The Sound and the Fury

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Sound and the Fury, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Faulkner deals with the concept of time in a unique way in The Sound and the Fury. Benjy, the book’s first narrator, is mentally disabled and completely lacks a sense of time. Faulkner creates the sensation of Benjy’s perceptions by shifting the narrative years backwards or forwards mid-paragraph, as certain words and sensations remind Benjy of past experiences. This allows Faulkner to make surprising and poignant connections between past and present events. Quentin

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One of the overarching themes of the book is the decline of the Compson family, which also acts as a symbol of the decline of the South itself. The family was once a model of the wealthy, slave-owning Southern aristocracy before the Civil War. By the time of the novel, however, the Compsons have lost most of their wealth and land, despite their feeble attempts to halt their downward spiral. They sell off most of…

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Faulkner’s innovative and often confusing language is the most unique part of The Sound and the Fury. Each section of the book is told in a different narrative style, where the writing itself blends with the themes and stories it describes: Benjy’s section is muddled and subjective, while Jason’s is clear but brutal. The winding sentences and stream-of-consciousness style mirror the struggles of the narrators as they try to make sense of…

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For a traditional Southern lady, sexuality is associated with sin and virginity with innocence, but Caddy tramples on “Southern chastity” by becoming sexually active at an early age. The association of sexuality with sin and “uncleanness” is symbolically foreshadowed by Caddy’s dirty underwear as a child. Though sexuality is a personal subject and not inherently sinful – except in this traditional Southern worldview – all of Caddy’s brothers become obsessed with Caddy’s promiscuity. Quentin’s…

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The setting of The Sound and the Fury is Mississippi in the early 1900s, when slavery was still a recent memory, and the Compson family has black live-in servants who are basically slaves in all but technicality. Slavery ended with the Civil War in the 1860s, but African-Americans remained as second-class citizens. Most of the policies of reparations and equal rights failed, which left the wealthy, slave-owning aristocracy broken but the former slaves themselves not…

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