The Sound and the Fury

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The Sound and the Fury Quotes

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

Caddy was all wet and muddy behind, and I started to cry and she came and squatted in the water.
“Hush now.” she said. “I’m not going to run away.” So I hushed. Caddy smelled like trees in the rain.

Related Characters: Benjamin (Benjy) Compson (speaker), Candace (Caddy) Compson
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

When Benjy thinks "Caddy smelled like trees," we get one of the refrains of his narrative. Caddy, the second-born Compson child after Quentin, is the only one who can consistently comfort Benjy. Caddy loves Benjy deeply, and even in the midst of her argument with Quentin she realizes that someone needs to help Benjy cope with what he cannot understand of his surroundings. 

While playing outside, Caddy ends up "all wet and muddy behind." This imagery will also repeat itself throughout this first section, suggesting both Caddy's childhood sloppiness (she doesn't care much for the dress others want her to keep clean) and her transition into adolescence. Faulkner's male characters tend to be deeply afraid of menstruation and female sexuality in general, and as Caddy becomes sexually mature her family members increasingly associate her with dirtiness, earthiness, and lack of purity. 


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“All right.” Versh said. “You the one going to get whipped. I aint.” He went and pushed Caddy up into the tree to the first limb. We watched the muddy bottom of her drawers. Then we couldn’t see her. We could hear the tree thrashing…
“What you seeing.” Frony whispered.
I saw them. Then I saw Caddy, with flowers in her hair, and a long veil like shining wind. Caddy Caddy

Related Characters: Benjamin (Benjy) Compson (speaker), Frony Gibson (speaker), Versh Gibson (speaker), Candace (Caddy) Compson
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, already, the imagery of Caddy's "muddy bottom" finds its way into Benjy's narration. There is something voyeuristic about the others standing around watching from below while she climbs into the tree. There's little indication that Benjy feels anything but adoration for Caddy, but his oldest brother Quentin certainly has confused feelings about Caddy's emerging sexuality.

The kids are trying to spy on their grandmother Damuddy through an upstairs window, compelled by rumors that she is sick and dying. The Compton children, especially Caddy, are driven by their curiosity to find out what is happening in their chaotic home. Given the incompetence of their parents, the kids have to make their own sense of events like their grandmother's impending death.

At the end of this passage, Benjy sees Caddy again and is thrown back (or forward) into a memory of Caddy's wedding. Because both of these events happen in the past, but years apart, it can be extremely confusing to read Benjy's narrative. It is a multi-layered past, and Damuddy's death occurs well before Caddy’s wedding. But Benjy links things together through sensation and emotion, not through temporality or cause-and-effect. This allows Faulkner to link Damuddy’s funeral and Caddy’s wedding thematically: they are both, in part, signals that the Compsons’ prosperity is waning.

“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. 

Caddy and I ran. We ran up the kitchen steps, onto the porch, and Caddy knelt down in the dark and held me… “I wont.” she said. “I wont anymore, ever. Benjy. Benjy.” Then she was crying, and I cried, and we held each other. “Hush.” she said. “Hush. I wont anymore.” So I hushed and Caddy got up and we went into the kitchen and turned the light on and Caddy took the kitchen soap and washed her mouth at the sink, hard. Caddy smelled like trees.
I kept a telling you to stay away from there, Luster said. They sat up in the swing, quick. Quentin had her hands on her hair. He had a red tie.

Related Characters: Benjamin (Benjy) Compson (speaker), Candace (Caddy) Compson (speaker), Luster Gibson (speaker), Quentin Compson, The man in the red tie
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Once again, an occurrence in the novel's present (April 1928) sends Benjy spiraling into a memory. Benjy is trapped inside himself, still mourning his loss of Caddy all these years later but unable to vocalize any of his sadness or anxiety. In this memory, Benjy sees Caddy on the swing kissing a boyfriend, and he panics. After the boyfriend, Charlie, becomes angry at Benjy, Caddy chooses her brother over her boyfriend and runs away with Benjy to comfort him.

Because nearly everyone else is ineffective at comforting Benjy, Caddy is left to do too much of it. What might be seen as a “normal” developmental phenomenon— her first kiss on the swing outside their house— is interrupted by Benjy, who can only understand the kiss as another sign that Caddy is planning to run away. After comforting him, Caddy washes her mouth “hard” with soap. She has internalized much of the shame her family forces upon her, and wants to wash away her sin against the Compson honor.

Once she does this, Caddy once again smells like trees in Benjy’s mind; this tells us that Benjy has returned to a relative stability within himself. At the end of the passage, we return to the present, where Benjy has interrupted Miss Quentin (Caddy’s daughter) kissing someone (the man with the red tie) on the same swing.

