Erik's Reviews > The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
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Dec 15, 14

Read in January, 1989, read count: 2

Here I am after many years re-reading this most opaque and difficult of Faulkner's masterworks. Shelby Foote said that Faulkner loved TSAF best among his books because it represented his breakthrough to the "great style." He certainly did not make it easy, placing the Benjy and Quentin sections front and center. We begin with a "tale told by an idiot" as Benjy time shifts between the present and the past like Billy Pilgrim, cued by the word "caddy" (the nickname of Candice Compson his rebellious sister) and the word "Quentin" (both the name of his brilliant but neurotic brother who commits suicide at Harvard and Candice's illegitimate daughter who runs away with a circus performer). I don't feel bad dropping these spoilers because I don't think this book is about the plot, which is fairly simple (at least for a Faulkner novel). The author himself included a history of the Compsons in The Portable Faulkner with most of the details on the fall of this once aristocratic family into neurotic madness and self destruction. As in Absalom Absalom it is the blacks (centered around the strong matriarch Dilsey) who ultimately endure and the whites who die by suicide. For me, the book is really all about Caddy, illuminated Rashoman-like by sidelights from all angles but rarely speaking herself. Faulkner's view of women was archaic and complicated and he seems to have felt that the Southern ideal of the lady and fallen woman was due to be exploded. Caddy certainly does that. She's a great heroine of literature and Faulkner delights in telling her story. In that sense I don't feel this is a tragedy, except in the sense that the South, still bound in its traditional ways and archetypes, has no room for these brilliant individuals Quentin and Caddy.
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