The Sound And The Fury Essay, Research Paper
In the short monologue from William Shakespeare?s tragedy, Macbeth, the title character likens life to a ?tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.? Benjy, a thirty-three year old idiot, begins to relate William Faulkner?s unfortunate tale of the Compson family in The Sound and the Fury. Just as it is a story told by an imbecile, it is one characterized by ?sound? and ?fury.? Benjy?s meaningless utterances and reliance on his auditory senses, the perpetual ticking of clocks, Quentin?s mysterious bantering, the insignificant accompaniment. Jason?s lust for power and control, the inescapable nemesis of time, Miss Quentin?s rebellious attitude. The Compson family in its entirety is that ?poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.? Their lives are so full of worries, confusion, sound, and fury that life becomes short and unimportant, signifying nothing. However, Faulkner?s The Sound and the Fury is not limited to any one point of view, even to that of Benjy. By delivering his novel from four entirely different perspectives, Faulkner is able to create an intricately woven plot that centers on the only Compson daughter, Caddy, and allows one to crawl inside the minds of his deeply disturbed characters. April seventh, nineteen-hundred-and-twenty-eight?or is it? Benjamin, formerly Maury, presents a disjointed account of his life between his early childhood just around the turn of the century and up until 1910, mainly focusing on his relationship with his sister, Candace. His sense of time is nonexistent: he confuses the past with the present. He is literal: he has no knowledge of connotation. His descriptions are that of a small child and represent the world as it might seem to a person who has been cut off from all things civilized. One of Benjy?s most vivid memories is drunkenness: ??I ran into the box. But when I tried to climb onto it it jumped away and hit me on the back of the head and my throat made a sound? (Faulkner 40). His interpretations, in general, are simplistic and this is clearly reflected in the way he describes his experience with alcohol. The loss of control that is associated with inebriation is new to Benjy, and he doesn?t understand that his judgement is impaired and the champagne he consumed has altered his perception of the world. Instead, he only understands that the ground is moving beneath him?he believes what he sees. ?I couldn?t see it, but my hands saw it, and I could hear it getting night, and my hands saw the slipper but I couldn?t see myself, but my hands could see the slipper, and I squatted there, hearing it getting dark? (Faulkner 72). Benjy relies heavily on his senses, especially sight, smell, and touch. He associates sight with the knowledge that an object is present, which is how ?sees? with his hands, he knows the slipper is there, but he can?t physically see it. Because of this, Benjy appreciates beauty and color and light, which is evident in his fascination with fire. It is also understood that this slipper belonged to his sister and serves as a sort of security blanket. One understands that Benjy tells his story without adding any intelligent interpretation, allowing one to witness the evolution of the Compson family through the eyes of a simpleton while laying down the framework of the plot, however confusing it may seem. If Benjy fails to analyze events around him, Quentin overanalyzes them. He concentrates on time and constantly tries to escape time, which he eventually discovers is inevitable. His dark, mysterious narration is centered about the events leading up to 1910, and places emphasis on his desire to preserve his sister?s innocence as well as his role as the ?walking shadow? of the Compson family. ?The shadow hadn?t quite cleared the stoop. I stopped inside the door, watching the shadow move. It moved almost imperceptibly, creeping back inside the door, driving the shadow back into the door? (Faulkner 81). Quentin dwells on darkness and encloses himself in shadows. These shadows have a way of preventing him from forgetting that time is constantly looming over him, like a dark cloud that reminds him, as well as the reader, that time does exist, and idea that contradicts Benjy?s treatment of chronology. Despite his fascination with the persistence of time, Quentin loved only one thing. As noted in the epilogue, he ?loved death above all?loved only death, loved and lived in a deliberate and almost perverted anticipation of death? (Faulkner 336). Because of Quentin?s obsession with darkness, morbidity, and death itself, his point of view is almost futuristic. Day by day, he lives in anticipation, anxious for the day when his biological clock will cease to