The Sound and the Fury Additional Summary

William Faulkner


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The Sound and the Fury, perhaps William Faulkner’s finest novel, follows the decline of a proud Mississippi family. Quickly recognized as a brilliant tour de force, it begins with the direct thoughts of a mentally retarded man and a suicidal youth, and has become a classic example of the stream-of-consciousness novel.

The first three sections are narrated by brothers Benjy, Quentin, and Jason Compson. Benjy, a grown man with the mind of a two-year-old, cannot speak but reacts intuitively to death, loss, light, and his beloved sister Caddy. Innocent Benjy does not know, he can only feel; thus his narrative is filled with images and sensations: “I couldn’t see it, but my hands saw it, and I could hear it getting night.” The youngest brother, he resists change, secure in a limited, ordered world until Caddy goes away.

Quentin, the eldest, is in love with the dead aristocratic past and its outmoded ideals of honor and chivalry. Obsessed with the thought of Caddy’s lost virginity, he invents an incestuous relationship between them. He is guilt-stricken because Benjy’s birthright, the pasture, was sold to send Quentin to Harvard. Isolated and distraught, he cannot bear a world that does not share his ideals. Like Benjy, he resists change; unlike his brother, he rejects life.

Jason, the middle son, is a product of Faulkner’s new, materialistic South. He views himself as a martyr, but in truth he is selfish, greedy, and devoid of compassion. As he seizes control of the family, Jason makes Caddy pay him for the briefest glimpse of her baby daughter and strives to separate them in order to punish both. He becomes a comically desperate man when his embezzled fortune disappears and the stock market falls.

In the fourth section, Dilsey Gibson, the Compsons’ black cook, becomes the central figure. Dilsey is a kind, decent woman who stays with the Compsons not out of love or even loyalty but because it is the right thing to do. She is the strong heart and backbone, the moral center, of this disintegrating family. Faulkner’s tribute to Dilsey, “They endured,” is echoed in his Nobel Prize address.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Compsons, a once-prominent Mississippi family, are in decline. The land that was once their sprawling plantation has been sold and turned into a golf course, and their once-splendid mansion is badly dilapidated. At the head of the family are Mr. Jason Compson, a retired lawyer taken to drink, and his wife, Caroline, a hypochondriac who spends most of her days in bed.

Benjamin, the Compsons’ youngest child, a developmentally disabled man, begins to tell the story of his life. On April 7, 1928, his thirty-third birthday, while he walks along the golf course with Luster, his caretaker, Benjy begins to reminisce about his childhood years. His mind jumps from event to event, covering more than a dozen events in all....

(The entire section is 860 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The Sound and the Fury is about another family, the Compsons; like the Sartorises, they are of the aristocratic social level, the planter class. Unlike the Sartorises, who live north of Jefferson, the Compsons live in town. They consist of Mr. and Mrs. Compson and four children: Quentin, the oldest son, commits suicide while a student at Harvard University; he is attracted to his sister Caddy. Benjy, born Maury, is an idiot son. Jason, the youngest son, is grasping and amoral, without feeling for other people. The other important members of the household are Miss Quentin, Caddy’s illegitimate daughter (named for her uncle), and the black servant Dilsey, modeled to a great extent after the Falkner family’s Mammy...

(The entire section is 684 words.)


(Novels for Students)

April Seventh, 1928
Set in Mississippi during the early decades of the twentieth century, The Sound and the Fury tells...

(The entire section is 1555 words.)