The Composition of The Sound and the Fury
Michael Millgate *


    Perhaps the single most arresting fact about the manuscript of The Sound and the Fury is that the first page bears the undeleted title "Twilight."1 Clearly the title was no more than tentative: it may, indeed, have been the title of the original short story from which the novel grew, and it is worth noting in this respect its closeness to "That Evening Sun Go Down," the quotation from W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" used as the title of another story of the Compson children on its first publication. But it is interesting to speculate whether the title was intended to apply to the one section or to the work as a whole and on its possible breadth of reference in either case. As a title for the first section alone, "Twilight" would presumably refer to the half-world of Benjy himself, held in a state of timeless suspension between the light and the dark, comprehension and incomprehension, between the human and the animal. As a title for the whole book, the word immediately suggests the decay of the Compson family caught at the moment when the dimmed glory of its eminent past is about to fade into ultimate extinction. 
    In Quentin's section, in particular, twilight, as a condition of light and a moment in time takes on very considerable importance. In his most agonising recollections of Caddy, he sees her at twilight, sitting in the cleansing waters of the branch and surrounded by the scent of honeysuckle, and these three elements of the scene—the twilight, the water and the honeysuckle—take on an obsessive significance for Quentin himself and operate as recurrent symbols throughout this section of the novel. As water is associated with cleansing, redemption, peace and death and the honeysuckle with warm Southern nights and Caddy's passionate sexuality, so twilight, "that quality of light as if time really had stopped for a while," becomes inextricably confused in Quentin's mind with the scents of water and of honeysuckle until "the whole thing came to symbolise night and unrest." Quentin continues: 

             I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of grey halflight where 
             all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking 
             visible form antic and perverse mocking without relevance inherent themselves with the denial of the 
             significance they should have affirmed thinking I was I was not who was not was not who. 2 

This passage would seem to be central to the meaning both of the particular section and of the book as a whole. There has just been a momentary anticipation of Quentin's carefully planned final release through death by water—travelling back into Cambridge he becomes aware of "the road going on under the twilight, into twilight and the sense of water peaceful and swift beyond"—and we realise that Quentin himself is at this moment not merely mid-way between sanity and madness but precisely poised between waking and sleeping, between life and death.3 His world has become in fact "shadowy paradoxical" we have just seen his actual fight with Gerald Bland overlaid in his consciousness by his remembered fight with Dalton Ames and, for all the apparent orderliness of his actions, he has finally lost his sense of personal identity ("thinking I was I was not who was not was not who"). The passage, in this respect, seems also to relate directly to the passage in Macbeth from which Faulkner took his final title for the book, and specifically to its descriptions of life as "a walking shadow," a tale "signifying nothing." 
    The phrase about "all stable things" becoming "shadowy paradoxical" aptly defines the hallucinatory world of the Quentin section, but it is also relevant to the treatment of "fact," of "truth," throughout the novel. Like Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury is in part concerned with the elusiveness, the multivalence, of truth, or at least with man's persistent and perhaps necessary tendency to make of truth a personal thing: each man, apprehending some fragment of the truth, seizes upon that fragment as though it were the whole truth and elaborates it into a total vision of the world, rigidly exclusive and hence utterly fallacious. This forms an essential part of the conception which Faulkner dramatised through the interior monologues of the first three sections of The Sound and the Fury, and the novel might thus be considered as in some sense a development, much richer than anything of which Anderson himself was capable, of the "theory of the grotesque" propounded at the beginning of Winesburg, Ohio:   

