What a Loud Sound: The Noise Doom Makes in The Sound and the Fury

March 12, 2019 by Essay Writer

An air of doom and darkness hangs over the entirety of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Utilizing the negative aspects of the South that swirled around him, Faulkner skillfully molds a family–the Compsons–out of that life. Not only does Faulkner discuss the different levels of impending doom that each of the three brothers and their maid, Dilsey, feels, he also touches on the different physical times in which they live. This is illustrated using an interesting technique: Most of Faulkner’s characters rely primarily on their recollections of happenings in their lives. In fact, as in most of his works, this novel is filled with almost endless incidences of “remembering” (Minter 190). Perhaps that is why The Sound and the Fury is commonly referred to as a “stream of consciousness novel” or a “novel of inner monologue” (Chakovsky 293). How each character perceives the present and past links to their idea of compassion and human nature, and this idea is also what illustrates their distinctive perceptions of impending doom. When pondering which of the three brothers battles the idea of irreversible predestination the most, Jason immediately comes to mind. Indeed, so much does he seem to live by that particular ideal that he seemingly decides that in order to avenge himself and his family, it is his duty to meet the consequences of his actions. This idea is what makes Jason a truly vicious character. Although Jason subconsciously believes that his fate is already carved in stone, he still yearns deeply for power. However, because of his neurotic mindset, he cannot actually handle either one of these ideas. Jason’s fight is not about his muddled view of his surroundings, but rather about his reaction to those surroundings. Perhaps it is those reactions that make him so psychologically unstable, and so able to recognize his own instability. For example, he says, “I’m crazy too God knows what I’ll do about it just to look at water makes me sick and I’d just as soon swallow gasoline as a glass of whiskey” (Faulkner 298). Indeed, Jason’s tone is set in the opening sentence of his section: “Once a bitch, always a bitch, what I say” (Padgett 4). Compassion is an emotion that Jason views as completely worthless. He does not see any logical reason for acting compassionately towards another human being, as there are no rewards for showing compassion. In other ways, too, his idea of morality is off-balance. For example, Jason is conflicted about his sister’s promiscuity. He looks down upon her and thinks of her as less of a person, but the manner in which he himself degrades her does not strike him as negative in any way. In fact, he blames his sister for his actions because she is blemishing the family name. The “crime” that she is committing is far less of an issue. Ironically, however, there are other points in the story where Jason appears jealous of others spending time with Caddy, and ridicules them for wanting to do so: “You’re not a poor baby. Are you. You’ve got your Caddy. Haven’t you got your Caddy” (Faulkner 8). Jason is always searching for validity from the other characters in the book. When there is someone whom Jason feels is far less substantial of a person than he is, he becomes angry. Jason views his brothers and sisters as wasted space, and believes that they have not taken advantage of the chances that they have been given. He believes that he was unfairly placed in the family, but still feels some degree of responsibility toward it. As far as narration is concerned, the harsh and brash attitude of Jason certainly shines through, which is exactly what Faulkner wanted. Faulkner once noted that Jason was “the most vicious character…I ever thought of” (Chakovsky 297). The reader is never at a loss when considering what Jason’s true feelings and opinions are about another person. His father and brother died because of their own actions, his sister is promiscuous, and his brother should either be dead or in an insane asylum. As far as telling the story specifically when compared to the other narrators, rarely does Jason get off track with other tales. Quentin, however, is far more concerned with what each new day will bring, and with the concept of time. In fact, his first memory upon waking is of his father giving him his grandfather’s watch with the observation that it was, according to his father, given to him “not that [he] may remember time, but that [he] might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all [his] breath trying to conquer it” (Faulkner 93). In contrast to Jason, who is at peace (yet still bitter) with the fact that there is nothing that can be done about the future, Quentin is intrigued and anxious about that same idea. This is most likely because Quentin is aware that doom is awaiting his