Critical Thinking

The Sound and the Fury starts off the

The Sound and the Fury starts off the first section with Benjy. Benjy’s section is very difficult to follow along, as he is mentally disabled and has no sense of time, actions, or ethics. Benjy’s  memories travel back and forth in time without notice or explanative narration.On the contrary, the second section starts with Quentin emphasizing the importance of time, as he is very rigid regarding each moment of his life. The contrast between Benjy’s section and Quentin’s section is very clear. Throughout the novel, Faulkner gradually reveals small details about the Compsons that can be put together by the end. By putting emphasis on Quentin’s actions in the second section, Faulkner successfully displays themes and symbols such as time, death, and the Compson family decline. In Quentin’s section of the Sound and the Fury, the section is told on the day he commits suicide. As soon as the sections starts, Quentin’s infatuation with time is shown. Words such as “clock”, “hour”, “chime”, and “watch” appear numerous times in the section, which leads onto a certain theme. Over the course of Quentin’s section, there are multiple occurrences of when the theme of time is emphasized and is shown through symbolism.  It is first shown when Quentin trys to rip the watch or “reducto absurdum of all human experience” from his hand, which displays how he wants to run away and is gradually progressing towards his death. Quentin’s father stated that “time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life,” but Quentin took his words literally as he teared the hands off the watch, and realized that it is still able to tick without hands (85). Quentin’s father was aware of how obsessed Quentin was with family honor, so he wished that Quentin would eventually stop worrying as he gave him a piece of advice tying it with time. Quentin breaking his watch is a symbolic action of how he wants to stop or escape time, which he realizes that he can do so by committing suicide. Just as a variety of words describing time are frequently showed up, shadows come up in the section several times as well. When Quentin is strolling across the streets of Cambridge, he states he is “trampling my shadow’s bones . . . . I walked upon the belly of my shadow” (96). Faulkner had stated that the importance of shadows in this section is  “that shadow that stayed on his mind so much was foreknowledge of his own death, that he was – Death is here, shall I step into it or shall I step away from it a little longer? I won’t escape it, but shall I accept it now or shall I put it off until next Friday”. Faulkner’s explanation of Quentin’s thoughts holds true when Quentin watches his shadow in the river, and can envision himself drowning in the water: “my shadow leaning flat upon the water, so easily had I tricked it . . . . if I only had something to blot it into the water, holding it until it was drowned, the shadow of the package like two shoes wrapped up lying on the water. A drowned man’s shadow was watching for him in the water all the time” (90). By putting an emphasis on Quentin’s shadows, Faulkner is able to show various things that shadows symbolizes. Shadows are based upon how the sun moves around the earth, which displays the theme of time. Additionally, shadows decline as someone walks further away from a certain position, which can symbolize the Compson family decline.May Cameron Brown, author of The Language of Chaos: Quentin Compson in The Sound and the Fury, views Quentin’s fixation with time as a way for Faulkner to structure the second section of the novel. Brown states that Quentin’s “other obsessions are aspects of his preoccupation with time, as are the recurrent images and their associations, which create the almost constant movements of his consciousness from present to past.” As Quentin tells each experience he has had in his life from his perspective, it shapes the way the section is structured and even shows different themes and symbols, such as time, death, and even his relationship with his sister Caddy. Quentin’s desire to commit incest on Caddy is not about his own ideals and honor, nor is it about the Compson family’s reputation as a whole. Quentin’s wish to commit incest on Caddy is instead his way to keep Caddy around him forever. Quentin stated that “if it could just be a hell beyond that: the clean flame the two of us more than dead. Then you will have only me then only me then the two of us amid the pointing and the horror beyond the clean flame” (116). Quentin wants to be separated from the entire universe, and be “clean” in the fires of hell, where it is just him and Caddy alone. He would rather involve himself in something as appalling as taking the virginity of his sister than letting her marry a man like  Herbert Head. Quentin’s actions and emotions can clearly display what kind of thoughts he has, and certain occurrences during his travels reflect his life and his disturbed state of his mind. For example, when Quentin encounters the young Italian girl whom he calls “sister”, he recalls Caddy, which leads onto him saying “Little Sister Death.” His mission to commit suicide was caused by the desire to get away from everything, and the fact he cannot have Caddy to himself. The Italian girl does not leave Quentin’s side, and latches onto him as he goes around town, which makes her brother Julio believe that Quentin stole her. This event is ironic because Quentin feels that Dalton and Herbert have taken Caddy away from him. Quentin, in reality, is the opposite of the kind of man he aspired to be: a man who does not honor his family, live up to his and their expectations, and fails to obtain the true qualities of a brother, as he does not protect his own sister. Throughout the course of the section, the audience is easily able to tell by his actions and his death, that Quentin is a man who lets his past consume him and is unable to bring himself up. By the way Quentin tells his story up, Faulkner is successful when he tries to display the decline of Quentin. Additionally, utilizing themes such as time, shadows and death, Faulkner was able to smoothly transition into the other sections to further portray the decline of the Compson family overall.

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