“Candace.” Mother said. “I told you not to call him that. It was bad enough when your father insisted on calling you by that silly nickname, and I will not have him called by one. Nicknames are vulgar. Only common people use them. Benjamin.” she said.

Related Characters: Mrs. Compson (speaker), Benjamin (Benjy) Compson, Candace (Caddy) Compson
Page Number: 63-64
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Compson is very sensitive to the names used for her children, and sees some connection between using full names and achieving the elevated status she seeks. This seems like a petty, desperate attempt to avoid all the “vulgar” realities of her family, and it is characteristic of Mrs. Compson that she worries about names while failing to take care of her children in any real way.

And, yet, this deep concern with names also makes sense within Faulkner’s novel. We learn that Benjy’s name was changed from Maury (like his uncle) to Benjamin when his parents discovered his disability. These characters feel pressing emotional connections with, and superstitions about, their names. In their eyes, calling the disabled child “Maury” would dishonor Mrs. Compson’s brother Maury. And calling Benjamin “Benjy” would, according to Mrs. Compson, lower their family to “common people” status.

At this point, it is also worthwhile to note how much doubling of names we see in this novel. The young Jason is named after his father Jason; Benjy is originally named Maury after his uncle; Caddy’s daughter Quentin is named after her dead brother Quentin. This makes the book more confusing to read, but also suggests important connections between different characters that are worth further consideration.

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.”

I went to the dresser and took up my watch, with the face still down. I tapped the crystal on the corner of the dresser and caught the fragments of glass in my hand and put them into the ashtray and twisted the hands off and put them in the tray. The watch ticked on.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker)
Related Symbols: Quentin’s Watch
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

In a foreshadowing of his suicide to come, Quentin takes his first step toward ending time (at least as he knows it). Tortured by his watch and its always-ticking insistence on the passing of time, Quentin tries to destroy it. But even once he removes its parts the watch continues to tick; as Quentin has learned, there is nothing he can do to stop either the forward progress of time or the backward pull of his painful memories.

Quentin’s narration never seems to build up to big moments like this. It gives little warning that something important is about to happen, and we only find out later that a passage like this one was actually full of significance. Everything is downplayed, and this passage reads as if breaking his watch were something Quentin does every day as part of his routine. Even as he prepares to take his own life, Quentin is obsessively neat, placing the glass and the watch hands nicely in the ashtray. He seems to want things to end without much disturbance for anyone else, but we already know from Benjy’s section that Quentin’s death will wreak havoc on the Compson family.

That was when I realised that a nigger is not a person so much as a form of behavior; a sort of obverse reflection of the white people he lives among. But I thought at first that I ought to miss having a lot of them around me because I thought that Northerners thought I did, but I didn’t know that I really had missed Roskus and Dilsey and them until that morning in Virginia.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Dilsey Gibson, Roskus Gibson
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

For much of this section as it builds toward Quentin’s suicide, always hinted at but never explicitly narrated, Quentin is an observer of the things around him. He seems removed from everything, and interacts with other people only when he has to. He is, as we might say now, stuck in his own head.

In this reflection, Quentin remembers when he came north to Harvard and began to see black people (or at least the racist conception of them) as a “form of behavior.” His move north from Mississippi to Massachusetts is significant, given that it happened in the early twentieth century when the South was still reeling from its defeat in the Civil War and under the influence of reactionary and often violent racism. Quentin, having grown up with black people like Roskus and Dilsey as his family’s servants, has to reconcile his southern past with his northern present upon his arrival at Harvard. He does so by deciding that the difference between white and black people lies not in their personhood but in their varying forms of behavior.

Quentin decides to take people for what they are, but reverts to categorizing black people as an “obverse reflection of the white people he lives among.” This is no more humanizing than the alternative— the racism he grew up immersed in— but demonstrates at least that Quentin is attempting to think through his past and his present.

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.

Listen no good taking it so hard its not your fault kid it would have been some other fellow
Did you ever have a sister did you
No but theyre all bitches
I hit him my open hand beat the impulse to shut it to his face his hand moved as fast as mine the cigarette went over the rail I swung the other hand he caught it too before the cigarette reached the water he held both my wrists in the same hand

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Dalton Ames (speaker)
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

Quentin confronts Dalton Ames, a man at least a few years older than him who has presumably impregnated Caddy. Dalton condescends to Quentin, calling him “kid” and saying it’s not Quentin’s fault. But Dalton drastically underestimates the amount of emotional importance this situation has for Quentin, unaware that Quentin fixates obsessively on Caddy’s virginity (to the point of threatening to kill Dalton earlier in the passage).