family, and that it is only a matter of time before their particular idea of it occurs. More unconsciously, Quentin is, throughout most of his life, calculating when he will kill himself. While Quentin is, in fact, anxious about what each new day will bring, he is not “killing time” until something occurs. In his chapter, it is clear that he is not expecting any major occurrence to happen, but is simply using the opportunity to review his life in his mind. In doing so, he can make one last, valid attempt to ascertain knowledge as to why he must kill himself. The choice is not his–it is simply something that has to be done. No matter what, there is nothing that could happen that could change Quentin’s mind against suicide. When he tries to destroy his watch (a method of time), he is attempting to escape from the framework that has become his life. Like Jason, Quentin’s relationship with Caddy is also one that is very unique. In fact, according to Faulkner, “the source of Quentin’s horror is Caddy” (Yarup 3). In his head, he and she have both already gravely sinned. But rather that shunning his sister, Quentin wishes to be linked to her for eternity. He is already determined, though, that that eternal place in which they will be together is hell. Only when he feels that a permanent relationship is established is he able to find true closure, and can truly be at peace with himself. The idea of impending doom is also how Quentin can live so calmly throughout the entire day in which he plans to kill himself. His calmness almost causes readers to wonder, is he secretly or subconsciously yearning for an eternal hell? Or, does he truly believe that hell is an inevitable end? What seems ironic, when thinking about the idea of hell, is that although Quentin never talks to God or prays, he is familiar with the Bible, quoting verses throughout the book. Quentin views humankind in a much simpler fashion than Jason does. Children are initially pure, grow faulty and prone to sin, and are damned. If people can survive to a point in their lives without sinning too greatly, then they have reached a sort of salvation. If not, then redemption is not an option. The latter is what Quentin believes has happened to him: He had an impressionable and sinful childhood, and could not get past it. However, he does not necessarily think that he and his siblings are to blame. In his eyes, they were just living the lives that they were randomly given. Thus, the easiest thing to do is to kill himself. With his suicide, however, the feeling of doom only descends further on his family, digging their hole of despair even deeper. Benjy is the one character that does not necessarily view his whole existence as doomed since he does not live in a structured world, as the rest of the narrators and his family do. Although his section is written in an almost incomprehensible (at first) “dialect”, later on, the reader comes to appreciate Benjy and his optimism. Benjy’s life does not take place at any given time, but is viewed as a cocktail, of sorts, of what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. Benjy’s family does not realize that he is disabled until after he has gone through his toddler years. Perhaps, this is the beginning of the concept of “impending doom” for the Compson family. His mother wears his disability like a badge for all to see. He is the last son, and is born during a time in which the Compsons are no longer prospering financially. Benjy’s mother thinks that Benjy’s disability is appropriately placed, since it matches what is going on in the family. Thankfully for Benjy, he does not live a life full of worry about what will happen to him or his family. This is because Benjy has no real sense of past, present, or future. His “future” is not bleak, because Benjy has no real “future”. If he does, however, he is unsure as to when it will occur. The same idea applies to him when concerning morality. Since Benjy does not know what is morally right or wrong, does that mean that he is exempt from society and their ideals from it? Most readers would like to think so, even though the rest of the world has to abide by those rules. After all, he does not seem to adhere himself to any other standards–money, romantic issues, or natural progression. Progression, in fact, is another issue in itself, because it seems as though Benjy is what is making the Compson family, ultimately, unable to prosper. At the very least, he is making things progress much less quickly. For them, he symbolizes a huge hurdle–something that no matter how hard they try, they simply will never be able to conquer. Like his two brothers, Benjy has his own, unique relationship with his sister. At one point in the novel, she is his constant. It seems as though Benjy is happy to have Caddy near him, and that his impulse is to “freeze” moments of happiness and shut off Caddy and himself from