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The Sound and the Fury
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Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury > Weeks 7 & 8: The Dilsey Section and the Book as a Whole

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Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments The Dilsey Section takes place on April 8, Easter Sunday, one day after the Benjy section and two days after the Jason section. This final section is the calm after the storm. It is presented through an omniscient lens and not through the distorted lenses of the Compson brothers. The focus is on Dilsey and her interactions. The opening paragraphs describing Dilsey have an almost a cinematic quality as we see an aged Dilsey begin her day.

Although age has diminished Dilsey’s physical stature, her strength of character, wisdom, and compassion are as strong as ever. She is kind and nurturing toward Benjy, meeting his needs and calling him, “honey.” She tolerates Quentin’s rudeness toward her and is quick to intercede when Jason takes out his belt to strike Quentin which he tried to do in the previous section. She reassures Quentin she will protect her when Jason bangs on her bedroom door. She refuses to cower to Jason. She endures Caroline’s ingratitude. And she is unfazed by the derision of her community when she takes Benjy to church.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Another connection with the Benjy section:

Quentin steals the money Jason keeps hidden in his room. She escapes from her locked bedroom by climbing out of the window—something Benjy and Luster had witnessed the previous night.

This is in the Benjy section:

I hushed, and then Luster stopped, his head toward the window. The he went to the window and looked out. He came back and took my arm. Here she come, he said. Be quiet, now. We went to the window and looked out. It came out of Quentin’s window and climbed across the tree. We watched the tree shaking. The shaking went down the tree, then it came out and we watched it go away across the grass. Then we couldn’t see it.

This is in the Dilsey section:

“I bet she ain’t here,” Luster said.
Dilsey looked at him. “How you know she ain’t here?”
“Me and Benjy seed her clamb out de window last night. Didn’t us, Benjy?”
“You did?” Dilsey said, looking at him.
“We sees her doin hit ev’y night,” Luster said, “Clamb right down dat pear tree.”



Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments For the first time, we finally see what each of the surviving characters looks like. How does Faulkner’s description of them conform to what we already know about them?

Each of the Compson brothers has a problematic relationship with time. Benjy lives in an eternal present; Quentin wants to stop time; and Jason is unable to let go of the past. What is Dilsey’s relationship to time?

The Easter service has a powerful impact on Dilsey. She is deeply moved by the sermon. With tears streaming down her face, she says, “I’ve seed de first en de last.” What does she mean by these words?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments As we noted early in the discussion, the title for the novel comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Macbeth, having just learned of his wife’s suicide, realizes his end is imminent:

She should have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

(Act V, scene v: 16-27)

How do Macbeth’s words relate to the novel?

What your thoughts on the novel as a whole?


Marieke | 98 comments In the previous sections all the Compton brothers got to tell their 'side' of the story from their own perspective. In the Dilsey section we don't get to see Dilseys perspective, as the focus shifts to the omniscient lens.

Does this signify something?
(I got a little confused by the way, as I was not sure whether the Jason section had already ended)


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Marieke wrote: "In the previous sections all the Compton brothers got to tell their 'side' of the story from their own perspective. In the Dilsey section we don't get to see Dilseys perspective, as the focus shift..."

The first-person point of view is beneficial if you want your readers to get inside the mind of an individual and to see/interpret things the way he/she sees them. It is intimate because we have unfiltered access to the way the individual feels, thinks, and perceives reality. But first-person point of view is not objective. It is biased. What the narrator sees may have little to do with the way reality actually is—as we saw in the first three sections.

The third-person point of view allows for greater objectivity and freedom. We get to see the characters as they really are and not through the filtered lens of a biased narrator. Had Faulkner presented the final section in the first-person, he would have been limited in what he could do. For example, if he had presented it from Dilsey’s point of view, he wouldn't have been able to describe the way she looked as an outside observer would describe her. He wouldn’t have been able to show Jason chasing through the countryside looking for Quentin because Dilsey couldn’t have known about it.

