How is Caddy Compson ahead of her time in The Sound and the Fury?

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

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Caddy is ahead of her times in a couple of ways.  The first is that she rejects the long line of suffering that seems to be endemic to women in literature.  Caddy is impregnated outside of marriage, and thrown out of marriage when discovered that the child is not of the husband's.  This would make Caddy someone that would become victimized by a patriarchal social order.  Yet, Caddy seizes her freedom, leaves her child behind, and supports the child financially, but does not stay with the child.  In the end, Caddy is a modern being because of the embrace of her freedom and the pain that goes along with it.  Caddy demonstrates that women and men can both be attributed with abandonment of loved ones. This is not something that is connected only with men.  When Faulkner writes that Caddy was "doomed and knew it, accepted the doom without either seeking it or fleeing it," it is a very modernist or even post- modern perspective about the individual and their relationship to happiness in consciousness.  It is this embrace that ends up being destructive in that the boys do not fully understand why she did what she did.  She is shown to be a devoted sister, making it more difficult to understand how this force of eros or construction can be representative of thanatos, or the death instinct.  At the same time, Caddy's actions impact the boys and the family on different levels.  Her actions are seen as a betrayal of an ideal of honor from Quentin, who must wrestle with his own feeings for his sister.  Caddy is seen in a spiteful manner by Jason, who sees his actions as thwarting his own aspirations.  Benjy misses his sister, the only one who cared for him.  In this light, Caddy's failure to avert her own pain caused further pain and anger in the brothers in different ways, contributing to the dissolving of the Compson family bonds.

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