When the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtains
Faulkner said this about The Sound and the Fury:
It began with the picture of the little girl’s muddy drawers, climbing that tree to look in the parlor window with her brothers that didn’t have the courage to climb the tree waiting to see what she saw. And I tried first to tell it with one brother, and that wasn’t enough. That was Section One. I tried with another brother, and that wasn’t enough. That was Section Two. I tried the third brother, because Caddy was still to me too beautiful and too moving to reduce her to telling what was going on, that it would be more passionate to see her through somebody else’s eyes, I thought. And that failed and I tried myself—the fourth section—to tell what happened, and I still failed."
This excerpt is the first paragraph of the chapter narrated by Quentin Compson, eldest brother of the Compson family — their saga is told in The Sound and the Fury. It is concerned with time. It comes off the second chapter, which is narrated by Quentin’s brother Benjy. Benjy is of little or no intellect, an idiot who can only experience life through his senses. Now through Quentin’s eyes we feel the same disorientation but now we are in highly intellectually disturbed mind. The reader will revisit the some of the same events from Benjy’s chapter albeit from a markedly different perspective. We may feel slightly more grounded than we did with Benjy at first, but as the day goes on Quentin will slip more and more into madness and the narration will echo that descent.
Benjy survives the full burden of the family’s tragedy because he cannot understand things in a conscious way, only through his senses, which will lead to his own demise. (He will be castrated for attacking a girl he mistakes for his sister Caddy, the only one who cared for him besides their maid Dilsey). Quentin experiences too much in his conscious mind. He is pathologically obsessed with his sister Caddy’s virginity. He sees the protection of her honor as his obligation as a Southern gentlemen. We will learn later in Absalom Absalom that Quentin is also pathologically obsessed with the South. These things plague him from the past and become mixed up with his fixation on his sister (“the past isn’t dead..) and these burdens drive him to suicide.
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