The omniscient narrator is able to step back and see the whole picture, to describe the characters and events with greater objectivity. In many ways, it is a relief to get to the omniscient point of view in the final section since we don’t have to navigate the tortuous minds of the first three narrators.

By the time I get to the final section, I feel I already know the characters and am now able to see how they look and behave through an objective lens. I get to recognize Dilsey's strength and endurance in a way that wouldn't have been possible had she been the narrator.

My "reward" for navigating the topsy-turvy world of the three Compson brothers is the omniscient point of view. It is the calm after the storm. I read the section and am able to breathe more easily.


Ashley Adams | 328 comments I've loved the adventure of reading this, but I've had a hard time formulating a coherent method until the end. Earlier in our discussion, Bryan mentioned something about an afterward. My book doesn't have one... : ( am I missing out?


Ashley Adams | 328 comments And can someone explain to me the significance of the dates? Dilsey takes Benji to church on Easter Sunday. The Benji and Jason section take place the 2 days before. There's something significant about this, right? The amount of time Jesus was dead before resurrected?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Ashley wrote: "Earlier in our discussion, Bryan mentioned something about an afterward. My book doesn't have one... : ( am I missing out?.."

I have three editions of the novel and none of them have an afterward. So I'm not sure what that's about. Perhaps Bryan can clarify.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Hello--sorry...it's not an afterword...I can't remember what Faulkner called it--it was a following up...tells what happened eventually to Jason and Benjy, and gives a possible lead on what happened to Caddie.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments It's an Appendix--a Compson history from 1699 to 1945. It was written 16 years after the novel was published.


Ashley Adams | 328 comments Bryan "They call me the Doge" wrote: "It's an Appendix--a Compson history from 1699 to 1945. It was written 16 years after the novel was published."

Appendix! Yep, and I feel kind of cheated out of an ending. Just found it in a pdf which you can get here. The appendix starts on page 253 of the pdf. I'll read it tonight and get back to y'all.

I've also been thinking about Crucifixion and martyrs. I think a lot of the characters have a feeling that they have sacrificed for the sake of others. Quinton, Mrs. Compson, and Jason certainly do. But who IS supposed to be the sacrificed one? Caddy? I feel like it is a weak connection, but there is something there.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 304 comments Ashley wrote: "and I feel kind of cheated out of an ending..."

I don't know if the Appendix will help with that much. I'd at least advise going into it with low expectations if you are looking for an ending.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Ashley wrote: "And can someone explain to me the significance of the dates? Dilsey takes Benji to church on Easter Sunday. The Benji and Jason section take place the 2 days before. There's something significant a..."

It’s possible to interpret Caddy as a Christ figure as you suggest in @12 since Caddy shouldered the burdens placed on her by her brothers. She suffered trying to satisfy their needs. So you could argue she has been “sacrificed” for them. Also, Benjy can be seen as a Christ figure because of his innocence, his birthday during Easter, and his age—33 years old.

Another way of looking at it is Easter weekend is a time of endings and beginnings—the crucifixion of Jesus on Friday and the resurrection on Sunday. There have been three deaths in the Compson family—Damuddy, Jason Sr. and Quentin. The death could also refer to the decline of the Compson family with Quentin running away and Jason defeated.

Reverend Shegog’s sermon speaks of death as the great equalizer but he also speaks of the redemption and hope embodied in the resurrection of Jesus. So it can be argued that the novel ends on a hopeful note. It’s a time of beginnings and endings, which is what I think Dilsey means when she says she has seen the first and the last of the Compsons.


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments For those feeling cheated of the afterword, you know how readers of the book in the first decade and a half after publication felt. The original book didn’t have it, and some publishers still leave it out, because it wasn’t part of TSATF. Faulkner wrote it in the years intervening between first publication in 1929 and when he asked the publisher of a new edition in 1946 to add the appendix. I’m not sure it can be considered part of the novel so much as creative commentary by the author.