tick away the minutes of his unfortunate existence. Quentin?s dark point of view contrasts sharply with that of Benjy, and thus weaves another strand into Faulkner?s intense lattice. Jason Compson presents the first sequential narration in this novel and, by doing so, establishes the fact that he is (or tries to be) in control of all around him. After his father?s death, he took on the role as the man of the house and, in comparison with his suicidal and idiot brothers and his promiscuous sister, seemed to be the only child with any direction or common sense. In the appendix, Faulkner characterized Jason as ?the first sane Compson since before Culloden and (a childless bachelor) hence the last? (Faulkner 342). Jason is the first character to act as though he has a grasp on life, duty, and especially time, which is extremely distorted in the minds of his two brothers. Because of this, one assumes that Jason sanity exceeds that of any other Compson, regardless of the fact that his attitude toward time is so nonchalant that he has trouble being punctual. However, Jason is far from sane. His passion for control led him so far as to manage his sister?s relationship with her own daughter: ?Then I took the raincoat off of her and held her to the window and Caddy saw her and sort of jumped forward? (Faulkner 205). Jason craves power and, especially, power over his disgraceful sister. After her marriage fell apart, Jason found himself without the job Caddy?s ex-husband promised to him, and he felt compelled to take matters into his own hands by raising her rebellious daughter. It may also be noted that Jason?s desire to exercise control over Caddy?s life stems from childhood feelings of alienation. Though Jason seems to be a logical, intelligent man, he is not fit to ?rule? the Compson family as a monarch does a country, and his narration comes off as abrasive?furious?rather than sensible. Ironically, the most stable, solid character in Faulkner?s story of the downward spiral of the Compson dynasty is their black servant, Dilsey. The final section of this novel is told from a third-person-omniscient point of view, but focuses on Dilsey and the historic placement of the fall of this tragic family. Despite Jason?s attempts to preside over the family, Dilsey succeeds as the one tie that binds them all together, the keystone of the Compsons. When ?she rang a small clear bell?Mrs. Compson and Jason [descended]? for dinner, as if she were in command of all activities in the household (Faulkner 277). Her authority in that house surpasses that of any other person, even the difficult, stubborn Jason. Though she may have only been a servant and managed to put food on the table every night and to do all other necessary household chores, she is a crucial part of their lives, as well as their tragedy. She is so important to their fall only because she is the sole individual who could foresee the Compson?s unfortunate fate: ??I?ve seed de first en de last?I seed de beginnin, en now I sees de endin?? (Faulkner 297). When Dilsey realizes that her employers are whirling violently into a downward spiral of corruption and, eventually, extinction, one is convinced that she is the only rational person in that household. Because of this, their place in history becomes finite and meaningless. Dilsey provides the only entirely sane viewpoint in this novel and she also gains respect from the reader, which is ironic in the sense that blacks are given very little historical integrity or recognition. The four contrasting viewpoints in The Sound and the Fury work to clarify any confusion that is presented in any of the preceding sections but retain their focus: Caddy. Though her involvement in each of the Compson brothers? lives is not always explicit, there is always a tacit reference to her innocence, shameful behavior, or maternal instincts. By using this character as the fulcrum of the novel, Faulkner is able to open up the minds of these three young men. The omniscient viewpoint, otherwise known as ?Dilsey?s Section,? demonstrates her function as the backbone of the otherwise spineless Compson family, while not compromising Caddy?s connection to each narrator. Aside from addressing the family?s collective ruin, The Sound and the Fury also tracks Caddy?s fateful descent from a beautiful, rebellious young woman into a desperate, selfish outcast. Faulkner purposely includes four different viewpoints in an effort not to allow Caddy to remain beautiful to the reader. Without the deterioration of her pride and charm, the fall of the Compson family would not be complete, for one survivor suggests durability. In fact, the only witness to their tragedy is Dilsey, who, as Faulkner noted, ?endured? (Faulkner 348).