    The old man has listed hundreds of the truths in his book. . . . There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful. 
    And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them. 
    It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood. 4  
    Faulkner admired Winesburg, Ohio, and there is a discernible similarity between Anderson's conception of Winesburg and Faulkner's creation of Jefferson, the town which he had begun somewhat painstakingly to lay out in Sartoris and which in The Sound and the Fury is for the first time integrated into the structure and action of the novel. In 1925 Faulkner especially praised Winesburg, Ohio for its "ground of fecund earth and corn in the green spring and the slow, full hot summer and the rigorous masculine winter that hurts it not, but makes it stronger";5 he praised it, that is to say, for just that recurrent evocation of the land and the moving seasons which he himself achieved in Soldiers' Pay and Sartoris and which is also present, though less persistently and much less obviously, in The Sound and the Fury. Some of the time levels in the Benjy section can be identified by their allusions to the cold, the rain, and so on, while Quentin, in his section, is intensely aware, with the heightened sensitivity of a man about to die, of the countryside through which he walks:    In the orchard the bees sounded like a wind getting up, a sound caught by a spell just under crescendo and sustained. The lane went along the wall, arched over, shattered with bloom, dissolving into trees. Sunlight slanted into it, sparse and eager. Yellow butterflies flickered along the shade like flecks of sun. (p. 151)  Jason, as might be expected, shows no such sensitivity, but in the final section both the settings of the action and the changing weather of that particular day are very precisely described, and throughout the novel such evocations of place, of climate, of seasonal change are among the many elements which anchor action and meaning firmly to the human level. 
    The notation of manners in the novel is not especially rich, nor is any particular attention given to the detailed creation of scene and setting, but in the third and fourth sections, at least, there exists a sense of a social and physical environment that is more than adequate to counteract the metaphysical elements in the novel's thematic material, to prevent its explorations of human grotesquerie from wandering into the fantastic, as so often happens in the work of Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor and other Southern writers. No account of The Sound and the Fury can afford to undervalue those elements for which, primarily, we read the book and which seem clearly to have been most important to Faulkner himself—its powerful image of a family in disunion and decay, its presentation of the tragedy of "two lost women," of Caddy and her daughter. "Art is simpler than people think," wrote Faulkner to Cowley6 and, highly sophisticated literary craftsman though he was, he never lost sight of the essential fact that the technique alone is meaningless, that it achieves value only insofar as it serves to evoke, define and illuminate the human situation. 
    It was at the Nagano Seminar in 1955 that Faulkner gave his fullest account of how The Sound and the Fury came to be written:   That began as a short story, it was a story without plot, of some children being sent away from the house during the grandmother's funeral. They were too young to be told what was going on and they saw things only incidentally to the childish games they were playing, which was the lugubrious matter of removing the corpse from the house, etc., and then the idea struck me to see how much more I could have got out of the idea of the blind, self-centeredness of innocence, typified by children, if one of those children had been truly innocent, that is, an idiot. So the idiot was born and then I became interested in the relationship of the idiot to the world that he was in but would never be able to cope with and just where could he get the tenderness, the help, to shield him in his innocence. I mean 'innocence' in the sense that God had stricken him blind at birth, that is, mindless at birth, there was nothing he could ever do about it. And so the character of his sister began to emerge, then the brother, who, that Jason (who to me represented complete evil. He's the most vicious character in my opinion I ever thought of), then he appeared. Then it needs the protagonist, someone to tell the story, so Quentin appeared. By that time I found out I couldn't possibly tell that in a short story. And so I told the idiot's experience of that day, and that was incomprehensible, even I could not have told what was going on then, so I had to write another chapter. Then I decided to let Quentin tell his version of that same day, or that same occasion, so he told it. Then there had to be the counterpoint, which was the other brother, Jason. By that time it was completely confusing. I knew that it was not anywhere near finished and there I had to write another section from the outside with an outsider, which was the writer, to tell what had happened on that particular day. And that's how the book grew. That is, I wrote that same story four times. None of them were right, but I had anguished so much that I could not throw any of it away and start over, so I printed it in the four sections. That was not a deliberate tour de force at all, the book just grew that way. That I was still trying to tell one story which moved me very much and each time I failed, but I had put so much anguish into it that I couldn't throw it away, like the mother that had four bad children, t hat she would have been better off if they all had been eliminated, But she couldn't relinquish any of them. And that's the reason I have the most tenderness for that book, because it failed four times.7 
A number of points here demand discussion. In the first place, there is a good deal of evidence to support Faulkner's statement that the novel began as a short story. Maurice Coindreau recalls Faulkner telling him:    "Ce roman, a l'origine, ne devait etre qu'une nouvelle, me dit, un jour, William Faulkner. J'avais songe qu'il serait interessant d'imaginer les pensees d'un groupe d'enfants, le jour de l'enterrement de leur grand'mere dont on leur a cache la mort, leur curiosite devant l'agitation de la maison, leurs efforts pour percer le mystere, les suppositions qui leur viennent a l'esprit."8   It was to be a story, therefore, similar in conception to "That Evening Sun," in which the Compson children are again placed in a situation  whose adult significance they do not fully comprehend; Faulkner published the story in March 1931, and he had written it, at the very latest, by October 1930.9 With this in mind we can quite readily disentangle from the opening section of The Sound and the Fury, where they occur in chronological and logical sequences the sometimes quite widely separated fragments of a short story, "without plot", describing the experiences of the Compson children on the night of their grandmother's funeral; it is in the course of this material, moreover, that we first meet the image of Caddy's muddy drawers—seen from below as she clambers up the tree outside the Compson house in order to see what is happening inside—which, on other occasions, Faulkner spoke of as the basic image from which the whole book originated. 
    Faulkner told his Japanese audience that he used no notes in writing The Sound and the Fury, and certainly none seem to have survived. It is astounding that the complexities of the Benjy section should have been accomplished without recourse to notes, but Faulkner was clearly capable of such feats: the whole of As I Lay Dying, for instance, was apparently written without notes and with little subsequent revision, the whole thing completely pre-conceived and then written out in a single creative burst, while the appearance in Sartoris of embryonic versions of many scenes and episodes not fully developed, so far as we can tell, until many years afterwards, is sufficient evidence of the clarity and ambitiousness of Faulkner's conceptualising powers. The Benjy section, however, seems to have been evolved under creative pressure, not conceived beforehand. All Faulkner's accounts of the creation of The Sound and the Fury agree in stressing the extent to which the novel grew as his imagination worked upon it, its scope and meaning expanding irresistibly outwards, and the degree to which he allowed it to develop—giving no thought to its commercial prospects—in the directions which the themes and the material seemed to demand. Faulkner was hardly accurate in speaking of Quentin as telling "his version of that day, or that same occasion," but there is some overlapping of the events which Benjy and Quentin experience or recall, and their interior monologues certainly illuminate the same fundamental situation—the plight of the Compson family, with its vigorous past, its pathetically inadequate present, and its manifest lack of any future.  
