Category Archives: Sound and the Fury, The

The Sound and the Fury: Read from May 24 to 31, 2014

My God, this is a depressing novel. Every word Faulkner writes, every memory that is explored, every action in the novel is distilled into a lingering, oppressive, sadness that is as omnipresent as the honeysuckle Quentin so hated.

I started off enjoying the novel; I liked the experimental way Faulkner tries to convey the confused mind of Benjy. As someone who grew up with and spent years working with severely mentally disabled adults, I felt Faulkner honestly captured the state of mind of someone who is almost totally unable to experience rational and unselfish thought.

The second chapter, too, was quite beautiful but at times was nearly impenetrable. Pretty much only the scene with the little girl, when his mind stops wandering and he focuses only on finding her home, really seemed to have much of an impact for me. Everything else – the broken watch, his drunken father’s philosophical ramblings, his time with Caddy – seemed … distant. Distant is the best way I can describe it from a reader’s point of view. I never felt like I was part of Quentin’s experiences even though we spend so much time in his mind. He was no Bloom.

The final two chapters were straightforward enough. We learn many of the previously mysterious details that Benjy’s and Quentin’s minds could not clearly articulate (or were unwilling to articulate). And Jason was a wonderful character – the best in the book. Faulkner certainly has created one of the great characters in literature with Jason.

But what does this all add up to? Yes, the novel is about the south and the south’s decline, but what South? Was there a time when people did not behave badly, were devious, cheats, liars, manipulators, and every other sin you can imagine? Maybe there were times in the Compson family when they were more outwardly respectable, but how do we really know those “better” people were actually any better? Is Faulkner so nostalgic for a long forgotten time that he actually believes we’ve all degenerated in our time?

I doubt Faulkner was so naive or sentimental. He write a book in which the main characters are all flawed and fallen ne’er–do–wells, who all long for a time when things were better and resent the present because it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it too. Adults who haven’t really ever grown up. In a way he wrote a warning against nostalgia, against seeing the past with thick rose colored glasses because if you keep trying to compare yourself against an impossible standard you will only disappoint yourself or, if you’re smart, just run away from your entire family.

From that point of view, then, this isn’t a “southern” novel bemoaning the end of one specfic time and culture of Faulkner’s love that will unfortunately never return, he’s trying to warn us from falling into the cycle of always going back to the past. If your mind is always full of how things were and how things used to be then you will miss every opportunity to better yourself tomorrow. The Compson’s totally fell apart because they could not come to terms with reality.

Yet even with such an analysis, I just could not get into this novel. I really wanted to, but you have to approach every work of art from the perspective of how it effects you personally and this novel just made me feel sad after having witnessed so much misery on every page.

50% done with The Sound and the Fury

Maybe I’m off base, but I imagine Quentin as being a bit cowardly and weak. And not just physically- though I do imagine him as physically small and frail – but mentally, too. He’s hanging onto some odd ideas about how he thinks people should behave but he has no idea how people really behave. Doesn’t occur to him a father would think he was trying to kidnap the girl, or get punched. Harvard has been a waste of his $

41% done with The Sound and the Fury

The image of the three boys swimming is, for me, the key to the whole book. Faulkner describes their wet heads, the way hair gets wet when you go swimming. It’s a completely mundane detail, and that’s why it’s brilliant. Faulkner gets you to think about something you never bothered to think about before but have seen a thousand times. He’s physically poking around in your own mind & memory to see what makes you tick

25% done with The Sound and the Fury

The question I kept asking myself was why are we getting these chapters? Why is it in this strange style with this sort of character who has no concept of time or even self? My opinion is that Faulkner is showing us how memory breaks down, how fragmented the past becomes even in our own lives, how many small moments add up to who we are now and how now is a mix of thens. Also because we don’t have answers; we fools.

12% done with The Sound and the Fury

It’s interesting that even though Benjy is mentally disabled, how much more closely Faulkner is able to explore memory as it happens to us. How many times can a smell trigger a memory and that leads to another and another. And there’s no sense to it except that it makes sense to us. A sense of sense.

I like narrators who don’t have the full picture; I like piecing together the story of a skillful writer.