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Tamara wrote: "Reverend Shegog’s sermon speaks of death as the great equalizer but he also speaks of the redemption and hope embodied in the resurrection of Jesus. So it can be argued that the novel ends on a hopeful note. It’s a time of beginnings and endings, which is what I think Dilsey means when she says she has seen the first and the last of the Compsons..."

In a way, I see the downfall of Jason, which effectively ends the Compson’s as a sort of death. And Miss Quentin leaving the Compson’s and Mississippi behind her as a resurrection.

Nothing is said of what happens to Miss Q, but she ran off with $9700 in 1928 currency, so she can pretty much start a new life and new family line. Regardless of Caroline’s feelings on the matter, Caddy was hers and Jason Sr.’s daughter. And Miss Q will, presumably, be Jason Sr. and Caroline’s only grandchild.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Aiden wrote: "Nothing is said of what happens to Miss Q, but she ran off with $9700 in 1928 currency,.."

I'm not sure where you got the $9,700. Jason used some of Caddy's money to play the market, and he specified to the sheriff that his niece stole $3,000.


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Mike Harris | 64 comments Most likely this is driving the parallel too far but if the book takes place over the weekend of Easter than perhaps Quentin is supposed to be a parallel to Christ since on Easter Sunday it is Quentin who’s room is found to be empty. Not sure if that implies anything about her mother Caddy.


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Mike Harris | 64 comments How did people view the detail given that Caddy’s underwear was muddy in the scene in which the four Compson children were forced to play outside during the funeral of their grandmother?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Mike wrote: "How did people view the detail given that Caddy’s underwear was muddy in the scene in which the four Compson children were forced to play outside during the funeral of their grandmother?"

Thanks for bringing that up because we haven't discussed it.

I don't know how others interpreted Caddy's "muddy drawers," but I saw it as foreshadowing her sexual promiscuity. In his section, Quentin recalls her admitting to him that she has had a lot of lovers.


Marieke | 98 comments Tamara wrote: "Marieke wrote: "In the previous sections all the Compton brothers got to tell their 'side' of the story from their own perspective. In the Dilsey section we don't get to see Dilseys perspective, as..."

I guess you didn't get my point. Of course I know the adventages of an omniscient narrator.
What my question was firstly, is wether the section 'names' were given later by interpreters, or were in the book itself (as in my edition there just were the dates preceeding each section).
The reason for this question was, that for the first 3 sections the story is told from the perspective of the person for whom the section is named. I.e. the Benjy section tells everything from the Benjy perspective, the Quentin section from Quentins perspective and the Jason section from Jasons perspective.

I thus expected (and looked forward) to hear the story from Dilseys perspective. As she is basicly both an insider and an outsider to the Compton family, her view would be very interesting.
Instead of that we don't get the view of Dilsey, but the omniscient narrator (with a bit more of Jason), thus, at least for me, robbing her from her own voice. (As I said earlier, I don't know wether I exagerate here or not, but it felt like that for me).

Of course the omniscient narrator feels like a pleasant breeze after the difficult previous sections. The voice of the omniscient narrator could've been implemented in a new section or, as Faulkner did later, in an afterword.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Marieke wrote: "Tamara wrote: "Marieke wrote: "In the previous sections all the Compton brothers got to tell their 'side' of the story from their own perspective. In the Dilsey section we don't get to see Dilseys ..."

Sorry if I didn't understand your point.

All editions just use the dates, which is the way Faulkner set it up. But when writing or speaking about a section, people identify it by using the name of the speaker. The final section has traditionally been called the Dilsey section because the focus is on her. I've never seen a discussion of any of the sections identified by the date.


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Tamara wrote: "I'm not sure where you got the $9,700. Jason used some of Caddy's money to play the market, and he specified to the sheriff that his niece stole $3,000."

