The Sound and the Fury

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Jason is the only one of the four siblings—Quentin, Caddy, Benjy, and himself—to receive Mrs. Compson’s affection, but he grows up into a bitter, loveless man. As an adult Jason feels like the world is against him, and he has a strong hatred of women, black people, and Northerners. Like the other brothers, Jason is also preoccupied with Caddy, but for him she is another source of bitterness, as her husband, Herbert Head, offered Jason a job at a bank, but then retracted it when he divorced Caddy (because of her illegitimate child). Jason hates Caddy for “losing” him the job. He works at a farm supply store and steals the money Caddy sends to Miss Quentin, and fears and respects no one except Dilsey.

Jason Compson IV Quotes in The Sound and the Fury

The The Sound and the Fury quotes below are all either spoken by Jason Compson IV or refer to Jason Compson IV. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Sound and the Fury published in 1990.
April Sixth, 1928 Quotes

Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say. I says you’re lucky if her playing out of school is all that worries you. I says she ought to be down there in that kitchen right now, instead of up there in her room, gobbing paint on her face and waiting for six niggers that cant even stand up out of a chair unless they’ve got a pan full of bread and meat to balance them, to fix breakfast for her.

Related Characters: Jason Compson IV (speaker), Ms. Quentin Compson
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

Another abrupt switch in narrative style brings us from Quentin’s almost unbearably heavy section into Jason’s comparably easy-to-read, but still disturbing, section. Clearly, from his first sentence, Jason is not as troubled as Quentin is by concepts like considering a woman a "bitch." Whereas Quentin’s whole sense of self seems to revolve around troubled concepts of masculinity and virginity, Jason is brutally practical and cruel.

We learn that the “she” of this section is Miss Quentin, Caddy’s illegitimate child who has been taken from her mother and absorbed into the Compson family as if she has no mother at all. Jason’s main concern with this younger Quentin (whose name is confusing until we realize who she is) is to make things as easy for himself as possible. He thinks of his niece as a “bitch” and the black servants, like Dilsey, who have sustained his family throughout his entire life as “six niggers that cant even stand up out of a chair unless they’ve got a pan full of bread and meat to balance them.” Jason, unlike the other Compsons, is fiercely focused on making money and making his way through life, and always assumes that he is the victim of other people's laziness and irresponsibility.

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“All right,” I says. “We’ll just put this off a while. But don’t think you can run it over me. I’m not an old woman, nor an old half dead nigger, either. You dam little slut,” I says.
“Dilsey,” she says. “Dilsey, I want my mother.”
Dilsey went to her. “Now, now,” she says. “He aint gwine so much as lay his hand on you while Ise here.” Mother came on down the stairs.
“Jason,” she says. “Dilsey.”
“Now, now,” Dilsey says. “I aint gwine let him tech you.” She put her hand on Quentin. She knocked it down.
“You damn old nigger,” she says. She ran toward the door.

Related Characters: Jason Compson IV (speaker), Mrs. Compson (speaker), Ms. Quentin Compson (speaker), Dilsey Gibson (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel’s chronology, the only people left in the Compson home are Mrs. Compson, Jason (the youngest of the four children, now grown up), Benjy, Miss Quentin, and the six black servants. The family has virtually disintegrated, and Jason makes the mistake of thinking that he’s the only one holding together what remains of the Compsons.

It has always been, throughout the novel, Dilsey and the other black servants who are the stable core of the family. But Jason struggles to be the leader of the family and establish authority over Miss Quentin, who has a tendency to skip school and ride around in cars with men.

Jason often gets angry at his niece Quentin, and here he calls her a “little slut” and threatens to beat her. Dilsey, sure of her role as the true leader of the Compson family, steps in to protect Quentin. Dilsey has raised Jason from birth on, and knows he will probably back down. Even after Dilsey protects her, though, Quentin disparages her brutally. Quentin is furious that Dilsey cannot honor her request to see her mother, and in her anger easily slips into the same racism that Jason embodies. Quentin is certainly sympathetic in comparison to Jason, but she too can be very cruel and racist.

