The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

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Faulkner is at once America's most traditional and its most modern writer. Amplify this statement with illustration from The Sound and the Fury.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that The Sound and the Fury shows Faulkner's skill to cradle both the traditional and the modern.  He writes with an understanding that the past is a part of the modern setting.  In a later work, Requiem for a Nun, Faulkner wrote  "The past is never dead. It's not even past."  This reflects how Faulkner is able to embrace tradition and modernity in The Sound and the Fury.  The latter is never far off from the former.

Illustrating how both are intertwined is how Faulkner sees the Compson Home. On the outside, they fulfill the traditional notion of Southern life.  Their world is filled with the perception of wealth and power, and the established ethos of respectability.  They feature children who have gone to prestigious schools like Harvard, and others who are gainfully employed.  The traditional fulfillment of social expectation is where Faulkner draws out the external perception of the Compson household.  Its members dutifully pay homage to what is expected of them.  They fulfill their traditional conceptions.  Mrs. Compson embodies the traditional matriarch with her upholding of tradition, even to the point of stifling others:  ""I know I’m just a troublesome old woman. But I know that people cannot flout God’s laws with impunity."  Mr. Compson is the embodiment of the Southern gentleman, a fading presence in both his social world and his family's.  There is a dignity within the Compson home, filled with "Benjy's pasture" and an almost idyllic rendering of Southern life.  In these contexts, there is a traditional element that Faulkner draws upon in the development of the characters and the world in which they live.

This element of the past is critical in understanding their modern predicament. Faulkner embodies the...

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