My number was off by a couple thousand, but it was definitely much more than the $3,000 he reported because he had savings from 18 years of Caddy’s monthly checks, but couldn’t claim any more than he actually would have been able to account for from his paycheck. If he claimed almost $7000 stolen, the sheriff would question how he had so much to steal and start asking questions.

From the Quentin section of Faulkner’s later Appendix:

“Who at seventeen, on the one thousand eight hundred ninetyfifth anniversary of the day before the resurrection of Our Lord, swung herself by a rainpipe from the window of the room in which her uncle had locked her at noon, to the locked window of his own locked and empty bedroom and broke a pane and entered the window and with the uncle’s firepoker burst open the locked bureau drawer and took the money (it was not $2840.50 either, it was almost seven thousand dollars…”


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Aiden wrote: "My number was off by a couple thousand, but it was definitely much more than the $3,000 he reported because he had savings from 18 years of Caddy’s monthly checks,.."

Got it. Thanks.
I haven't read the Appendix and was just going by the words in the text.


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Marieke wrote: "Tamara wrote: "Marieke wrote: "In the previous sections all the Compton brothers got to tell their 'side' of the story from their own perspective. In the Dilsey section we don't get to see Dilseys ..."

I think the story is about the downfall of the Compson patriarchy, which is one reason Faulkner only got inside the heads of the Compson boys. In his Appendix, Faulkner said of the black servants’ future simply, “They endured.” While Dilsey, Roscoe and crew are important to the story, they are essentially spectators in the generational, socioeconomic tragedy unfolding.

I also wanted to point out how each section is more easily coherent than the last. Benjy’s is a litany of sense experience detached from reason, Quentin’s is muddled by his suicidal and incestuous obsessions, Jason’s is finally clearer, if horrible, since he is the most “sane” of the three. But it’s the Dilsey section that finally appears to show order out of the insignificant sound and fury of the story told by an “idiot” in the first section. (cf. the Macbeth quote from which Faulkner took the title.)

As Dilsey says, she’s seen the beginning and the end. She sees from the third person point of view as a sort of Greek chorus in Faulkner’s tragedy.


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Tamara wrote: "Got it. Thanks.
I haven't read the Appendix and was just going by the words in the text."


It was intimated in the text how much he stole from Caddy, which commentators later calculated out based on amounts Caddy is shown sending/giving to Jason. I’ve seen it reckoned at around $50,000. It produced a number of potential figures, but I guess Faulkner had the final word when he added the Appendix.


Ignacio | 139 comments Aiden wrote: "My number was off by a couple thousand, but it was definitely much more than the $3,000 he reported because he had savings from 18 years of Caddy’s monthly checks, but couldn’t claim any more than he actually would have been able to account for from his paycheck."

Thank you for clarifying this. I had wondered if he was underreporting to the sheriff because he didn't want to admit all the money he had saved up (i.e., stolen).


Ignacio | 139 comments Tamara wrote: "The Easter service has a powerful impact on Dilsey. She is deeply moved by the sermon. With tears streaming down her face, she says, “I’ve seed de first en de last.” What does she mean by these words?"

I took this to mean she has had some sort of spiritual experience (or vision?) that reaffirms her belief in hope and resurrection, in spite of all the suffering in this 'valley of tears'. I thought the words were meant to echo what Jesus says: "I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end."

And, of course, at the same time it means that she has witnessed the beginning and is seeing the end (or ruin, or fading away) of the Compson family. But I agree with you that this 'end' also carries a hopeful potential of a new beginning, a rebirth (Easter, spring).


Ignacio | 139 comments I was not prepared for how deeply moving I found the ending. When Luster shouts "Caddy! Caddy! Caddy!" at Benjy, and Benjy just cannot stop wailing as if an infinite accumulation of sorrows had come crashing down on him, it is a scene of heartbreak shaped into artistic beauty by Faulkner's writing:

But he bellowed slowly, abjectly, without tears; the grave hopeless sound of all voiceless misery under the sun.

