Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review of "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner



This book - narrated in a stream of consciousness style by several characters - is difficult to read and requires close concentration to understand what's going on. Basically it's about the Compson family of Jefferson, Mississippi.

The Compsons were a prominent and important family of the Old South but by the early 1900s had lost most of their wealth and status. The family is made up of a needy, neurotic mother; a distant, hard-drinking father (who dies fairly early in the story); three brothers; and a sister.

The book's narrators are the three brothers: Benjy, a mentally handicapped child-man; Quentin, a troubled, unstable Harvard student; and Jason, a disappointed, hard-hearted, would-be patriarch. The heart of the story is their sister Cady, a caring but promiscuous young woman who shames the family by getting pregnant. Cady enters into a hasty marriage but her husband quickly divorces her when he discovers the child is not his.

The Compson family takes in Cady's daughter "Miss Quentin" and cuts off Cady completely. This drives the story since brother Benjy adores and misses Cady, brother Quentin is devastated by her behavior, and brother Jason is angry at Cady for embarrassing the family and depriving him of the bank job offered by her ex-husband. Jason also resents Miss Quentin and steals the money Cady sends for her.

Other important characters in the tale are Dilsey and her sons, black servants that function almost as extended family. The dissonance among the Compsons leads to much acting out and tragedy, which is witnessed by Dilsey - who cares for all of them. I thought the book's characters were memorable and the story (such as it is) was compelling. 

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