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At the first time shift in The Sound and the Fury, what do we know that the narrator...

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angiemarie1024 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:39 AM via web

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At the first time shift in The Sound and the Fury, what do we know that the narrator apparently does not? What is it that the narrator knows that you do not?

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boryung | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted February 5, 2011 at 11:41 AM (Answer #1)

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The Sound and the Fury begins with Benjy's point of view. He was born mentally retarded, and in the novel's first scene he is an adult. He is with Luster, one of his family's servants, whose job is to be Benjy's caretaker. Benjy and Luster are walking along the fence separating the Compsons' land and the pasture they used to own which has been turned into a golf course. They are looking for the quarter that Luster lost which he needs to see the minstrel show coming soon to Jefferson. Benjy likes to hear the golfers saying "caddie," which sounds like the name of his siter, Caddy, who he loves very much. The first time shift occurs when Benjy's clothes get snagged on a nail in the fence. That incident causes Benjy to flashback to a previous memory. The transition from the present time in which the novel starts, 1928, to this past event seen through Benjy's memory is the first time shift. The past memory is one of when Benjy was a child. His clothes had gotten caught on the nail of another fence, and Caddy, also a child then, was helping him get uncaught and through the fence. By this shift, what we know that Benjy does not know is his mental retardation. The readers are able to figure this out due to Benjy's childish behavior, despite being 33 years old, which we know when Luster refers to the thirty-three candles that will be on Benjy's birthday cake on his next birthday. Benjy probably doesn't realize this himself, as he is too unintelligent to grasp his own condition. What Benjy knows that the readers don't know is the whole story of his family, although the story is fragmented and blurry in his mind. Through Benjy's memories and vague observations, bits and pieces of the Compsons' family history are conveyed to the readers.

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