But I think what really got me is how tenderly, how delicately, Dilsey holds him and tries to comfort him:

Dilsey rocked back and forth, stroking Ben's head. 'Dis long time, O Jesus', she said. 'Dis long time.' . . . 'Hush, honey' . . . Dilsey stroked Ben's head, rocking back and forth."


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Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Ignacio wrote: "I was not prepared for how deeply moving I found the ending. When Luster shouts "Caddy! Caddy! Caddy!" at Benjy, and Benjy just cannot stop wailing as if an infinite accumulation of sorrows had com..."

I was also very deeply moved by the ending and by Dilsey's tenderness. But more than anything else, my heart went out to Benjy. The poor child doesn't ask for much. He doesn't understand and will never understand. He just wants things to stay the same. He wants his Caddy back. Time will never heal him of his loss. He is in so much pain. He simply cannot tolerate change.

I thought the last image was just so powerful. Ben holds a broken narcissus that Luster has "fixed" for him by tying it with a twig and bits of string to keep it upright. He needs to hold his flower. It doesn't register with him the flower is broken.

Ben quit whimpering. He sat in the middle of the seat, holding the repaired flower upright in his fist, his eyes serene and ineffable.

But then Luster does the unthinkable. Instead of turning right at the monument, he goes left. Suddenly, everything is moving in the wrong direction, out of sync. And all hell breaks loose.

For an instant Ben sat in an utter hiatus. Then he bellowed. Bellow on bellow, his voice mounted, with scarce interval for breath. There was more than astonishment in it, it was horror; shock, agony eyeless, tongueless . . .

It takes Jason to shove Luster aside and turn Queenie around to go right at the monument. And order is restored.

The broken flower drooped over Ben's fist and his eyes were empty and blue and serene again as cornice and facade flowed smoothly once more from left to right; post and tree, window and doorway, and signboard, each in its ordered place.

A powerful image. And heartbreaking. As you so eloquently phrased it, "it is a scene of heartbreak shaped into artistic beauty by Faulkner's writing."


Ignacio | 139 comments Tamara wrote: "It takes Jason to shove Luster aside and turn Queenie around to go right at the monument. And order is restored."

Yes, that is a very powerful final image. Benjy's desire (and perhaps the desire of most of the characters in the novel) for things to go back to the way they were, for order to be restored. It is extremely poignant because we know that can never be.

You wrote before about how the Compson siblings are stuck in the past or the present, unable to move on. Is Dilsey the one character who has a more future-oriented (and thus hopeful) attitude?


Ignacio | 139 comments I have a general question: why do you all think that Faulkner made the first section of the novel so difficult and challenging? It's such a beautiful and powerful novel, and I'm so glad I was able to read it through this time. When I tried many years ago, I gave up after the first few pages. I suspect that happens to a lot of readers.

Aiden suggested above that the novel moves progressively from obscurity to clarity, that "each section is more easily coherent than the last." Was this the reason for Faulkner's design? Could there have been other reasons?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Ignacio wrote: "Is Dilsey the one character who has a more future-oriented (and thus hopeful) attitude?.."

I think she embraces time and all it has to offer. Faulkner says of her, "She endures."

Dilsey is not stuck in time like the Compson brothers. She is in harmony with time and accepts the past, the present, and the future. I think it’s significant that she knows the correct time independent of clock time. For example, while she prepares breakfast, we get this:

On the wall above the cupboard, invisible save at night, by lamplight and even then evincing an enigmatic profundity because it had but one hand, a cabinet clock ticked, then with a preliminary sound as if it had cleared its throat, struck five times.
“Eight o’clock,” Dilsey said.


And then, later, we get:

While she stood there the clock above the cupboard struck ten times. “One o’clock,” she said aloud, “Jason ain’t comin home. Ise seed de first en de last.”