“Remember what I say,” I says. “I mean it. Let me hear one more time that you are slipping up and down back alleys with one of those dam squirts.”

She turned back at that. “I don’t slip around,” she says. “I dare anybody to know everything I do.”
“And they all know it, too,” I says. “Everybody in this town knows what you are. But I wont have it anymore, you hear? I don’t care what you do, myself,” I says. “But I’ve got a position in this town, and I’m not going to have any member of my family going on like a nigger wench. You hear me?”

Related Characters: Jason Compson IV (speaker), Ms. Quentin Compson (speaker)
Page Number: 188-189
Explanation and Analysis:

Jason’s relationship with his niece Quentin consists, as far as we can tell, almost entirely of arguments with her in which he accuses her of sneaking around with a boy and she slips away or tells a lie. But here she takes Jason’s accusation head-on, daring “anybody to know everything I do.” Jason, concerned about his family honor but more so about his job security, insists that Quentin has earned a bad reputation around town.

We might be able to forgive Jason some of his meanness given all of the tragedies he has lived through, but phrases like this one are especially hard to read: “I’m not going to have any member of my family going on like a nigger wench.” This is doubly brutal, as Jason dehumanizes and black women while lowering Quentin to that same dehumanized status. Quentin, meanwhile, seems to revolt at every turn against this family that is at once hers and not hers; she knows her mother, Caddy, is out there somewhere but is always prevented from seeing her.

“You’s a cold man, Jason, if man you is,” she says. “I thank de Lawd I got mo heart dan dat, even ef hit is black.”
“At least I’m man enough to keep that flour barrel full,” I says. “And if you do that again, you wont be eating out of it either.”

Related Characters: Jason Compson IV (speaker), Dilsey Gibson (speaker)
Page Number: 207-208
Explanation and Analysis:

Dilsey takes a more definitive stand against Jason here, calling him cold after he refuses once again to let Caddy see her daughter Quentin. Dilsey, having just reminded Jason that his father would have been much more forgiving toward Caddy and Miss Quentin, puts Jason on the defensive. Dilsey makes one of her boldest claims: “I thank de Lawd I got mo heart dan dat, even ef hit is black.” It is surprising in a way that Jason stays as calm as he does, and we might suspect that he has a special softness (or respect) for Dilsey even if he cannot admit it.

Again Jason retorts with an assertion of masculinity and family leadership; as he claims, at least he is “man enough to keep that flour barrel full.” Throughout Jason’s section, we see a tension between different forms of family leadership. Jason keeps the family financially afloat, while Dilsey feeds the family and keeps them emotionally afloat. Jason probably sees this as external to his patriarchal role, but the novel continues to reveal how essential Dilsey is to the Compson family’s survival (even if this survival is limited).

How the hell can I do anything right, with that dam family and her not making any effort to control her nor any of them like that time when she happened to see one of them kissing Caddy and all next day she went around the house in a black dress and a veil and even Father couldn’t get her to say a word except crying and saying her little daughter was dead and Caddy about fifteen then… I haven’t got much pride, I cant afford it with a kitchen full of niggers to feed and robbing the state asylum of its star freshman. Blood, I says, governors and generals.

Related Characters: Jason Compson IV (speaker), Benjamin (Benjy) Compson, Candace (Caddy) Compson, Mr. Compson, Mrs. Compson
Page Number: 229-230
Explanation and Analysis:

In a conversation with his coworker Earl, Jason seems to realize the absurdity of his mother’s role in their increasingly small family. First he realizes that Mrs. Compson is “not making any effort to control her nor any of them.” Then Jason remembers a time when his mother saw Caddy kissing someone and “all next day went around the house in a black dress and veil.” This is one of the only passages where Jason critiques his mother and acknowledges that his father might be a helpful presence. The memory also shows the unhealthy level of shame and pressure placed on Caddy at a young age, and is another illustration of Mrs. Compson's neurotic, melodramatic nature.

Throughout this novel, Faulkner experiments with how little he can give his readers while still giving them the chance to understand what is going on. Here Jason uses only the pronouns “she” and “her” but we can figure out that he is speaking about his mother.