    The pattern established by Faulkner's disposition of the novel's four sections can be viewed in a number of different ways, and they have been seen, for example, as exemplifying different levels of consciousness, different modes of apprehension or cognition, contrasted states of innocence and experience; M. Coindreau speaks of them as four movements of a symphony. 10 All these elements are present, and there is an overall movement outwards from Benjy's intensely private world to the fully public and social world of the fourth section. The patter, however, is not solely progressive: despite the superficial affinities between the first and second sections on the one hand and the third and fourth sections on the other, the most fundamental relationships would seem to be those between the first and last sections, which offer a high degree of objectivity, and between the second and third, which are both intensely subjective. Benjy is a first-person narrator, as are Quentin and Jason, but his observations do not pass through an intelligence which is capable of ordering, and hence distorting, them; he reports the events of which he is a spectator, and even those in which he is himself a participator, with a camera-like fidelity His view of Caddy, it is true, is highly personal, but we infer this view from the scenes which his camera-mind records; Benjy does not himself interpret this or other situations and events; still less does he attempt to impose a biassed interpretation upon the reader, as, in effect, do Quentin and Jason. Nor does he himself judge people, although he becomes the instrument by which the other characters are judged, their behaviour towards him serving as a touchstone of their humanity. 
    Faulkner seems to have worked gradually towards the conversation of pure objectivity which he follows in the Benjy section, and it is interesting to see the trend of his revisions, between manuscript and published work, to the well-known scene in which Benjy burns his hand. The incident begins in the manuscript as follows:      "Ow, mammy," Luster said. "Ow, mammy." I put my hand out to the firedoor. 
    "Don't let him!" Dilsey said, "Catch him back." My hand jerked back and I put it in my mouth, and Dilsey caught me. I could still hear the clock between the times when my voice was going. Dilsey reached back and hit Luster on the head. 
    "Git that soda," she said. She took my hand out of my mouth. My voice went louder then. I tried to put it back, but Dilsey held it. She sprinkled Soda on it. "Look in the pantry. . ."
The published text reads as follows:      "Ow, mammy." Luster said. "Ow, mammy." I put my hand out to where the fire had been. 
    "Catch him." Dilsey said. "Catch him back." My hand jerked back and I put it in my mouth and Dilsey caught me. I could still hear the clock between my voice: Dilsey reached back and hit Luster on the head. My voice was going loud every time. 
    "Get that soda." Dilsey said. She took my hand out of my mouth. My voice went louder then and my hand tried to go back to my mouth, but Dilsey held it. My voice went loud. She sprinkled soda on my hand. 
    "Look in the pantry . . ." (p. 72) 11
A similar process of revision can be seen in the last paragraph of the section, which opens on page 33 of the manuscript as follows:    Father went to the door and stood with his hand on the light button. He looked at us again, and the light went off and he turned black in the door. Then the door turned black. Caddy held me . . .  Benjy would scarcely have been capable of the linking of cause and effect implicit in "light button," and in the book this passage becomes:  Father went to the door and looked at us again. Then the dark came back, and he stood black in the door, and then the door turned black again. Caddy held me . . . (p. 22)   Such changes, though interesting, are of a minor kind, and they are typical in this of many of the revisions which Faulkner made to the original manuscript version of the first section. 
    Some of the revisions are more substantial, however, and it will be useful to look more closely at the changes made between the manuscript of the novel and the bound carbon typescript, both now in the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia. Several of the discrepancies between these two versions reveal Faulkner working towards what was to prove at once an elaboration and a simplification of his technique in the opening section of the book. Thus the first page of the manuscript lacks all the references to Luster's hunting in the grass for his lost quarter and to the fact that the day is Benjy's birthday which appear in the typescript and on pages 1 and 2 of the published text, and in the manuscript version as a whole there is an almost total absence of material relating to Luster's search for the quarter, to his desire to go to the show, to Benjy's birthday or to Benjy's age. Faulkner presumably realised before or during the process of reworking the first section that the allusions to Benjy's birthday and, still more, to Luster's search for the missing quarter, could be made to serve as a kind of motif or signal of present time in the section and thus assist the reader in keeping his bearings among the shifting and merging time-planes. At a later stage still, in correcting the proofs of the book, Faulkner attempted to provide another kind of assistance to the reader by the addition of further italicisation to indicate points at which a shift of scene was taking place. 
    In both manuscript and typescript Faulkner had indicated by means of underlining that he wished the breaks in time sequence within the Benjy section to be suggested by changes back and forth between roman and italic type: it seems not to have been his intention that all such breaks should be accompanied by a type change, but rather that occasional italicisation should alert the reader to the kind of process going on in Benjy's mind.12 In his admirable article on the textual history of the novel, James B. Meriwether has shown that when Faulkner received the galley proofs from Cape and Smith he fourth that considerable editorial changes had been made in the first section, apparently by his friend and literary agent, Ben Wasson, whom Cape and Smith had recently appointed as an assistant editor. In particular, the device of italicisation had been abandoned and replaced by the insertion of breaks in the text (i.e. wider spaces between lines) at points where breaks in the time sequence occurred.13 Wasson had presumably defended his action on the grounds that italicisation permitted the differentiation of only two dates, whereas at least four distinct times were actually involved. Faulkner replied, rejecting these arguments and explaining why he had restored the italics as they had appeared in his typescript and even added a few more in order to avoid obscurity; his letter, forcefully phrased, reveals beyond all question the absolute self-confidence and intellectual clarity with which he regarded the finished novel and the technical experimentation which it embodied:    I received the proof. It seemed pretty tough to me, so I corrected it as written, adding a few more italics where the original seemed obscure on second reading. Your reason for the change, i.e., that with italics only 2 different dates were indicated I do not think sound for 2 reasons. First, I do not see that the use of breaks clarifies it any more; Second, there are more than 4 dates involved. The ones I recall off-hand are: Damuddy dies. Benjy is 3. (2) His name is changed. He is 5. (3) Caddy's wedding. He is 14. (4) He tries to rape a young girl and is castrated. 15. (5) Quentin's death. (6) His father's death. (7) A visit to the cemetery [sic] at 18 (7). [sic] The day of the anecdote, he is 33. These are just a few I recall, so your reason explodes itself. 

