The Sound and the Fury

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The Sound and the Fury Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of William Faulkner
William Faulkner was the oldest of four brothers born to a wealthy family in Mississippi. His early influences were his mother and grandmother, who were both readers and artists, and Caroline Barr, the black woman who raised and educated him. When he was six, Faulkner’s family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where his grandfather owned several businesses, and Faulkner spent most of the rest of his life there. Faulkner dropped out of high school despite his obvious intelligence and talent. He began writing poetry first, and published his first novel in 1925. His stories center around the South, and many take place in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi. Faulkner suffered from alcoholism all his life, but he still managed to publish nineteen novels and a variety of other stories and screenplays. He was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, and is now considered one of the most important modern American writers. He died of a heart attack at the age of 64.
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Historical Context of The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury is set in Mississippi in the early 1900s, and primarily follows the decline of the Compsons, a white aristocratic family. When the South was defeated in the Civil War in the 1860s, slavery was abolished and many of the wealthy families lost their source of income. Reconstruction, a period following the war and intended to both return the South to prosperity and establish rights for freed slaves, was mostly a failure. As a result families like the Compsons lost their wealth and status while still clinging to their old, aristocratic traditions and values, even in the face of the changing modern world. At the same time black families like the Gibsons were still second-class citizens, hardly better off than they were as slaves, and subject to Jim Crow laws, indentured servitude, and the danger of being lynched by the Klu Klux Klan.
Other Books Related to The Sound and the Fury
Faulkner’s contemporary and opposite (in terms of style) was Ernest Hemingway, author of The Sun Also Rises. James Joyce’s Ulysses and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway both share his use of stream-of-consciousness and other modernist styles.
Key Facts about The Sound and the Fury
  • Full Title: The Sound and the Fury
  • When Written: 1928-29
  • Where Written: Oxford, Mississippi
  • When Published: 1929
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Modernist Fiction, Southern Gothic Fiction
  • Setting: Jefferson, Mississippi and Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Climax: Miss Quentin steals Jason’s money and flees
  • Point of View: First person in the first three chapters (each chapter from the viewpoint of a different person), third person omniscient in the last chapter
Extra Credit for The Sound and the Fury

MGM. Faulkner was not recognized as a great writer until late in his life, and he often had to take other jobs to earn money. For several years he worked as a writer of screenplays for MGM films, despite not being a personal fan of cinema.

The Compsons. The Compson family appears in other Faulkner works, like the novel Absalom, Absalom! and the story “That Evening Sun.”