This is William Faulkner's fourth book and considered by many to be one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written...and after reading this book and writing this review I share those sentiments. And yet, when you listen to Faulkner describe his depiction into the decline of the aristocratic Compson family, he considered it to be his best failure. The book comes at you in four sections with each being told by a different narrative...so let's explore Faulkner's best failure, shall we?
The first part we meet the thirty-something man child, Benjy Compson. Benjy has flashbacks of the earliest events in the novel and is the key to the book's title. Benjy has a simple vocabulary...he uses short words and forms basic sentences. While most of his memories revolve around his sister Caddy, it is a memory he has of her at an early age that establishes her character in the second part. He does recall other key events in his life: His name was changed from Maury to Benjamin, his brother Quentin's self-inflicted death, and an event later that led to Benjy being castrated.
The second part takes place eighteen years earlier than Benjy's section, and does a splendid job of developing the story...this section is from Quentin Compson's perspective. It takes place the day of Quentin's death while he is wandering around Boston. He is a student at Harvard University...and like his brother Benjy...he too, is preoccupied with the past and has frequent flashbacks...yet the differences between the two are easily apparent. Benjy's flashback are mainly general impressions, while Quentin's are abstract and delve into the reasoning behind the character's motives.
The third part is told from Jason Compson's perspective, the third of the Compson brothers and takes place during Good Friday. Unlike Benjy and Quentin, Jason has few flashbacks and focuses mainly on the present day. Jason bears witness to just how far down the Compson family sunk. His dark humor is cruel...he complains and his scheming is never-ending - Jason is the polar opposite of Quentin.
The fourth section doesn't really have a voice, but if such a label is needed, one can call it Dilsey's Section since she is the predominant character. This section is set entirely in the present day, on Easter Sunday. There are two main events in this section: Jason chasing stolen money and insulting a man in Mottson...and Dilsey's attendance at an Easter church service, where a preacher delivers a sermon that instills in Dilsey a sense of impending doom for the Compson family.
Such a magnificent failure Faulkner has written...even when the story of this tragedy is told, we are allowed more glimpses into the decline of the Compson family...both from the family's aristocratic history and in the years following their decline. The Sound and the Fury does a masterful job depicting four separate narratives telling the tale of the tragic lore of a once affluent family.
What did you think of this review?
If Benjy's section is the most daringly experimental, Jason's is the most harrowing. "Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say," he begins, lacing into Caddy's illegitimate daughter, and then proceeds to hurl mud at blacks, Jews, his sacred Compson ancestors, his glamorous, promiscuous sister, his doomed brother Quentin, his ailing mother, and the long-suffering black servant Dilsey who holds the family ...