The Sound and the Fury

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Jason Compson III, the father of the family, a cynical, philosophical man who spends all day drinking whiskey and reading Greek and Roman literature instead of caring for his children or working. Mr. Compson instills the importance of the family honor into Quentin, but in practice he seems to ignore it, saying that Caddy’s virginity is a meaningless concept.

Mr. Compson Quotes in The Sound and the Fury

The The Sound and the Fury quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Compson or refer to Mr. Compson. 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 Seventh, 1928 Quotes

“It’s no joke.” Mother said. “My people are every bit as well born as yours. Just because Maury’s health is bad.”
“Of course.” Father said. “Bad health is the primary reason for all life. Created by disease, within putrefaction, into decay. Versh.”
“Sir.” Versh said behind my chair.
“Take the decanter and fill it.”

Related Characters: Benjamin (Benjy) Compson (speaker), Mr. Compson (speaker), Mrs. Compson (speaker), Versh Gibson (speaker), Maury Bascomb
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage provides a glimpse into how each of the Compson parents tends to function throughout the novel. Mrs. Compson is extremely anxious, and when she enters the novel she is almost always brooding over her family's troubles. Mr. Compson, on the other hand, is aloof. He makes huge philosophical pronouncements-- like "Bad health is the primary reason for all life"-- and drinks heavily. He demonstrates a certain level of caring for his children, but does little to engage with them in a deeper way. 

In this scene, Mrs. Compson scolds her husband through tears for a joke he has just made about her brother, Maury. She often worries that the Compson bloodline is cursed, wondering if she should have stayed in her "well born" family and avoided all the tragedy that seems to follow the Compsons around. 

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Caddy came to the door and stood there, looking at Father and Mother. Her eyes flew at me, and away. I began to cry. It went loud and I got up. Caddy came in and stood with her back to the wall, looking at me. I went toward her, crying, and she shrank against the wall and I saw her eyes and I cried louder and pulled at her dress. She put her hands out but I pulled at her dress. Her eyes ran.

Related Characters: Benjamin (Benjy) Compson (speaker), Candace (Caddy) Compson, Mr. Compson, Mrs. Compson
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:

Even though Benjy is in some ways less aware of the things happening around him, he seems to intuit the emotional states of other characters, especially Caddy, very well. She returns home after presumably having sex for the first time, and the sense of shame emanating from Caddy is tangible. Once again Benjy and Caddy run away together, but this time they stay inside the house. When they are kids, the Compsons are almost always outside; but now, slightly older, they stay more often within the walls of their home.

It’s not exactly clear in this passage whether Caddy is comforting Benjy or vice versa. Benjy’s crying grows louder when he sees Caddy’s eyes, meaning he understands her shame and sadness on an emotional level, if not cognitively. Benjy understands everything, even his own crying, as something happening outside of himself. Here, for example, he understands his crying in this way: “It went loud and I got up.” Benjy knows he is crying, but does not seem to connect his crying to whatever noise is growing louder around him.

In passages like this one, Faulkner uses Benjy’s perceptual uniqueness to introduce events, like Caddy’s first sexual experience, that will end up central to the rest of the novel. By giving us our first glimpse of these events through Benjy’s eyes, Faulkner avoids traditional cause-and-effect narration and makes things like sexuality and sibling interaction strange and mysterious once again.

June Second, 1910 Quotes

When the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtains it was between seven and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire… I give it to you not that may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Mr. Compson (speaker), Mr. Compson
Related Symbols: Quentin’s Watch, Shadows
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we switch abruptly from Benjy’s section to Quentin’s, hoping for more clarity but not finding it. The style changes noticeably, from Benjy’s scattered narration to Quentin’s much more analytical but still very scattered section. Like Benjy, Quentin finds himself thrown from the present back into the past, with all its painful memories.

At the very start of Quentin’s section, its two major themes are present: shadows and time. Quentin is disturbed by the shadows following him and everyone else around all the time. He is also tortured by time, embodied in the watch given to him by his father, along with one of Mr. Compson’s characteristically vast philosophical pronouncements: “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…”

Hearing the watch Quentin is “in time again” and cannot escape it. Though Mr. Compson gives Quentin the watch in the hope that he might “forget it now and then for a moment,” it clearly has the opposite effect.

In the South you are ashamed of being a virgin. Boys. Men. They lie about it. Because it means less to women, Father said. He said it was men invented virginity not women… and I said, Why couldn’t it have been me and not her who is unvirgin and he said, That’s why that’s sad too; nothing is even worth the changing of it, and Shreve said if he’s got better sense than to chase after the dirty little sluts and I said Did you ever have a sister? Did you? Did you?