When Quentin says “Did you ever have a sister did you,” he gives Dalton one last chance to realize the harm he has done to Quentin’s sense of honor. Dalton replies, “No but theyre all bitches,” and Quentin tries to hit Dalton. But Dalton is much stronger than Quentin, grabbing both of Quentin’s hands with just one of his. Although Quentin holds such a deep conviction that he must protect Caddy from sexual advances, he is physically much weaker than her suitors and finds himself unable to do much of anything. His inability to enforce his internal rule system on the outside world may be part of what makes this memory so disturbing to Quentin.

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.

“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 can say nonsense,” Mother says. “But she must never know. She must never even learn that name. Dilsey, I forbid you ever to speak that name in her hearing. If she could grow up never to know that she had a mother, I would thank God.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Compson (speaker), Candace (Caddy) Compson, Ms. Quentin Compson, Dilsey Gibson
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

Always conjuring up things to worry about besides the more pressing issues right in front of her, Mrs. Compson seeks to prevent Quentin from ever learning her mother’s name. Mrs. Compson even dreams of her granddaughter growing up “never to know that she had a mother.”

Dilsey is in a precarious position, knowing that Mrs. Compson’s wish for Quentin is absurd but also that she cannot easily disobey her. The amount of shame in the Compson family about Caddy’s illegitimate child is somewhat shocking, as it threatens to tear the family apart once again. Mrs. Compson does little of practical note to help her family-- she even burns what she thinks are checks from Caddy-- but instead mostly stays inside her room and dreads whatever might happen next. This passage also once again emphasizes the importance of names, particularly for the character of Mrs. Compson.

“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.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep on bringin him to church, mammy,” Frony said. “Folks talkin.”
“Whut folks?” Dilsey said.
“I hears em,” Frony said.
“And I knows whut kind of folks,” Dilsey said. “Trash white folks. Dat’s who it is. Thinks he aint good enough fer white church, but nigger church aint good enough fer him.”
“Dey talks, jes de same,” Frony said.
“Den you send um to me,” Dilsey said. “Tell um de good Lawd don’t keer whether he bright er not. Don’t nobody but white trash keer dat.”

Related Characters: Dilsey Gibson (speaker), Frony Gibson (speaker), Benjamin (Benjy) Compson
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:

Unlike her mother Dilsey, Frony is concerned with other people around town and what they might think of the Compsons and their servant family. When Frony says “bringing him to church” she refers to Benjy, whom Dilsey insists on bringing with them. Dilsey remarks on Benjy’s in-between status in the eyes of the white townspeople: not good enough for white church, but too good for black church.

Dilsey dismisses the gossipers as “trash white folks,” and her willingness to defend Benjy at any cost makes her his Christ figure as they head to Easter service. Benjy cannot offer Dilsey anything besides love, but still she does anything she can to keep people from forgetting him, the man-child Jason wants to have sent off to the asylum.

In the midst of the voices and the hands Ben sat, rapt in his sweet blue gaze. Dilsey sat bolt upright beside, crying rigidly and quietly in the annealment and the blood of the remembered Lamb.
As they walked through the bright noon, up the sandy road with the dispersing congregation talking easily again group to group, she continued to weep, unmindful of the talk…
“Whyn’t you quit dat, mammy?” Frony said. “Wid dese people looking. We be passin white folks soon.”
“I’ve seed de first en de last,” Dilsey said. “Never you mind me.”
“First en last whut?” Frony said.
“Never you mind,” Dilsey said. “I seed de beginnin, en now I sees de endin.”

Related Characters: Dilsey Gibson (speaker), Frony Gibson (speaker), Benjamin (Benjy) Compson
Related Symbols: Easter
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

In a rare reversal, Benjy is alert and watching while Dilsey cries. The Easter service has moved Dilsey deeply, and when Frony pushes Dilsey after church to explain why she is crying Dilsey explains, “I’ve seed de first en de last.” Using the same language he always uses for these black characters, Faulkner reveals deeper truths about Dilsey’s connection to the Compson family and to their overall history.

Even though she has always been a servant to the family, she has a real connection to them. Dilsey is perhaps the one character who sees “de first”— the period of relative happiness when the Compson kids were all children— and “de last”— the Compson family as it stands now after all its tragedies — and can be a relatively objective observer, accepting the sweep of time in a way Quentin or Jason cannot. In the Christian tradition, Easter encompasses an ending and a beginning; first Christ dies, then he goes to heaven to begin his eternal reign. The Easter service inspires Dilsey to consider the Compson’s family history as a whole, and she realizes that there may be no Christ-like rebirth for the Compsons. At the same time, Dilsey herself has been a sort of Christ figure throughout the novel, bearing all of her duties with humility and respect, rarely faltering — and now, ironically, she is the only real hope for a "resurrection" of the Compsons, and figures like Dilsey are the only real hope for a resurrection of the South itself.