At the end of this passage, we find a brutal assessment of his brother Benjy— “robbing the state asylum of its star freshman”— and then get a seemingly random statement, “governors and generals.” Jason refers to the collective history of the South and its defeat in the Civil War, a concept central to Faulkner’s fiction. In doing so he tries to link his family’s troubled history to that of the South as a whole — emphasizing the idea of how far the Compson "blood" has fallen.

“When they began to sell the land to send Quentin to Harvard I told your father that he must make an equal provision for you. Then when Herbert offered to take you into the bank I said, Jason is provided for now, and when all the expense began to pile up and I was forced to sell our furniture and the rest of the pasture, I wrote her at once because I said she will realise that she and Quentin have had their share and part of Jason’s too and that it depends on her now to compensate him… You were right to reproach me.”
“Do you think I need any man’s help to stand on my feet?” I says. “Let alone a woman that cant name the father of her own child.”

Related Characters: Jason Compson IV (speaker), Mrs. Compson (speaker), Quentin Compson, Candace (Caddy) Compson, Mr. Compson, Herbert Head
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mrs. Compson makes a last-ditch effort to explain their troubled finances to Jason and comfort her own guilt about her role in the family’s downfall. She summarizes many of the things that have brought the family to where it is now: the sale of part of their land to finance Quentin’s Harvard education, the rejection of help from Caddy’s husband Herbert, and the tension between Caddy— always just outside the bubble of her own family— and the others.

When Mrs. Compson says Caddy will “realise that she and Quentin have had their share,” the name Quentin remains ambiguous. She might be saying that Caddy’s brother Quentin had his share when he was sent to Harvard or that her daughter Quentin got her share when she was taken in by the remaining Compsons. Faulkner’s doubling of names throughout the novel allows him to leave ambiguities like this, and thereby link two different characters together thematically; in this case, both Quentins have an unacknowledged debt to the Compsons as far as Mrs. Compson is concerned.

After all this, Jason reasserts his fragile patriarchal role and asks, “Do you think I need any man’s help to stand on my feet?” And it would be even worse, he says, to accept help from his dishonorable sister Caddy.

April Eighth, 1928 Quotes

“I know you blame me,” Mrs. Compson said, “for letting them off to go to church today.”
“Go where?” Jason said. “Hasn’t that damn show left yet?”
“To church,” Mrs. Compson said. “The darkies are having a special Easter service. I promised Dilsey two weeks ago that they could get off.”
“Which means we’ll eat cold dinner,” Jason said, “or none at all.”

Related Characters: Jason Compson IV (speaker), Mrs. Compson (speaker), Dilsey Gibson
Related Symbols: Easter
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Compson opens this passage with her characteristic self-blame, projected onto Jason. She feels completely uncomfortable making a decision or asserting herself, so she reacts always as if she had no choice but to let things happen as they do. The “them” Mrs. Compson refers to is her six black servants, led to church by Dilsey for the Easter service. She goes on to call them “the darkies,” revealing a casual disregard for the people who have always kept her and her children alive.

Jason misunderstands at first, equating church with “that damn show.” He seems to feel like he is always letting the servant family go see some show or another, even though it rarely seems like they are away from the Compsons for long (and they are essentially slaves in all but technicality). Mrs. Compson says she promised Dilsey “two weeks ago that they could get off.” But in the meantime she has neither told Jason nor made plans to prepare dinner herself. As always, she is a passive observer of the family’s affairs, except when she decides to make declarations about them.

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Jason Compson IV Character Timeline in The Sound and the Fury

