The Sound and the Fury

by William Faulkner

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The Sound and the Fury

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The Compson family consists of Jason III and Caroline; their children, Quentin, Caddy, Jason IV, and Benjy; the black servants, Dilsey and her relatives; and eventually Caddy’s illegitimate daughter, Quentin. By 1928, when most of the novel takes place, Jason III has drunk himself to death; his son Quentin has drowned himself; Caddy has married, divorced, and left her child with the family; and Jason IV rules the family.

Between the children’s earliest remembrance and 1928, the family has gone from domination by Caddy’s special gift for loving to domination by Jason IV. Jason IV, who believes that Caddy’s failed marriage to a banker has deprived him of success, revenges himself on her through her daughter.

The novel has four sections and an appendix which tells what happened to Caddy after 1928. The first three sections are internal speeches by Benjy, Quentin (male), and Jason IV. The retarded Benjy, in his inarticulate but moving way, feels the loss of the only person who ever loved him, Caddy. On the day he commits suicide, Quentin shows that he is unable to accept Caddy’s growing up. Jason reveals his petty paranoia on the day he finally drives Caddy’s daughter away. With her departure, he loses further opportunity for vengeance and also loses his ill-gotten savings, which she has taken with her.

In section four Dilsey and Benjy attend an Easter Service. There Dilsey experiences the communion in love which the Compson family has lost. Because of this experience, she can continue loving this family despite its lovelessness.


Bloom, Harold, ed. Caddy Compson. New York: Chelsea House, 1990. Contains ten critical essays focusing on Caddy Compson.

Karl, Frederick R. William Faulkner: American Writer. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989. A 1,000-page biography of Faulkner that also provides insightful critical analyses of his major works. Karl’s discussion of how Faulkner wove together the complex parts of The Sound and the Fury is particularly illuminating.

Matthews, John T. “The Sound and the Fury”: Faulkner and the Lost Cause. Boston: Twayne, 1991. A short but insightful book-length study of the novel, with chapters devoted to its importance in Faulkner’s canon and to its composition, critical reception, characterization, setting, and narrative technique.

Vickery, Olga W. The Novels of William Faulkner. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. One of the first, and most useful, book-length studies of the Faulkner canon. The discussion of The Sound and the Fury focuses on the narratives of the Compson brothers.

Volpe, Edmund L. A Reader’s Guide to William Faulkner. New York: Noonday Press, 1964. The best beginner’s guide to Faulkner’s work. Appendix contains scene-by-scene rendering of Benjy’s and Quentin’s sometimes confusing narratives and a useful Compson genealogy.

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Critical Overview