Faulkner added this appendix years later, but intended it to be part of The Sound and the Fury. It is a lyrical history of Jefferson and the Compson family. The section begins with Ikkemotubbe, a Chickasaw chief who gave up the square of land that would later become Jefferson, Mississippi. Next is a description of Andrew Jackson, who sent all the Native Americans on the “Trail of Tears” to Oklahoma.
Faulkner said that the appendix (which he wrote sixteen years after the novel) held the “key” to the book, and he intended it to be published alongside The Sound and the Fury. At the same time the appendix stands apart from the novel, and there is critical dispute over whether it should be considered a “Fifth Part” or taken on its own.
The list then continues with a brief listing of Compsons. Quentin MacLachan Compson, a Scottish soldier who fled to Daniel Boone’s Kentucky, and Charles Stuart Compson, a schoolteacher who was part of a plot to secede Mississippi from the Union and join it to Spain. He later fled the country.
Even with a historical appendix “explaining” everything, Faulkner still uses a convoluted structure and confusing (but beautiful) language. Quentin MacLachlan was the first Compson to come to America.
Next came Jason Lycurgus Compson, who raced horses against Ikkemotubbe and so won the land that would become Jefferson from him. He then built the huge plantation that became the “Compson Domain.” One of his descendants, another Quentin MacLachan, became governor of Mississippi, and another, Jason Lycurgus II, became a Confederate general in the Civil War.
These are the glorious Compsons that made the family so famous and (later) arrogant. The family names are repeated over and over as the Compsons try to recreate their past, but the last Jason and Quentin are tragically different from their noble ancestors.
After the war the Compson land began to be “nibbled” away by other families and Northerners. The Compson 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 and read Greek and Roman literature. He sold the majority of the Compson property to the golf club to pay for Caddy’s lavish wedding and Quentin’s Harvard tuition.
The appendix now moves into the time period of the novel itself, offering some explanation and clarifying facts that were obscured in the text. The Compson land of the novel is already seriously diminished, and Benjy’s pasture is the last piece except for the house and the servants’ cabin.
The land became known as the “Old Compson place” then, 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 to someone who used it as a boardinghouse.
Despite the symbolic possibility of resurrection at the end of the novel, in the appendix Faulkner totally crushes any hope for a renewal of the Compson line. Benjy is simply sent away, and Jason gives up his heritage for money.
The list continues with the characters of the novel: Quentin III, who was obsessed with the concept of Compson honor as symbolized by his sister Caddy’s virginity, and who drowned himself in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He waited until the academic year was over to commit suicide because the family had sold Benjy’s pasture to pay for his tuition.
Faulkner clarifies Quentin’s desperate musings and offers a more objective explanation of his suicide than Quentin himself could give. Quentin probably didn’t want to waste the sale of the pasture for Caddy’s sake, not Benjy’s.
Next comes Candace (Caddy), who married Herbert Head and was divorced after a year, then married a man in California for five years, and then disappeared in Paris during World War II. She remained beautiful and youthful-looking, and was never seen again except for one instance – a librarian in Jefferson who had gone to school with Caddy saw a picture of her in a magazine, looking beautiful and elegant in a sportscar with a German staff general.
This is where the appendix moves past the novel and reveals some of the characters’ later fates. Though she was disowned and disgraced in Jefferson, Caddy seems to have had a successful (or at least interesting) life outside of Mississippi, though there is a hint of danger in the fact that she ended up with a German officer, as the Germans were clearly the bad guys of World War 2, to put it mildly.
The librarian brought the picture to Jason, who now owned and lived in the supply store where he had worked for Earl. She showed him the picture, saying they had to “save” Caddy. At first Jason admitted it was indeed Caddy, but when he realized the librarian actually cared about Caddy’s welfare, he pretended that it wasn’t her in the picture.
Jason is still as small-minded and bitter as ever, still begrudging Caddy that lost bank job of years before. Caddy was apparently not wholly disgraced in the town, as the librarian works so hard to help her.
The librarian next went all the way to Memphis, where she found Dilsey’s house. Frony met her at the door and brought her inside, where Dilsey sat beside a fire (even though it was summer), very old and mostly blind. The librarian repeated her plea to help save Caddy, but Dilsey only said she couldn’t see the picture, and handed the magazine back to the librarian. The librarian took the train back home, crying, but then realized that the reason Dilsey didn’t want to “save” Caddy was because there was nothing in Jefferson to save her for, and she was probably better off wherever she was now.
Dilsey also managed to escape the Compsons, though technically she was fired by Jason after Mrs. Compson died. Dilsey again shows her wisdom and comprehensive view of the family through only a few words of dialogue (like “the beginning and the ending”). She knows that there is nothing left in Jefferson for Caddy, and finally even the librarian understands that – the Compsons are truly finished.
Next comes Jason, who remained a childless bachelor and feared only Dilsey among all other things. It was Jason who secretly made himself Benjy’s guardian and had him castrated after Benjy attacked the schoolgirl. After Mrs. Compson died in 1933, Jason sold the house and moved to into an office above the farm supply store, where on weekends his lady “friend from Memphis” would visit. Jason would say that in 1933 he “freed the Compsons from the niggers.”
Lorraine, the prostitute Jason visited in Memphis, becomes Jason’s only companion, so the Compson name ends with him. In typical Jason hypocrisy, he lives in unmarried “sin” while still hating Caddy and Miss Quentin for their promiscuity. Jason “freeing” the Compsons from the Gibsons really means the total end of the Compson family.
Next is Benjamin, who was born as Maury, named after Uncle Maury who borrowed money from everyone – including Dilsey, once, saying she was “a born lady.” Mrs. Compson then renamed the child Benjamin after she discovered his disability. Benjy only loved three things in his life – his pasture, Caddy, and the sight of fire. Benjy perceived time in a strange way, and so remembered only Caddy’s loss, not Caddy herself, and when he was committed he remembered only the loss of firelight and his pasture.
Maury remains almost a comedic figure in his perpetual freeloading. Faulkner basically summarizes Benjy’s long, opaque section with this small biography. Benjy loses all three things that he loves by the end of his life.
The last Compson is Miss Quentin, Caddy’s daughter, who was “doomed to be unwed” from the moment she 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 to him. This made Jason live in constant rage, as he couldn’t even pursue Miss Quentin in case she revealed his own thievery. Miss Quentin disappeared with the man in the red tie – who was already wanted for bigamy – and never reappeared in any glamorous snapshots.
Even in his own narration Jason would not admit how much money he (and then Miss Quentin) had stolen. Miss Quentin, the last Compson, does not have such a hopeful escape as her mother – the man in the red tie is no romantic savior, but a womanizer who probably cares nothing for Quentin. Even Faulkner himself seems to know nothing of her fate.
Last Faulkner briefly describes the Gibson family: TP and Frony, who moved to Memphis, and Luster, who at only 14 was able to fully care for the mentally disabled Benjy. There is only one line about Dilsey: “They endured.”
As in the novel itself, Faulkner ends with Dilsey, but instead of hope for resurrection he emphasizes her long suffering and endurance. He also casts Luster in more admirable terms. The Gibsons do not get such an extensive biography as the Compsons, but theirs is certainly more favorable.