16. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner.
History: Published in 1929, the title of the novel is taken from Macbeth's soliloquy in act 5: "Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing." The novel's appreciation has in large part been due to the technique of its construction: Faulkner's uncanny ability to recreate the thought patterns of the human mind, even the disabled one.
Plot: The novel is separated into four parts--each of which is narrated by a different person. The first is by Benjy, a mentally disabled thirty-three year old man who has the intelligence (and is treated) like a small child. The narrative is dominated by sensations. The second part is written from the point of view of Quentin, who is the eldest and brightest of the Compson children, when he is at university. He spends the day walking through Cambridge, and everything he see seems to bring back the pat to him. He is tormented of feelings of incest (a crime he admitted to his father, without ever committing), and guilt at the way his family treated Caddy (who became pregnant with an illegitimate child and was sent away). At the end of the day Quentin jumps off a bridge, killing himself. The third part is narrated by Jason, the third brother. He has grown up to be a mean and resentful man, looking after the family following their father's death, and treating Miss Quentin (Caddy's child) with cruelty and unfairness. The fourth part is written in the third person, but mainly tells the story of Dilsey, the black servant who spent her life serving the Compsons
Review: Thank god I had the teacher to help with this book. It is wonderful, but discussion is helpful to understand. The key to the novel (in which nothing really happens, life just passes on with all its complexity and difficulty) is the way that the story is told. The first Faulkner I have read, and the first stream of consciousness. Later, I would visit his home in Mississippi and I would wish I had read all the Faulkner books.
Opening Line: “IKKEMOTUMBBE. A dispossessed American king, called “home” (and sometimes de l’homme”) by his foster brother, a chevalier of France, who had he not been born too late could have been among the brightest in that glittering galaxy of knightly blackguards who were Napoleon’s marshals, who thus translated the Chickasaw title meaning “The Man”; which translation Ikkemotubbe, himself a man of wit and imagination as well as a shrewd judge o character, including his own, carried one step further and anglicized it to “Doom”.
Closing Line: “Meet Mrs. Bundren,” he says.
Quotes: "It's not when you realize that nothing can help you--religion, pride, anything--it's when you realize that you don't need any aid."
"I could not be a virgin, with so many of them walking along in the shadows and whispering with their soft girl voices lingering in the shadowy places and the words coming out and perfume and eyes you could feel not see, but if it was that simple to do it wouldn't be anything and if it wasn't anything, what was I"
Rating: Very Good.