“Fiddlesticks,” Mrs. Compson said. “It’s in the blood. Like uncle, like niece. Or mother. I don’t know which would be worse. I don’t seem to care.”

“Whut you keep on talkin that way fur?” Dilsey said. “Whut she want to do anything like that fur?”
“I don’t know. What reason did Quentin have? Under God’s heaven what reason did he have? It cant be simply to flout and hurt me. Whoever God is, He would not permit that. I’m a lady. You might not believe that from my offspring, but I am.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Compson (speaker), Dilsey Gibson (speaker), Quentin Compson, Candace (Caddy) Compson, Ms. Quentin Compson, Maury Bascomb
Page Number: 299-300
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Compson is once again absorbed in her compulsive reflection on her family and whatever curse might have befallen them, leading them to such a state of ruin. As in many of Faulkner’s works, as Mrs. Compson tells it here, misfortune is “in the blood.” She lost her son Quentin to suicide, and now loses her granddaughter Quentin to what she fears might be something similar. (And in a cruel aside, she also suggests that Ms. Quentin turning out like her mother would be just as bad as killing herself like her uncle.)

Dilsey is quick to correct her— “Whut she want to do anything like that fur?”— but Mrs. Compson won’t be comforted. She laments Quentin’s suicide, wondering what reason he could have had to do such a thing. But her sadness is buried once again in self-absorption, class concerns (“I’m a lady”), and abstractions about the final cause of her misfortune (“Whoever God is, He would not permit that”). Once again, Faulkner’s doubled usage of the name Quentin allows for potent connections to be made between the two characters, even though the brother Quentin was so disturbed by the child-to-be Quentin.

Ben’s voice roared and roared. Queenie moved again, her feet began to clop-clop steadily again, and at once Ben hushed. Luster looked quickly back over his shoulder, then he drove on. The broken flower drooped over Ben’s fist and his eyes were empty and blue and serene again as cornice and façade flowed smoothly once more from left to right, post and tree, window and doorway and signboard each in its ordered place.

Related Characters: Benjamin (Benjy) Compson, Luster Gibson
Page Number: 320-321
Explanation and Analysis:

In this final passage of the book, Luster drives the Compsons' coach with Benjy aboard and the horse Queenie leading the way. Luster, not the usual driver of the coach, deviates from the usual course, and Benjy immediately grows very upset. Jason then rushes up and strikes both Luster and Benjy, ordering them home. This scene is hectic, with Faulkner's brusque sentences introducing a number of different characters each doing different things, in rapid succession.

In the final few sentences, as Luster corrects his course, Benjy immediately stops crying and seems to derive some comfort from his surroundings. Everything is "in its ordered place," and even if things are falling apart they are familiar. 

This seems like a strange ending to the book, as Faulkner's narration zooms out to give a wider view of all the characters at once. In fact, the entire fourth section of the book (most often thought of as Dilsey's section) has this zooming-out effect after the intense internality of the first three sections. As their wagon whips around the Confederate statue, Faulkner situates the Compson family once again in their town, their country, and their collective history. Things go on, the novel seems to say, even if they go on to fall apart. 

Appendix Quotes

LUSTER. A man, aged 14. Who was not only capable of the complete care and security of an idiot twice his age and three times his size, but could keep him entertained.

They endured.

Related Characters: Dilsey Gibson, Luster Gibson
Page Number: 343
Explanation and Analysis:

In this appendix, added by Faulkner before a reprint of his novel was released, Faulkner clarifies some of the connections between different characters and clears away ambiguities. People seem torn on whether or not they like the appendix, and some would say that ambiguities like whether or not Quentin truly committed incest with Caddy are part of what makes Faulkner's novel great.

Nonetheless, the appendix appeared and this is the very end of it. Faulkner has gone through the Compson family's history, and arrives at the servant family, the Gibsons. Their descriptions are much shorter, and we might connect this with their place in the novel: they speak less often and take up less space than the Compsons, but have vital roles in keeping the family alive. 

Even if he wasn't committed to racial equality, Faulkner admires his black characters, and this admiration shows up more clearly here than anywhere else in the novel. Luster's role in caring for and entertaining Benjy is noted with some amazement, and he is confidently declared "a man" at the age of 14. And Dilsey is introduced with a simple phrase: "They endured." She is once again presented as the most admirable character in the book (her lack of description perhaps suggesting a kind of awe), and this is what Dilsey enables the Compson family to do, despite all its troubles: endure. 

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