he is given by his family. He refers a number of times to the family’s sacrifice of a plot of land to send his brother Quentin to Harvard. When his mother tells him that he is the only child who has not gone against her, Jason replies that he has never had time to: “I never had time to go to Harvard…I had to work”(224). He laments Quentin’s ability to go to Harvard and yet is obviously burdened by his brother’s suicide. He says “at Harvard they teach you how to go for a swim at night without knowing how to swim”(243), and later lets on that he is barely able to look at water (291). If Jason were a true superhistorian, these moments of the past would not harm him, yet it is these moments which he blames for his present state of unhappiness, for his stagnant and miserable existence. Jason is not a superhistorian and yet has never had an unhistorical moment. He cannot forget his personal past nor let go of his communal one. This, says Nietzsche, is the worst kind of way to live life: “[a]ll acting requires forgetting…without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all….[T]here is a degree of…historical sense which injures every living thing and finally destroys it, be it a man, a people or a culture”(History, 10). Jason is, in many ways, a representative of the bitter and lost generations born during the Jim Crow era in the changing and fragmented south. However, Jason’s personal past is far more destructive, as we know, the ever-present knowledge of it drove his brother to suicide. I might aver that Jason is essentially the living symbol of Quentin’s death. He is breathing yes, but devoid of any joy, any kindness, any faith in the future. The reader often wonders right along with him, when he muses: “[s]ometimes I think what’s the use of anything. With the precedent I’ve been set I must be crazy to keep on”(Sound, 294). To many Jason is pure evil, he does not even have the passion it takes to be a real villain, he is just bad at the core. But I would argue for nurture over nature defense in his case. For a man never to experience a moment of intuition, watching a baseball game, seeing a painting, sitting on the porch, doing anything, this man has not had an enviable life. In rereading this novel for the umpteenth time, it is Jason that invokes my sympathy the most, for I wonder what would my life be, had I never experienced La Pathetique or a myriad other moments of intuition which, through fleeting instants of absolute presentness, make me want to participate in the future.
Dilsey As Support For the Family
In The Sound and the Fury, the fated Compson family is a portrayal of both the declining old South and the new South that rose demonically out of its ruins. Through the Compsons, Faulkner personifies at once the mournful self-pity of a fallen gentry, and in Jason, the embittered rage and resentment of those who come after the fall. Throughout the novel, Dilsey is the one quiet fortitude in this irredeemably tragic and fallen family.One of the first indications of Dilsey’s strength in the Compson house is attested to by the fact that she can tell time from the warped clock that hangs in the kitchen. This clock and its skewed rendering corresponds with the Compsons’ own inability to reconcile themselves to any rational concept of time. Quentin is long tortured and eventually driven to suicide by his morbid nostalgia; “… time is [Quentin’s] misfortune…”(97). Jason’s resentment of the past has driven him to his maniacal obsession with hoarding money, in preparation for an abstract future that will never, can never become a reality. Dilsey’s ability to make sense of the broken clock reveals that she has made a sense of time eternal, a sense that allows her to live free from the grip of the past and the anticipation of the future. Through her responsibility for the Compson family, and the fact that she is the sole person with whom this responsibility lies, she is inextricably bound to the present– to project onto Dilsey a past or future seems inappropriate and irrelevant. Dilsey’s present however is not Benjy’s present, comprised simply of one moment to the next; through living the present, Dilsey transcends it.That Dilsey is steadfastly engaged in a timeless present makes her the “sworn enemy”(297) of Jason; she is the one human being he fears and respects. In the constant war between Jason and the girl Quentin, Dilsey pits herself tirelessly and thanklessly against Jason and his demonic cruelty. Quentin is for Jason an unbearable symbol of the past that he tries so forcefully to negate, and for the reader the consummate symbol of the decadence of the fallen South. She is therefore equally as resentful and fearful of the present, and violently pushes the protective Dilsey away, calling her “damn old nigger”(168). In pitting herself against Jason however, Dilsey protects more than Quentin; she protects the fragile vestige of the Compson family to which she remains eternally loyal. The opening of the final chapter is a portrait of Dilsey, a woman weakened and eroded by long hardship and burden, and yet ultimately “indomitable”(236). As Easter Sunday wears on, the reader is allowed a perception of Dilsey that is straight from Faulkner, unmuddied by the parsimonious judgments of the other characters. The source of her strength is revealed in the simplicity and totality of her uncontrived faith. When Dilsey takes Luster, Frony, and Benjy to the “darkies’… special Easter service”(248), she is completely un-self-conscious in her worship. She cries openly on the way home, despite her daughter’s worries about “passin white folks soon”(264). Her revealed tenderness toward Benjy in this chapter is moving. Understanding his helpless suffering, she tries to hush his bellowing that is described as “just sound”(255). In reference to the title of the novel, the silence that Dilsey tenderly urges is profound; if “… life… is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury…” then Dilsey beckons Benjy to a peace — ultimate and eternal. Faulkner gives the reader a final testimony to the eternal quality of Dilsey’s strength in her section of the appendix, that comes after the sections devoted to the other blacks of the novel. Simply writing “they endured”(302), Faulkner affirms that Dilsey has led her family to salvation, to stand long after the fall of the Compsons. At the end of the novel, Dilsey returns home: “… the fire had died down. There was no sound in the house… there was no sound anywhere.”(265). Dilsey outlasts “the sound and the fury” of the fatally self-centered Compsons, to remain long after them, indomitable and knowing. In bitter irony it is Dilsey who, in Faulknerian terms, not only endures, but prevails.