the entire world. Yet she belongs to that other world (Chakovsky 292-293). However, since he lives in three different worlds (the past, present, and future), she is often able to be three things at once to him, depending on “where” he is. She can be promiscuous, but not; she can be good, but not. His mixed feelings make him very confused about her destiny, as well as about their relationship. However, unlike his brothers, Benjy does not concur that his sister is evil and that she will live in eternal hell for the “sins” that she has committed. Thus, there is again a definite air of hope surrounding Benjy, making him a refreshing addition to the other two Compson brothers. What is truly heartbreaking to the reader, though, is that what he is left with in the end is what he has in the introduction: a fading memory of “tenderness and love” through association with Caddy. “Here,’ Dilsey said, ‘Stop crying, now.’ She gave me [Caddy’s] slipper, and I hushed” (Yarup 2). Benjy’s order in the novel is cleverly and purposely placed. When first reading the novel, it seems as though Benjy is hard to decipher because he is, in fact, “retarded.” However, when delving further in the work, the reader realizes that Benjy cannot be defined by his disability. The concepts and events that he discusses and analyzes are surprisingly complex. His chapter, therefore, signifies the conclusions to the stories that will later leave us irresolute. Although Benjy does not personally bring on an air of “doom” in the beginning of the novel, he is aware of it because of all the other characters that he encounters. He is, in his own way, very aware of what is happening. He simply cannot take what he knows and put it in a logical, communicable, form. If Benjy can be seen as a bright light in a bleak world, than so is Dilsey. She is the novel’s central sympathizing, yet alienated, witness (Wadlington 422). Throughout the chapters of other people, she seems to be the only constant, logical character. This same idea is true within the fourth chapter. Dilsey narrates from a present time, and everything takes place in one day. She does not spend a lot of her chapter remembering,in contrast to Quentin and Benjy. Furthermore, unlike Jason, she does not blame the past for any of the difficulties now facing her. While the other characters seem not to fight their supposed destiny of going to hell, Dilsey is certain that she will ascend into heaven. She tries to help the children by offering them ideas of salvation. When it becomes clear to her that no one in the family (except possibly Benjy) is interested in a form of grace, it bears greatly upon her soul. This is her own contribution to the idea of “doom”. She thinks that if she can get the Compson family to come forth and live in “today”, as she does, then perhaps they can gravitate toward a brighter future. Of course, no one does so. Dilsey remains the only character who is not always and completely concerned with days and occurrences passed. The most substantial relationship that Dilsey has is with Benjy. His innocencen and openness makes him the one character in which Dilsey feels that is able to feel the grace of God. Even though she is ridiculed for bringing him to Easter church with her, Dilsey is content and at peace with his company. Upon reading the complete novel, we as readers are pleased that Dilsey is the character who has “seen the beginning and the end.” She is the character who has taken something pure–her faith–and turned it into a clean energy that is vital to the order of the Compson house. Dilsey’s chapter is the last, adding to the novel’s parting atmosphere of doom. Although it is the last chapter, and the one that brings us the closing and lets us know what has happened, it is not the one that we, as readers, believe as the prominent view of the world. Upon believing the world of the other three, though, we also believe that the Compson family truly is a family with no chance. Doom is definite for them–and it almost seems that is the way they want it. Works CitedChakovsky, Sergei. “Word and Idea in The Sound and the Fury.” Book! Ed. Doreen Fowler and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 1983.Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.Minter, David. “Family, Myth, and Religion in Faulkner’s Fiction”. Book! Ed. Doreen Fowler and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981Padgett, John B. “The Sound and the Fury: Commentary.” William Faulkner on the Web. 11 Apr. 2005. Ed. John B. Padgett. U of Mississippi. 16 May 2006. .Wadlington, Warwick. “The Sound and the Fury: A Logic of Tragedy.” American Literature Vol. 53, Issue 3. November 1981. Retrieved 12 May 2006. Yarup, Robert L. “Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.” Explicator, 00144940 Vol. 55, Issue 1. September 1996. Retrieved 14 May 2006.

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