The Sound and the Fury Summary

The Sound And The Fury Summary
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“The Sound and the Fury” is the novel written by Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, first published in 1929 after being rewritten and prepared five times over the course of three years.

Summary of The Sound and the Fury Book

In the Benjy section, consisting of eight scenes, the narrative unfolds with temporal jumps, ranging from Benjy’s earliest memories (actually from the time he was still called Maury) and extending to the present time (1928). Benjy, who has impaired mental abilities, is simple and emotional in terms of language. This section of the novel focuses on Benjy’s impressions of his sister Candace, who can be considered one of most important characters in the Sound and the Fury.

Benjy’s earliest memory, shown in 1898 (when he was three years old), establishes the essence of Caddy’s character. Caddy’s early appearance introduces two themes that will be repeated throughout the novel – Caddy’s muddy underpants and water.

The Compson children are unaware of their grandmother’s death. Caddy is the only Compson child brave enough to climb a tree to observe the visitors attending the grandmother’s funeral. While Caddy does this, her brothers watch below, looking at her muddy underpants; these underpants were soiled earlier when they were playing in a creek adjacent to the Compson estate. Faulkner uses Caddy’s muddy underpants as a symbol of her evolving sexuality; he frequently presents bathing scenes where water is used as a cleansing and purifying substance.

Many of Benjy’s other memories focus on Caddy, including her use of perfume (1905), losing her virginity (1909), and her wedding (1910). Benjy also recalls the changing of his name in 1900 (from Maury to Benjamin), the suicide of his brother Quentin in 1910, and the events that follow the gruesome incident at the door where he was castrated.

The Second Section delves into June 2, 1910, as perceived by Quentin Compson, the day he contemplates and eventually carries out his suicide. Left to grapple with the weight of the Compson family’s illustrious history and customs, Quentin introduces another pivotal theme through his musings on time. Like Benjy, Quentin fixates on Caddy, her blossoming womanhood, and the shame he harbors regarding societal judgments of her innocence.

Quentin embodies antiquated notions of honor, Southern womanhood, and chastity prevalent before the Civil War. He struggles to come to terms with his sister’s burgeoning sexuality, much like he grapples with his father’s assertion that the concept of virginity is a construct imposed by men. Just as Benjy’s recollections inadvertently contribute to Caddy’s sexual awakening, Quentin also leaves his mark. These flashbacks vividly portray Quentin’s discord within his family dynamics, his academic pursuits at Harvard, and his yearning to uphold the traditional Southern values of the Compson lineage.

The Third Section unfolds through the perspective of the third Compson sibling, Jason, on April 6, 1928, a day preceding Benjy’s narrative, occurring on Good Friday. Unlike his siblings, Jason is firmly anchored in the present, offering fewer glimpses into the past—though he occasionally alludes to historical events. The tone of Jason’s section is unmistakably set from its opening line: “Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say.”

Jason, a redneck and sadist, demonstrates how far the Compson family has fallen from its former reputation, especially when compared to Jason’s almost constant cruelty, complaints, and scheming against Quentin’s obsession with legacy, honor, and sin.

There is another ironic comparison in this section of The Sound and the Fury: in the Compson household, traces of Caddy, including her daughter Quentin, are entirely erased and her name is not mentioned. Jason is as preoccupied with his niece Miss Quentin’s emerging sexuality as Quentin was with his sister Caddy’s sexuality. Among the unexpected twists and disclosures in this segment: Quentin’s demise was by drowning. (the act of suicide is not depicted in Quentin’s section); Benjy is cruelly castrated to prevent him from siring malformed children; Caddy is divorced. Exiled from the family, Caddy has started living in a neighboring county and sends money to support her daughter.

Mrs. Compson, because of her prohibition on mentioning Caddy’s name in the house, has also forbidden the money Caddy sends for her support to enter the house. To overcome this obstacle, Jason forges fake copies of the checks sent for Caddy’s expenses and for shopping for Miss Quentin. Jason presents the real checks to his mother, and Mrs. Compson ceremoniously burns them. Meanwhile, Jason cashes the real checks and pockets almost all of it, giving very little to his niece.

The Fourth Section is narrated from a perspective of omniscience or authorial viewpoint. The time is the present time within the novel, which is Easter Sunday on April 8, 1928. Traces of Caddy, including her daughter, have been entirely erased. Jason discovers that his niece Miss Quentin is using the money sent for her support and hopes to partially retrieve the money from her.

This section, sometimes called “Dilsey’s Section,” focuses on Dilsey Gibson because Dilsey, who has served the Compson family for years, plays a significant role in this section. The Dilsey Section emphasizes Dilsey’s participation in an Easter church service. The sermon by Reverend Shegog, a preacher from St. Louis, awakens in Dilsey a vision of apocalypse for the Compson family. After the sermon, Dilsey says, “I seed de beginnin, en now I sees de endin… Fust en last.”

In this novel’s fourth insight or comprehension scene, the stories of Benjy and Jason converge, and Benjy experiences the feeling that the order he felt at the age of three has returned.

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