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Characters are often bound by the qualities of the society in which they live. Explain...

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thegoldenone | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 22, 2012 at 1:34 PM via web

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Characters are often bound by the qualities of the society in which they live. Explain how Quentin Compson does NOT fit this premise.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:16 PM (Answer #1)

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One of Quentin's most distinctive traits is how he is fundamentally different from the Southern man.  When Quentin's father advises him to "take a vacation and forget [his] pain," it is a reflection of how Faulkner constructs the Southern society approach to personal hurt.  It is seen as something that might be a part of one's identity but can be forgotten or deferred.  It is here where Quentin demonstrates himself to be fundamentally different than the qualities of the society in which he lives.  Unlike his father and other Southern men, Quentin is fundamentally unable to forget his pain, incapable of putting it aside and repressing it.  Quentin is haunted by his own personal pain of being emotionally abandoned by his parents, the weight of social expectation, as well as his tormented feelings towards his sister.  In this, Quentin might be bound by but refuses to be acknowledged by his social setting.  He does not represent a character who is bound by his social conventions in the manner through which he understands his pain.  His desire to end his life is a reflection of this, a repudiation of the Southern approach that Faulkner develops where men grow with age in part due to their own pain and suffering.  It is in this where Quentin breaks free of Southern convention through his suicide, and finding himself no longer constrained by social qualities.

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