The timeline below shows where the character Jason Compson IV appears in The Sound and the Fury. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
April Seventh, 1928
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...carriage because Roskus, T.P.’s father and Dilsey’s husband, is paralyzed with rheumatism. Dilsey remarks that Jason should buy a new carriage, as this one is falling apart. (full context)
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Mrs. Compson asks Jason if he wants to come to the cemetery, but Jason coldly declines and then says... (full context)
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...Benjy is only three and the family has not discovered his disability yet. Quentin, Caddy, Jason, and Benjy are all playing together in the branch and being watched by Versh. Versh... (full context)
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...memory, in which the children head home from the branch. Caddy and Quentin worry that Jason will tattle to their parents about their wet clothes, and they will get whipped. The... (full context)
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...lights are on in the house. The children meet Mr. Compson at the house, and Jason immediately tattles to him about Quentin and Caddy’s wet clothes. Mr. Compson says that the... (full context)
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...earlier, but Dilsey deflects the question. Quentin presses on, asking about Damuddy’s sickness, and soon Jason is crying too. Caddy teases Jason because he cannot sleep in Damuddy’s bed anymore now... (full context)
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...circling overhead. The children worry that the buzzards will “undress” Damuddy too, and Caddy and Jason start to fight. Versh points out that Jason will be rich someday because he always... (full context)
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In that memory Jason makes fun of Caddy for her “prissy dress,” and says she is trying to be... (full context)
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...then Mr. Burgess, one of the girls’ fathers, attacks Benjy. That night Mr. Compson scolds Jason for leaving the gate open. Jason suggests that they have Benjy castrated, or else send... (full context)
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...another flower to try and cheer him up. Luster says that when Mrs. Compson dies, Jason will probably send Benjy away to the asylum in Jackson. The frustrated Luster than takes... (full context)
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...crying at her own impotence, and Caddy sends her off to bed. Then Caddy and Jason start to fight because Jason has cut up Benjy’s paper dolls. Jason cries and says... (full context)
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In the present, Benjy keeps making noise in the library, and the adult Jason comes in, angry with Benjy and Luster. He complains that he works all day and... (full context)
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Miss Quentin comes in and is still angry with Luster, and then Jason threatens her about hanging around with the man in the red tie. Miss Quentin is... (full context)
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...Quentin complains that she doesn’t like living here, as Benjy is like “a pig” and Jason is cruel to her. Jason gets angry and Miss Quentin threatens to run away. As... (full context)
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...and he remembers Mrs. Compson complaining about being sick. In the present, Miss Quentin curses Jason and leaves the table. Benjy then remembers Mr. Compson getting mad at Jason for chewing... (full context)
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...him a quarter for the show. Benjy then returns to the past, where the young Jason is wanting to sleep in Damuddy’s bed, but she is too sick. Jason starts to... (full context)
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Benjy then returns to the night Damuddy died and Caddy got her underwear dirty. Jason tattles on her again to Dilsey, and Dilsey undresses the children and puts them to... (full context)
June Second, 1910
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...losing her virginity, and Dalton Ames, and Caddy getting married to Herbert Head, who promised Jason a job at a bank and owned one of the first automobiles in town. (full context)
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Quentin then remembers his mother saying that Jason was the only child close to her, and the rest of her children had turned... (full context)
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...the memory Herbert keeps offering Quentin a cigar, and talks about how he is giving Jason a job at a bank, but Quentin brings up Herbert’s past – Herbert was expelled... (full context)
April Sixth, 1928
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This chapter is narrated by Jason Compson, and it begins on the morning of Good Friday, the day before Benjy’s section... (full context)
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Mrs. Compson cannot control Miss Quentin, but she is afraid to let Jason discipline her, as he can be cruel and easily angered. She says that Jason is... (full context)
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Miss Quentin is with Dilsey in the dining room, and Jason confronts her about skipping school. Quentin tries to argue but he grows violent and grabs... (full context)
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...protect her, but then Quentin turns her anger on Dilsey and pushes her away too. Jason goes to drive Quentin to school, and as he leaves the house Dilsey is tending... (full context)
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Jason drives Miss Quentin to school and the family’s situation becomes more clear – Caddy sends... (full context)
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Jason then goes to his work, which is as a clerk in the farm-supply store in... (full context)
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Jason opens his next letter, which is from Lorraine, a prostitute he visits in Memphis. Jason... (full context)
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Jason burns Lorraine’s letter and is then called up to the front of the store by... (full context)
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Jason is still bitter that Mr. Compson never sent him to Harvard like his brother Quentin,... (full context)
