The Sound and the Fury

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Easter Symbol Icon
Religious symbolism pervades the book, much of it dealing with Christ-figures and resurrection, and the strongest symbol of this is the timeline of the narrative itself – Benjy’s, Jason’s, and Dilsey’s sections take place on the days leading up to Easter and Easter itself. Benjy is the first possible Christ-figure, as he was born on Holy Saturday and is 33 years old at the time of the story, the age at which Christ was crucified. The fact that Benjy is mentally disabled may mean Faulkner is implying that Christ is now impotent or else unrecognizable in the modern world. Dilsey is another possible Christ-figure, as she represents the hope of resurrection for the Compson family – she is the only character to retain pure Southern values and her own religious faith, she has endured Christlike suffering at the hands of the Compsons, and the novel ends with her attending church on Easter Sunday. She is the one figure of hope in the dark, crumbling world of the novel.

Easter Quotes in The Sound and the Fury

The The Sound and the Fury quotes below all refer to the symbol of Easter. 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 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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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.

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Easter Symbol Timeline in The Sound and the Fury

The timeline below shows where the symbol Easter 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
Race and Class Theme Icon
...is Benjy, a mentally disabled man whose thirty-third birthday is occurring today, the day before Easter. He is with Luster, a teenaged African-American who is a servant to Benjy’s family, the... (full context)
April Eighth, 1928
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
It is Easter Sunday, two days after Jason’s section and one day after Benjy’s. The narrator is now... (full context)
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...Jason complain about having to let the servants go to church today, as it is Easter. (full context)
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
Luster, Benjy, Dilsey, and Frony walk together to the local black church for an Easter service. Many other people on the way greet Dilsey with respect, but some white people... (full context)
Words and Language Theme Icon
Race and Class Theme Icon
...a rousing sermon about the suffering and death of Jesus, and his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. Dilsey sits perfectly still during the sermon, tears rolling down her face. (full context)
Decline and Corruption Theme Icon
Sin and Sexuality Theme Icon
...headache is now so bad he can’t drive home, and no drugstores are open on Easter Sunday. He pays a black man four dollars to drive him back to Jefferson. (full context)