Dilsey doesn’t rely on clocks to tell her the correct time. She is in perfect harmony with the passage of time and understands time records beginnings and endings. She has seen the first of the Compsons and the last, and she embraces it all as part of the cycle of life.

I don’t know that she is more “future-oriented.” I think it is more a case of acceptance of whatever time throws in her direction. She takes it in stride, and, as Faulkner says, she endures.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Ignacio wrote: "I have a general question: why do you all think that Faulkner made the first section of the novel so difficult and challenging? It's such a beautiful and powerful novel, and I'm so glad I was able ..."

I know it's a struggle to read the Benjy section the first time around. But, honestly, I find it the easiest section to understand because Benjy is so predictable and operates at such a surface and simple level. One just has to be a Dilsey or a Caddy to figure out the way his mind works.

The Benjy section encompasses just about everything that happens in the rest of the novel with the exception of Quentin's suicide. But the clues to everything else are there. Because of this, I don't see the novel as moving from obscurity to clarity. Personally, I find the Quentin section far more challenging than the Benjy section.

I can never speak to an author’s intention, so I don't know why Faulkner began with a section that initially presents so many challenges for the reader. He certainly plunged us in the deep end. I can only speak from my experience.

For me, the Benjy section is a powerful introduction to the Compsons and puts the rest of the novel in perspective. I think we need Benjy to immerse us in the Compson family as he experiences it. His section is choke-full of suspense and foreshadowing, all of which would be lost had Faulkner begun with a different narrator. The section challenges the reader to piece together a confusing puzzle. We experience events and characters through Benjy’s unfiltered lens. So we have to work to decipher what’s happening. But once you’ve figured Benjy out, the reward is immense. You get to experience life as Benjy experiences it. And you get to see the other characters through Benjy’s eyes, all of which prepares us for the subsequent sections.

I don’t think I’m expressing this very well. All I can say is the novel’s impact would have diminished considerably had Faulkner begun with a different section. It is a testament to his brilliance that he is able to immerse us in what initially appears as a confused jumbled up mind only to reveal with later readings that the mind has a predictable logic and simplicity and offers an unfiltered panorama of the events.

That's the best I can do:)


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Ignacio wrote: "I have a general question: why do you all think that Faulkner made the first section of the novel so difficult and challenging? It's such a beautiful and powerful novel, and I'm so glad I was able ..."

I definitely think the progression from chaos to order was one reason, but I think the desire to make creative use of the relatively new method of stream-of-consciousness fiction was a reason.

I can tell you based simply on reading so many differing critics commentary/essays on TSATF (and specifically this question), there are many views seen as the reason why Faulkner used this method with such abandon in the first section.

One critic pointed out how the there is a progression/regression dynamic juxtaposing the improving sanity of the Compton sons with their deteriorating fortunes. Benjy first, has the mind that stops learning in 1898 at 3-years-old. Quentin is so obsessed with purity and honor that he kills himself in 1910. Jason is the most sane and lasting, but finishes off the family with his greed in the 18 years that Miss Quentin is growing up. In the last section, the family is simply looked on omnisciently and as they are (without narrative bias).


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments It’s also worth mentioning that, to some at least, that with its purely sensual experience, the Benjy section best captures the Sound and the Fury of life from which the title derives.

Macbeth says that life is, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I’m in agreement that the purest form of the “sound and fury” of the Compson family is in the Benjy’s section because how else does Benjy experience that life but through sound (both external and his own moans) and fury, which when the day is done means nothing to Benjy, he being oblivious to all.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Aiden wrote: "It’s also worth mentioning that, to some at least, that with its purely sensual experience, the Benjy section best captures the Sound and the Fury of life from which the title derives.

Macbeth sa..."


Life’s but a walking shadow (Quentin and his obsession with shadows), a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.
(Jason who struts and frets)
It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Benjy)


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Tamara wrote: "Aiden wrote: "It’s also worth mentioning that, to some at least, that with its purely sensual experience, the Benjy section best captures the Sound and the Fury of life from which the title derives..."