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Jason then remembers Mr. Compson taking in the baby Miss Quentin, even though Mrs. Compson had... (full context)
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Back in the present, Jason ignores his letter from Uncle Maury, as it will be asking for money, as always,... (full context)
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The next morning Caddy found Jason at his store, trying to convince him to let her see Miss Quentin, but he... (full context)
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Caddy then met with Jason again, and she relented to an arrangement where she would send money for Miss Quentin’s... (full context)
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Miss Quentin suddenly shows up at the store, asking about the letter. Jason mocks her and says the money order is only for ten dollars. He keeps bullying... (full context)
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Jason takes his dinner break, goes to the bank, and gets some blank checks that he... (full context)
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Jason goes to the telegraph office, where he learns that his stock in the cotton market... (full context)
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Mrs. Compson continues to complain about how much she suffers for her children, and Jason mostly ignores her. He then listens to Luster feeding Benjy and rants to himself about... (full context)
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Jason gives his mother the letter from Uncle Maury, which is written in flowery prose and... (full context)
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Jason goes into the back room of the store and starts mocking and tormenting Earl’s old... (full context)
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Jason is then interrupted in his chase by a telegram boy, who says that his account... (full context)
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On his drive back into town Jason is nearly run down by a Ford, and then he sees the man in the... (full context)
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Jason’s headache gets worse in the bright sun, and he follows the tire tracks of the... (full context)
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Jason goes to a nearby store and pumps up his tire and then drives back to... (full context)
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Jason arrives and finds Luster, who says that Mrs. Compson and Miss Quentin are fighting upstairs... (full context)
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Jason sits down and reads the paper, and he threatens to make Dilsey bring him his... (full context)
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...she doesn’t understand Miss Quentin, and how none of her family loved her except for Jason. Mrs. Compson says Quentin is probably studying in her room, but Jason suspects she is... (full context)
April Eighth, 1928
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It is Easter Sunday, two days after Jason’s section and one day after Benjy’s. The narrator is now a third-person voice, which begins... (full context)
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...gets everything started and breakfast made. Luster finally enters with Benjy, and he says that Jason has been accusing him of breaking his window the night before. Luster denies doing it,... (full context)
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Dilsey serves Benjy his breakfast and treats him with tenderness and sympathy. Jason comes downstairs, angry and sarcastic about his broken window. He accuses Miss Quentin, who is... (full context)
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Upstairs Dilsey calls gently for Miss Quentin, but there is no response. Jason suddenly understands what has happened and gets up from the table, violently takes the keys... (full context)
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Jason immediately rushes to a closet and takes out his strongbox, which has been forced open.... (full context)
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...she sees the ending.” The Gibsons and Benjy return to the Compson house to find Jason still gone. Mrs. Compson is in bed, still convinced that Miss Quentin has killed herself,... (full context)
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The narrative then moves to Jason, who arrives at the sheriff’s house, demanding they leave immediately and track down Miss Quentin.... (full context)
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Jason leaves the sheriff, enraged, and gasses up his car. He thinks with a kind of... (full context)
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Jason drives towards Mottson, which is where the minstrel show will be next week – Jason... (full context)
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Jason reaches Mottson and finds the minstrel show tent. He wants to ambush Miss Quentin and... (full context)
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Jason is rescued by the man who runs the minstrel show, who leads him around the... (full context)
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...T.P.’s usual course, and Benjy immediately starts howling at the strange route. At that moment Jason returns, and he runs across the town square to strike Luster. He orders him to... (full context)
Appendix: Compson: 1699-1945
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...plantation fell into disrepair and began to be mortgaged off. The appendix then moves to Jason III, the father in the novel, who sat all day with his decanter of whiskey... (full context)
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...and Faulkner dispassionately explains what happened after the novel ends – after Mrs. Compson died, Jason IV sent Benjy to the State Asylum in Jackson and then sold the Compson house... (full context)
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The librarian brought the picture to Jason, who now owned and lived in the supply store where he had worked for Earl.... (full context)
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Next comes Jason, who remained a childless bachelor and feared only Dilsey among all other things. It was... (full context)
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...was born. She actually stole almost seven thousand – not three thousand – dollars from Jason, but Jason couldn’t admit this to anyone as the extra four thousand didn’t actually belong... (full context)