The Sound and the Fury Summary

“The Sound and the Fury” is a book that encompasses the story of an aristocratic family by the name of the Compsons living in Jefferson, Mississippi. The family is renowned in the region for their ancestors who saved and defended the region during the Civil War. The story revolves around the three brothers Quentin, Benjy, Jason and their only sister Caddy. The story also shows the decline of the Compsons family as a symbolic gesture of the conditions of the Southern Aristocratic class ever since the Civil War. The plot is staged in multi-dimensions of time with a total of four narrators - Quentin, Benjy, Jason and William Faulkner himself. Although the three brothers narrate part of the story that revolves around Caddy, William Faulkner describes Dilsey.

Coming to the characters at hand, Dilsey is the cook of the family who has an Afro-American ethnicity. She plays a major role in raising the kids. Benjy is the youngest and mentally disabled. He is seen to narrate at the age of thirty-three as a rather old man in April of the year 1928. The eldest of them all is Quentin who narrates his part in June 1910. He has a sad demise at the end of the story as a freshman at Harvard. His father sells a large portion of their lands to pay his fees. The brother older than Benjy is Jason, who is probably the most cynical and self-centered amongst all of the siblings. Jason narrates the story in April 1928. Mr. Compson is portrayed as an alcoholic whereas Mrs. Compson is a hypochondriac lady who leaves a lot of the children handling tasks to Dilsey, the cook. Caddy, instead, acts as a mother figure for Quentin and Benjy but soon becomes promiscuous enough to end up misbehaving and becomes pregnant with the child of a local town-boy. She tries to cover it up by quickly marrying a banker named Herbert Head who promises to give Jason a job too. Soon after that, Herbert leaves Caddy after finding out the truth and denies Jason the job he promised. Meanwhile, Quentin tries to save Caddy by falsely agreeing to the commitment of incest but yet is sent to Harvard, where he drowns in river Charles during his first year. Soon after this, Miss Quentin is born to Caddy who is abolished from the family. The baby grows up with uncle Jason, who constantly plans to seize the money sent for Miss Quentin’s livelihood being the person in charge. In the nearing end, it is seen that Miss Quentin grows up to be unhappy, rebellious and promiscuous. Finally, on Easter Sunday, 1928, she steals some thousand dollars from Jason and flees with a travelling man. The story ends showing that Dilsey moves in with Benjy and her family to the Eastern local church while Jason ends up chasing Miss Quentin.

Section 1 of the book shows Benjy as the narrator of the story sequence on Easter Sunday, April 1928. Luster, the grandson of Dilsey, sits with Benjy while she bakes a cake for his 33rd birthday. Meanwhile, Luster accompanies Benjy to find a quarter he had saved in an adjacent golf field that was previously the Comptons’ pasture. A golfer calls out for a cabbie reminding him of Caddy. The next memory that Benjy remembers is when his shirt gets stuck to a nail and Luster helps unhook it just like Caddy did in 1902. This was when Uncle Maury, their maternal uncle used to exchange letters with their neighbor’s wife through them. The next memory comes when they cross the carriage home, a memory from 1912 or a year later, when they visit their family cemetery. Another memory from this section (1902) is when they cross the Compton barn, Benjy remembers that once while delivering a letter next door he got caught by the husband. The last memory is recollected when Benjy passes a stream in the Compson premises. Their granny Dammudy dies in 1898. They all play together and Caddie gets wet. Then, they see Roscus milking a cow. This takes him to a memory of Caddie’s wedding in 1910 where he gets drunk. This leads to a series of memories from his childhood where Versh carries him uphill. They cry at dinner. Another one is when Caddy smelled like trees when she put on perfume and the time when she peeked at the funeral through trees. His next memory was of scaring girls trying to tell them how much he misses Caddy. Then he goes back to his room where he burns his hands in the fire and then goes to the library where he relishes his memories again.

In section 2, we see that Jason is crooked in a lot of ways. He has an overwhelming grudge against Caddy and also her daughter. It all escalates from him losing his bank job. He denies Miss Quentin but Mr. Compson accepts the child. After taking responsibility for the family, he steals money sent for Miss Quentin and complains about her behavior. He invests the stolen money in the cotton business and on a mistress from Memphis. Later he heads to his shop where he receives some letters that convince him to accept Miss Quentin along with a money order. He has a quarrel with his boss later on about his dinner break and on his way back, he sees Miss Quentin with a man wearing a red tie and chases them. They manage to get away by puncturing one of his car tires. Meanwhile, he receives a telegram beforehand about his decline in business. Then, Luster complains to him about Mrs. Compson and Miss Quentin quarreling upstairs and asks for a quarter to which he reacts very cruelly. Afterwards, Miss Quentin goes to her room and shuts the door.

In section 3, we see Quentin reminiscing about his watch given to him by his father and Caddy’s wedding after waking up in his room. This is soon interrupted by his roommate Shreve reminding him that he is late for class. Next, he sees Spoade who once had mocked his virginity that in turn reminds him of Caddy’s virginity. Thus, the memory of his false claim of incest comes to mind. Then he gets ready, breaks his watch, boards a train, gets down near the river and thinks of drowning. The next sequence shows Quentin riding a trolley and he remembers how he had a fight with Herbert Head. This leads to the memory where he starts questioning about Caddy losing her virginity to Herbert and if not him, then who? Then he starts persuading Caddy by telling her that Herbert is a Blackguard followed by a suggestion of living at Harvard which she denies. Then he goes to a bakery where he helps a kid and gets arrested for suspicion. He is freed by his friend with whom he has a fight later on. The character of Quentin is deeply designed by his flashbacked formed by a mixture of reality and fantasies. He is deeply affected by the factor of time and thus sees clocks more. He feels like the only way out for him is suicide. Caddy’s virginity deeply disturbs him. It is because of his deep-rooted beliefs in old-fashioned codes and conducts. He even suggests suiciding together or claiming incest falsely. When his father dismisses his strong rooted belief, he cannot take the dismissal and ultimately commits suicide.

The last section shows that on Easter Sunday of 1928, Dilsey goes to the kitchen to work while Jason constantly keeps whining about who broke his window. Then, Miss Quentin is called who doesn’t respond and is later found to have left the house through the window. Jason rushes to his office desk to check his money and papers and finds no money there. Thus, he calls the police who send a deputy for further inspection. Meanwhile, Jason takes his car to check the minstrel show where Miss Quentin’s lover resides. Even there, he fails in finding her. Just when he rides out, Dilsey takes everyone to the church and on the way home, Luster takes an alternate route making Benjy uncomfortable. Jason finds them, corrects their path and thus they reach home safely. Here, Miss Quentin’s escape greatly portrays the incompetency of the Compton men to women. This was probably a chain of exemplary events set by Mr. Compton where he let his wife live by her self-centered rules. This gave rise to Quentin’s thoughts bound by codes and beliefs, Jason’s self-pitying character and Benjy’s disabled capabilities of sensing time. The whole family turns to ruins due to self-absorption. The only rigid person in the whole family is Dilsey, the only person who still takes care of Benjy without hesitation. She too is bound by her southern beliefs but never did she falter into self-absorption. She opines that she has seen the beginning and the end too. Thus, it can be said that she is the only torchbearer of the Compson family.