Musings of a Future Librarian: The Old South in William Faulkner’s, The Sound and The Fury”

TSATF
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“The first chapter is going to be hard, that’s the point, stick with it.” The Friday lecture before we were due to begin William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury (TSATF), my professor warned us of the complex narration provided by Benjy Compson — a 33 year old male, with the mental capacity of a three year old. Heeding his advice, I dove into the four part novel based in post – Civil War Mississippi, and attempted an analysis of Benjy’s, (also known as Maury Compson) narration; I failed. The constant repetition of “he said” and “she said” was exhausting, and the meaning behind why “Caddy smelled like trees” was lost on me (Faulkner 28). I begrudgingly tried again.

Monday morning came, and my professor wasn’t to the podium before I blurted out, “Dr. Weilgos, I have questions”. He kindly indulged me, walking me through the meanings I couldn’t quite gauge on my own. In one he asked, “ Why do you think Caddy — a seventeen year old girl — would smell like trees?”  and it dawned on me… it was in these trees where Caddy ventured off to engage in promiscuous acts; A reality that eventually wreaks havoc in the Compson home.

One commonality among the narrators is the need for Caddy. Due to the neglect of their hypochondriac mother, Mrs. Compson, and their alcoholic father, Mr. Compson, Caddy, the only female child, is sought to shoulder the responsibilities and reputation of the Compson household — namely their honor. Because of the loss felt by white families in the South after slavery, however, this traditional expectation (Caddy preserving her virtue), became  much more precious and is why the entire  Compson family demands  so much of Caddy.

Throughout the narrations by the brothers,  we also discover issues pertaining to the individual in the South. In Quentin Compson’s narration, Faulkner captures the ideologies of the South during and after slavery, by presenting the anxiety first born males were burdened with in the South. Via Benjy, Faulkner captures the misunderstandings regarding the mentally disabled community, noted in Jason’s willingness to send Benjy to an asylum.  In Jason Compson’s narration we learn of the egotistical, self-pitting nature, some white Southerners were stuck in, due to their inability to grapple with equality; An observation that becomes apparent when Jason is measured against the progressing black maid, Dilsey.

William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury as I discovered, is a challenging but brilliant novel.  Its ability to foreshadow black progression, and capture the feeling of loss had by whites, far exceeded the abilities of the majority within Faulkner’s society. Sigmund Freud, I would like to think, would be impressed.

— Andrea Rodriguez, Blogger.


Andrea Rodriguez’s Bio

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Andrea Rodriguez is a senior at Lewis University. Prior to attending Lewis, she completed her associates at the College of DuPage. Rodriguez is studying English Literature in order to pursue a career as an academic librarian. As for her interests, Andrea loves spending time with her family, being in nature, taking care of her plants, writing, cooking, and traveling when she can. Andrea also enjoys exploring unique writing styles. Some of her favorite pieces include The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid.  In addition to being a fiction/poetry editor for Jet Fuel Review, Rodriguez is the editor-in-chief of Lewis Voices, and the administrative director for Sigma Tau Delta, of which she is also a member.


 

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