Summary and Analysis of The Sound and The Fury

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Overview

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner was published in 1929. It is one of the earliest modernist works to employ the stream of consciousness and objective correlative literary methods, and is frequently cited as one of the most significant works of the twentieth century. The nonlinear narrative is narrated from the perspectives of the three Compson brothers, Benjy, Jason, and Quentin, between 1910 and 1928. A fourth unidentified narrator describes Dilsey, the family’s live-in maid, in the third person.

The title of the story is derived from a soliloquy spoken by the protagonist in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It explores psychological recurrence, the futility of activity and desire, and the fate of American classism.

Summary of The Sound and The Fury

The Compson family is in disarray. The children are running amok, while the mother locks herself in her bedroom with a hot water bottle and the Bible, and the father locks himself in the living room with a large bottle of alcohol. In other words, life is not the brightest. However, have no fear: things may always get worse.

The Sound and the Fury alternates between the first-person perspectives of three Compson children as they recall their childhood and lament the death of their sister Caddy.

Benjy’s part

Benjy, the novel’s first narrator, is intellectually disabled and the youngest son in his family. He spends his days walking the outside of the family’s Mississippi house in a little town, listening to golfers across the street call for their caddies. Because “caddie” sounds a lot like “Caddy,” to Benjy, he recalls all the times Caddy played a significant role in his life. Since Caddy frequently had a significant part in his life, it takes time for his memories to form.

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Benjy’s memories causes time to go backwards and forwards as he describes Caddy’s fiery independence and her burgeoning sexuality.

Faulkner abruptly jolts us out of Benjy’s head and recollections just when we are settling in. We would not want to get complacent, would we?

Quentin’s part

The second chapter begins in the midst of Quentin Compson’s life 18 years ago. It is 1910. Quentin has left Mississippi in order to attend Harvard. Sounds very different from Benjy’s life, right? Actually, sure. And no. Quentin, like Benjy, is preoccupied with Caddy. Like Benjy, he cannot seem to shake her from his mind. Unlike Benjy, though, Quentin is acutely aware of the passing of time. Quentin begins the final day of his life after breaking his father’s watch in a desperate attempt to halt time from passing.

The Sound and The Fury

His final day of life? Actually, sure. At the conclusion of Quentin’s part, he is about to plunge into the river. However, we are leaping ahead of ourselves. Before committing himself, Quentin leaves the city for the countryside, assists a little girl, and is battered by a college acquaintance. Sounds like an uncomplicated day, right? That would be ignoring Quentin’s background, though.

As he walks, the sorrow Quentin had when Caddy became pregnant and when she got married resurfaces. Quentin is so desperate to prevent Caddy from becoming a lady that he offers to have incestuous relationship with her.

According to his reasoning, having sex with your brother is preferable to having sex with random men. However, no one appears to agree with Quentin. His strategy is futile. His family is disintegrating. At the conclusion of his chapter, his history and present appear to be entirely incongruous.

If you feel sorry for Quentin, you will despise Jason.

Jason’s part

In 1928, Jason, the second-oldest of the Compson brothers, begins his chapter of the narrative. He is a spiteful, unscrupulous man whose hobbies include robbing Caddy’s daughter and avoiding work. Throughout the course of Jason’s day, he manages to cheat Caddy’s daughter Quentin (not to be confused with her uncle Quentin) out of fifty dollars, counterfeit a check from Caddy, berate the family’s long-suffering servant Dilsey, and lose a great deal of money at the stock exchange.

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In other words, he is quite busy. Oh, he also pursues Quentin (Jr.) for some time. It appears that she ran off with a circus performer.

The climax of The Sound and The Fury

Following the turmoil of Jason’s day, the novel’s conclusion is a breath of fresh air. It follows Dilsey as she prepares breakfast and heads to church each morning.

In between these occurrences, there is, of course, some exciting action: Quentin (Jr.) flees with Jason’s treasure horde. We may all root for Quentin, but Jason is not too pleased with the course of events. He attempts to get the police to pursue her. However, the police officers appear to want to sit and laugh at Jason. Perhaps they dislike him as much as we do. Jason, enraged, embarks on a manhunt by himself.

In the meanwhile, Dilsey attends church, where a very mediocre preacher delivers an incredible sermon. Dilsey begins to weep. She understands that Quentin’s absence signifies the end of the Compson family.

Jason attempts to locate Quentin (Jr.) but is unsuccessful. He does manage to beat up an elderly man, however.

It helps him feel better. Meanwhile, Benjy goes for a ride on a Sunday afternoon. When Luster, Dilsey’s grandson, drives the carriage in the incorrect direction, chaos ensues. Benjy loses it in the heart of the city.

He hates alterations to his routine. He begins yelling, the carriage runs amok, and Jason must intervene to restore order. The tale concludes with “order” restored: the carriage begins travelling in the correct direction, and Benjy quietly observes everything passing by in its normal sequence.


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