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Mr. Compson (speaker), Shreve (speaker), Candace (Caddy) Compson
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout his section of the novel, Quentin is obsessively drawn back to things his father has told him about the world. In this example, Quentin remembers a dialogue with his father about his virginity and Caddy’s lack thereof. Even though Mr. Compson’s statements can seem absurdly broad, it often seems like his ideas might be closely aligned with Faulkner’s. In other words, because they offer the most lucid abstractions about the world that this novel has to offer, Mr. Compson’s monologues might be the place where Faulkner expresses something similar to his view of the world.

Even though this passage contains dialogue, it is effectively monologic. Mr. Compson identifies a phenomenon— boys and men being ashamed of their virginity in the South— and goes on to explain it. He says “it was men who invented virginity,” and so men are more worried about it than women.

In the most interesting part of this discussion, Mr. Compson says “nothing is even worth the changing of it.” This suggestion that even the saddest and most painful things fade away over time and aren’t worth changing betrays a deeply cynical view of the world, one that will be echoed in Quentin’s despair that nothing seems to be heavy enough to weigh him down, keeping him grounded in life. At the end of this passage, Quentin’s mind jumps to another memory of a discussion with his roommate Shreve, one example of many where Quentin becomes angry at another man suggesting that his sister (Caddy) might be something like a “dirty little slut.”

Got to marry somebody
Have there been very many Caddy
I don’t know too many will you look after Benjy and Father
You don’t know whose it is then does he know
Don’t touch me will you look after Benjy and Father

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Candace (Caddy) Compson (speaker), Benjamin (Benjy) Compson, Mr. Compson
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

Some of the more emotionally powerful passages in Quentin’s section are those in which Faulkner leaves traditional sentence structure behind and allows words and phrases to flood the page. This is one of them. Quentin is hit so quickly and fiercely with memories of a conversation with Caddy about her lost virginity that the narrative has no time for grammar or punctuation.

Caddy has seemingly decided to marry Herbert, one of her suitors, and knows her departure could be somewhat final— this is why she asks “will you look after Benjy and Father.” But Quentin is more worried about who Caddy has had sex with. First he asks “Have there been very many,” and we know Quentin is tortured by his belief that he should have stopped his younger sister from having sex with anyone at all. Then he says “You don’t know whose it is then does he know,” hinting at an unborn child belonging to someone besides Herbert. When Caddy says “Don’t touch me,” we start to imagine a very heated conversation, with Quentin grabbing Caddy and Caddy trying to pull away.

April Sixth, 1928 Quotes

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.

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Mr. Compson Character Timeline in The Sound and the Fury

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Compson appears in The Sound and the Fury. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
April Seventh, 1928
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...the Compsons’ carriage to go visit the graves of Quentin – Benjy’s brother – and Mr. Compson . T.P., another of Dilsey’s sons, must drive the carriage because Roskus, T.P.’s father and... (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
...company for dinner, because all the 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.... (full context)
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Mr. Compson warns the children to “mind Dilsey,” but Caddy insists that they listen to her as... (full context)
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
...with Mr. Patterson. Mrs. Compson argues that her family is just as well born as Mr. Compson ’s, so he shouldn’t mock Maury or begrudge him his money and food. Mr. Compson... (full context)
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
...she screams, and 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... (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
...into at school, when another boy threatened to put a frog in a girl’s desk. Mr. Compson approves of Quentin, but gets angry at Jason for crying over something else. (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
...sick. In the present, Miss Quentin curses Jason and leaves the table. Benjy then remembers Mr. Compson getting mad at Jason for chewing paper while Quentin is studying. (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
...them to bed. She complains that she doesn’t have time to bathe Caddy before bed. Mr. Compson comes in and Caddy asks him if Mrs. Compson is sick, but he says she... (full context)
June Second, 1910
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
...to when they needed her. His memories keep returning to the smell of honeysuckle, and Mr. Compson talking about virginity and women’s “affinity for evil.” (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
...only Jason was more Bascomb (her family) than Compson, and how she once argued with Mr. Compson and begged to be allowed to leave and take Jason with her. (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
Quentin thinks again about virginity, and about Mr. Compson saying that Quentin was only upset with Caddy because he himself was a virgin. Quentin... (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
...vain. She was also worried about Benjy being sent to the asylum in Jackson when Mr. Compson dies. (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
...of telling his father that he had committed incest with Caddy, and he remembers how Mr. Compson did not believe him. Mr. Compson told him that Quentin’s despair over Caddy would soon... (full context)
April Sixth, 1928
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Jason is still bitter that Mr. Compson never sent him to Harvard like his brother Quentin, and Jason remembers when his father... (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Jason then remembers Mr. Compson taking in the baby Miss Quentin, even though Mrs. Compson had disowned Caddy. In the... (full context)
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
...to the next letter from Caddy. He then shifts into a memory of the day Mr. Compson was buried, when Jason encountered Caddy after their mother had gone home. Caddy offered to... (full context)
Appendix: Compson: 1699-1945
Time, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
...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)