The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Sound and the Fury Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

Summary of the Book
The Sound and the Fury consists of four sections, linked by a common set of characters and themes. Each might be read as an autonomous work. They all tell episodes in the decline of the Compson family, but are only loosely connected. Furthermore, the first three sections are presented from the perspective of characters whose impressions may not necessarily be reliable. Any reconstruction of the action is, therefore, somewhat uncertain.

The first section is dated April 7, 1928, the birthday of Benjy and the day before Easter. It is told from the perspective of Benjy, who is severely retarded, and consists mostly of sensual impressions blended with memories. These range throughout his entire life, from relatively happy times with his sister Caddy and brothers Quentin and Jason to his castration for a clumsy sexual approach to a girl.

The second section is dated June 2, 1910, and is narrated from the point of view of Benjy’s brother Quentin. Like the previous section, it blends the present and the past, but it records a relatively continuous chain of events. Quentin is at Harvard, and has decided to commit suicide. Before he does it, however, he wanders through Cambridge, having adventures, reminiscing and getting into a fight. He thinks, above all, of his sister Caddy and his obsession with her loss of virginity. Finally, he drowns himself in the Charles River.

The third section is dated Friday, April 6, 1928, and narrated by Jason Compson IV, brother of Caddy, Benjy and Quentin. He cheats and embezzles from all the female members of his family—his mother, Mrs. Compson; his sister, Caddy; his niece, Miss Quentin. But, though obsessed with money, he is an inept businessman whose circumstances remain fairly marginal.

The final section is narrated in the third person and dated Easter Sunday, April 8, 1928. Miss Quentin steals the money that Jason IV has embezzled from her together with the rest of his savings to run away with a circus performer. Jason is more furious than ever. The section focuses, however, on the housekeeper Dilsey, who manages to maintain her dignity and perspective through all the trials and tribulations.

The Life and Work of William Faulkner
Troubled young people may find some inspiration in the life of William Faulkner. He overcame more than a full share of hesitations, mistakes, false starts, poor luck and even defects of character to become the most celebrated American novelist of the twentieth century. Born in 1897 in the rural town of New Albany, Mississippi, Faulkner was taken as a child to the nearby university town of Oxford, where his father received a modest administrative post. He was a poor student, who failed to finish high school. When World War I broke out, he tried to enlist in the army but was rejected as too thin and weak. Not one to give up easily, he crossed the border and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He proved, however, to be an inept pilot who crashed twice and never was sent...

(The entire section is 3,195 words.)