Thank you for elaborating on my allusion and well said.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments It's gone very quiet here. Any final thoughts on the novel?


Suzann | 358 comments Marieke wrote: " In the Dilsey section ...we don't get the view of Dilsey, but the omniscient narrator (with a bit more of Jason), thus, at least for me, robbing her from her own voice. ..."

Rock of the family that she is, Dilsey has no voice in the family history. She can soothe, feed, mother, love, but remains invisible and voiceless. I don't think Faulkner confronted race in this novel, maybe in later ones?


Suzann | 358 comments Aiden wrote: "But it’s the Dilsey section that finally appears to show order out of the insignificant sound and fury of the story told by an “idiot” in the first section. (cf. the Macbeth quote from which Faulkner took the title.)..."

I'm tempted to generalize the term "idiot" to "human" in both Shakespeare and TSATF. All humans are as idiots in their ability to comprehend the mysteries of life. "Existence precedes essence" comes to mind. The Easter Sunday sermon's presumption of essence helps Dilsey endure, and offers a counter to the bleak "sound and fury signifying nothing", the inarticulate babble, the stumbling failure of those in search of meaning.


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Suzann wrote: "Rock of the family that she is, Dilsey has no voice in the family history. She can soothe, feed, mother, love, but remains invisible and voiceless. I don't think Faulkner confronted race in this novel, maybe in later ones?..."

Do you think the opposite could be argued?

Faulkner makes the entire Compson family so entirely dependent on Dilsey. Everyone relies on her for everything from raising the children to preparing the meals to dealing with Benjy and Caroline. She is taken for granted, ridiculed by Jason and Quentin (the niece), marginalized, unappreciated, disrespected, ignored, her voice silenced, etc. And, yet, she is the glue that holds the family together.

Couldn’t this be interpreted as Faulkner making a statement about racial injustice? Through the character of Dilsey, perhaps Faulkner demonstrates how totally reliant the white race is on the labor and sacrifice of blacks and yet it continues to denigrate and disrespect them.


Suzann | 358 comments Ignacio wrote: "I have a general question: why do you all think that Faulkner made the first section of the novel so difficult and challenging? And Tamara wrote: And order is restored.

The broken flower drooped over Ben's fist and his eyes were empty and blue and serene again as cornice and facade flowed smoothly once more from left to right; post and tree, window and doorway, and signboard, each in its ordered place. ..."


Perhaps the sequence from Benji's sense-driven, present-stuck telling through Quentin's imagination-driven, interior, out-of-time telling, and Jason's reason-driven telling are each efforts to impose order on a disordered world. Perhaps Benji's howl is as effective as the other more sophisticated efforts to comprehend or create order, which is to say not effective. Quentin rejected measurement of time as a mean of imposing order, and was unable to find another satisfactory means of order. Jason was unable to order Quentin's disorderly, non-compliant life, or anyone else's, including his own. In the end, seems like the Compsons are no better than Benji howling for the world to be restored to an expected order. We are all Benjis, who, despite our efforts to order our worlds, and even appear to succeed better than the Compsons, remain lost in the chaos. Benji's section provides a palpable chaos, with which I can identify. Order and disorder, a powerful theme.


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Tamara wrote: "Suzann wrote: "Rock of the family that she is, Dilsey has no voice in the family history. She can soothe, feed, mother, love, but remains invisible and voiceless. I don't think Faulkner confronted ..."

I tend toward Tamara’s interpretation. Dilsey was one of Faulkner’s favorite characters and it is she alone that can look on the demise of the Compson legacy and, unlike them, she endures. I think he wrote the 4th section in omniscient third person to show her— and others— truly for who she is, rather than as she is perceived through the obviously defective minds of white men.

