Sound and the Fury
326 pages Reissue
edition (October 1990)
(Paper); ISBN: 0679732241
ostensible subject of The Sound and the Fury is the
dissolution of the Compsons, one of those august old Mississippi
families that fell on hard times and wild eccentricity after
the Civil War. But in fact what William Faulkner is really
after in his legendary novel is the kaleidoscope of consciousness--the
overwrought mind caught in the act of thought. His rich, dark,
scandal-ridden story of squandered fortune, incest (in thought
if not in deed), madness, congenital brain damage, theft,
illegitimacy, and stoic endurance is told in the interior
voices of three Compson brothers: first Benjy, the "idiot"
man-child who blurs together three decades of inchoate sensations
as he stalks the fringes of the family's former pasture; next
Quentin, torturing himself brilliantly, obsessively over Caddy's
lost virginity and his own failure to recover the family's
honor as he wanders around the seedy fringes of Boston; and
finally Jason, heartless, shrewd, sneaking, nursing a perpetual
sense of injury and outrage against his outrageous family.
If Benjy's section is the most daringly experimental, Jason's
is the most harrowing. "Once a bitch always a bitch, what
I say," he begins, lacing into Caddy's illegitimate daughter,
and then proceeds to hurl mud at blacks, Jews, his sacred
Compson ancestors, his glamorous, promiscuous sister, his
doomed brother Quentin, his ailing mother, and the long-suffering
black servant Dilsey who holds the family together by sheer
force of character.
Notoriously "difficult," The Sound and the Fury is
actually one of Faulkner's more accessible works once you
get past the abrupt, unannounced time shifts--and certainly
the most powerful emotionally. Everything is here: the complex
equilibrium of pre-civil rights race relations; the conflict
between Yankee capitalism and Southern agrarian values; a
meditation on time, consciousness, and Western philosophy.
And all of it is rendered in prose so gorgeous it can take
your breath away. Here, for instance, Quentin recalls an autumnal
encounter back home with the old black possum hunter Uncle
And we'd sit in the dry leaves that whispered a
little with the slow respiration of our waiting and with the
slow breathing of the earth and the windless October, the
rank smell of the lantern fouling the brittle air, listening
to the dogs and to the echo of Louis' voice dying away. He
never raised it, yet on a still night we have heard it from
our front porch. When he called the dogs in he sounded just
like the horn he carried slung on his shoulder and never used,
but clearer, mellower, as though his voice were a part of
darkness and silence, coiling out of it, coiling into it again.
WhoOoooo. WhoOoooo. WhoOooooooooooooooo.
What Faulkner has created is a modernist epic in which characters
assume the stature of gods and the primal family events resonate
like myths. It is The Sound and the Fury that secures
his place in what Edmund Wilson called "the full-dressed post-Flaubert
group of Conrad, Joyce, and Proust." --David Laskin
- Faulkner House -
located at 624 Pirate's Alley, where Faulkner lived while writing
his first novel. Also home to the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society,
and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition.
Places - literary map illustrated with photos of Faulkner-related
places in and around Oxford, Mississippi.
Online: William Faulkner - biography, critical overview, and
for Emily, A - includes excerpts from the short story, as
well as a brief analysis.
Books Reading Group Center: William Faulkner - features discussion
questions for As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and Absalom,
Faulkner Campfire Chat - message board devoted to the life
and works of William Faulkner.
Faulkner Chronology - includes background on selected texts.
- William Faulkner
Foundation - includes bibliography, chronology, scholarly
articles, filmography, and an introduction to Rowan Oak.
Faulkner on the Web - examines Yoknapatawpha County. Includes
background, photos, maps, and resources.
Faulkner Society - dedicated to promoting research, scholarship,
and criticism of his writings and their place in literature.
Faulkner's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech - Nobel Prize acceptance
speech. Stockholm, Sweden, December 10, 1950.