The Sound and the Fury

by William Faulkner

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Topic #1
The Significance of Names in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

I. Thesis Statement: Characters in The Sound and the Fury often attribute an enormous, even magical, power to names. Dilsey, for example, in the first part, says her name is written in heaven and will be called on the Judgment Day. Very often, the name is regarded as a part of the person, no more separable than the heart or brain. This, however, is not unusual. Artists or leaders seek immortality through a name that will be repeated after death. By such acts as banning the name of Caddy or changing the original name of Benjy, Mrs Compson, especially, seems to be trying to conjure with names. Compare the various ways that names are used by characters in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

II. The importance of names
A. A name as a means to immortality
B. The name as a part of the human being

III. The changing of Benjy’s original name
A. Why Mrs Compson did not want Benjy to be named after her brother
B. Why Mrs Compson selected the new name of "Benjamin"
1. Benjamin in the Old Testament
2. The Old Testament family of Benjamin compared to the Compsons
C. Reactions to the name change
1. The reaction of Caddy
2. The reaction of Dilsey
3. The reaction of Roskus
4. The reaction of Versh
D. How people called the son "Benjy" instead of "Benjamin"”
1. How "Benjy" sounded like "Maury"
2. How Mrs Compson considered nicknames vulgar
3. Why everyone persisted in using "Benjy"

IV. How Caddy’s name was banished from the Compson house
A. How Mrs Compson insisted the name never be used
1. How Mrs Compson did not want Miss Quentin to know about her mother
2. How Mrs Compson felt Caddy had taken over as mother
B. How the ban on Caddy’s name did not work
1. How Benjy thought of his sister whenever a golfer said "caddie"
2. How everyone thought about and remembered Caddy even without
saying her name

V. How the name of Quentin lived on
A. Why Miss Quentin was named after her Uncle
1. Caddy was very close to Quentin
2. Caddy may have wanted to guarantee that Quentin’s name not be banned from the Compson household
B. How Mr Quentin’s name lived on in Miss Quentin
1. How Miss Quentin was born only a few months after Mr Quentin died
2. How Miss Quentin was punished for what Quentin had done
3. How Benjy sometimes seemed to equate Mr Quentin with Miss Quentin
4. How Mrs Compson assumed that Miss Quentin had committed suicide, like her son

VI. Conclusions: Names are significant in this book
A. How names influence the way people are treated
B. The importance of being able to look beyond names

Topic #2
The Significance of time in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

I. Thesis Statement: People have disagreed over the nature of time. One philosopher of ancient Greece, Heraclitus, maintained that change was the ultimate reality, while another, Parmenides, believed that time was an illusion. The debate was very intense when Faulkner wrote, just as it is today. Faulkner was influenced by the French philosopher Heri Bergson, who emphasized the transient nature of all things, but he was also attracted to a Christian view of time as only a gateway to eternity.

In The Sound and the Fury Faulkner uses various characters to represent different views of the nature of time. Compare and contrast these various perspectives. Which do you think...

(This entire section contains 1221 words.)

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Faulkner considered closest to the truth? Which, if any, do you believe is right?

II. What is time?
A. Is permanence an illusion?
B. Is change an illusion?

III. Time in the perspective of Benjy
A. How there is no time—no past, present or future—for Benjy
B. Benjy is upset by any threat of change

IV. Time in the perspective of Mr Compson
A. How change is the only reality for Mr Compson
B. How Mr Compson looks to time for relief of his misery
C. How Mr Compson feels threatened by permanence
D. The nihilism of Mr Compson

V. Time in the perspective of Quentin
A. How Quentin tries to escape time
B. How Quentin tries to understand time
C. How Quentin breaks his watch to overcome time
D. How Quentin commits suicide to overcome time

VI. Time in the perspective of Jason
A. How Jason lives completely in time
B. How Jason is haunted by the past
C. How Jason reacts in the present
D. How Jason has no vision of the future

VII. Time in the perspective of Dilsey
A. The devout Christianity of Dilsey and its effect on her perception of time
B. How Dilsey lives in the present
C. How Dilsey is not troubled by the past
D. How Dilsey regards time as a passage to eternity

VIII. Time in the perspective of other major characters
A. How Mrs Compson wants to preserve the past
B. How Caddy wants to escape the past

IX. Conclusions: The nature of time
A. Which view of time, if any, did Faulkner accept
B. Which view of time, if any, should we accept

Topic #3
Family Relationships in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

I. Thesis Statement: Faulkner always insisted on the vital importance of family, yet the family relationships in his work tend to be very turbulent. The Sound and the Fury provides many excellent examples of this. Explore the important family relationships in the novel systematically. Some we learn nothing about, but others are described in various degrees of detail. Analyze why most of them are so troubled and how they might have been improved.

II. Families in The Sound and the Fury
A. The Compson Family
B. The Gibson Family
C. The Bascomb Family

III. Husband-wife relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. Jason III and Caroline Compson
B. Dilsey and Roskus Gibson
C. Caddy and Herbert Head

IV. Mother-son relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. Mrs Compson and Quentin
B. Mrs Compson and Benjy
C. Mrs Compson and Jason
D. Mrs Bland and Gerald Bland
E. Frony and Luster

V. Mother-daughter relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. Mrs Compson and Caddy
B. Caddy and Miss Quentin
C. Dilsey and Frony

VI. Father-son relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. Mr Compson and Quentin
B. Mr Compson and Benjy
C. Mr Compson and Jason

VII. Brother-sister relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. Caddy and Benjy
B. Caddy and Quentin
C. Caddy and Jason
D. Mrs Compson and Uncle Maury

VIII. Brother-brother relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. Benjy and Quentin
B. Benjy and Jason
C. Quentin and Jason

IX. Grandparent-grandchild relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. Damuddy and Jason
B. Damuddy and Quentin
C. Damuddy and Benjy
D. Damuddy and Caddy
E. Mrs Compson and Miss Quentin
F. Dilsey and Luster

X. Sister-sister relationships in The Sound and the Fury
A. There are no sister-sister relationships in The Sound and the Fury
B. Did Faulkner have special difficulty imagining or representing such relationships?

XI. What can we learn about families from The Sound and the Fury?
A. Which family relationships prove most troubled?
B. Which family relationships prove least troubled?
C. How might the families have been improved?


Critical Evaluation