Suzann, while I understand your point, I’d resist that temptation to generalize too much as it mars the meaning. Macbeth, hearing of his wife’s suicide, compares life to a tale told by an idiot. It implicitly refers to human life, but says specifies the tale is told by a person of diminished mental capacity, so that in the end it is meaningless. Were Shakespeare to have put in his despairing character’s mouth that life is a tale told by a human, it could be seen as both redundant (what else but a human can tell a tale) and vague.


Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Suzann wrote: "Perhaps the sequence from Benji's sense-driven, present-stuck telling through Quentin's imagination-driven, interior, out-of-time telling, and Jason's reason-driven telling are each efforts to impose order on a disordered world...."

Some very interesting points here. I definitely think you’ve touched on wider themes of TSAFT.


Suzann | 358 comments Aiden wrote: "Macbeth, hearing of his wife’s suicide, compares life to a tale told by an idiot. It implicitly refers to human life, but says specifies the tale is told by a person of diminished mental capacity, .."

As I tend away from literal meanings, I find that "idiocy" is the human condition. Relative to the mysteries of the universe, we are idiots. Just as an idiot does not have the capacity to understand the world around him, neither do humans at full capacity. Faulkner's idiot howls at disorder; Shakespeare's "fools" and "idiot" strut and fret, create meaningless sound and fury. Faulkner demonstrates that the Compsons fail to find or create meaningful lives. They strut and fret and howl, but are metaphorically a brief candle flame in the stretch of time, as we all are. Faulkner referenced Shakespeare because his art inspired Faulkner's imagination across time and place, beyond the context of the play for which the words were originally written.


Suzann | 358 comments Aiden promised some ideas on muddy drawers. Did I miss that post?


Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1532 comments Suzann wrote: "Shakespeare's "fools" and "idiot" strut and fret, create meaningless sound and fury. ."

Shakespeare utilizes two types of "fools" in his plays. Some are the wisest characters in the plays, commenting on the action and speaking the truth. Their words are far from meaningless. And then there are those who are natural fools/idiots. Their function on the stage is to entertain the audience with their goofy antics.


message 49: by Aiden (last edited May 24, 2020 10:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 252 comments Suzann wrote: "Aiden promised some ideas on muddy drawers. Did I miss that post?"

I forgot I mentioned that in an earlier section discussion. Thanks.

Faulkner said at various times that his first and favorite image from TSATF was a doomed little girl’s muddy drawers. There’s been much written about the muddy drawers because they were such a significant symbol in the novel. The image of a 7-year-old girl in a pear tree with “soiled” undergarments peering into a window while several boys stare up at her display of immodesty.

I think the muddy drawers are universally seen as a symbol of Caddy’s later promiscuity and the disasters that follow to finish off the Compsons. The two symbols of that scene are the muddy drawers and Damuddy’s wake, which is what Caddy is looking at (sex and death).

You could definitely call is foreshadowing, but to me it feels like an encapsulation of Faulkner’s vision for the novel. The Old South was mortally wounded in 1895 (the time of Damuddy’s wake and also the year Benjy’s mind stops growing) following Reconstruction and the Compson’s were the Old South. Faulkner showed how the family was ruined by their own nihilism (Jason Sr.) continuing pretentious of honor (shown in Caroline and negatively affecting Caddy and Benjy), refusal to live in the new order (Quentin) and, in the end, greed (Jason Jr.)


Suzann | 358 comments Tamara wrote: "Shakespeare utilizes two types of "fools" in his plays. Some are the wisest characters in the..."

As a bit of an existentialist, I find that the wisdom of fools offers the strutters and fretters some perspective on their behavior. It offers some harsh reality; neither hope nor religion overcome the isolation, the unitary rolling of the rock uphill. The "fool" may tell us the story of Sisyphus, give us perspective on the human condition, but cannot free us from the rock, or change the cold isolation of the universe. We read the classics to be reminded of what it is to be human. Who are we? Why are we here? Where did we come from? I think Faulkner contributes to this discussion.


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