But the main reason is, a break indicates an objective change in tempo, while the objective picture here should be a continuous whole, since the thought transference is subjective; i.e., in Ben's mind and not in the reader's eye. I think italics are necessary to establish for the reader Benjy's confusion; that unbroken-surfaced confusion of an idiot which is outwardly a dynamic and logical coherence. To gain this, by using breaks it will be necessary to write an induction for each transference. I wish publishing was advanced enough to use colored ink for such, as I argued with you and Hal [Harrison Smith] in the speak-easy that day. But the form in which you now have it is pretty tough. It presents a most dull and poorly articulated picture to my eye. If something must be done, it were better to re-write this whole section objectively, like the 4th section. I think it is rotten, as is. But if you wont have it so, I'll just have to save the idea until publishing grows up to it. Anyway, change all the italics. You overlooked one of them. Also, the parts written in italics will all have to be punctuated again. You'd better see to that, since you're all for coherence. And dont make any more additions to the script, bud. I know you mean well, but so do I. I effaced the 2 or 3 you made. 

* * * 

I hope you will think better of this. Your reason above disproves itself. I purposely used italics for both actual scenes and remembered scenes for the reason, not to indicate the different dates of happenings, but merely to permit the reader to anticipate a thought-transference, letting the recollection postulate its own date. Surely you see this. 14  

In reworking the manuscript version of the second section Faulkner made far more extensive additions and revisions than in the preceding section. This becomes immediately clear from a comparison between the opening paragraph of the manuscript and the corresponding passage in the published book. The manuscript reads:    The shadow of the sash fell across the curtains between 7 and 8 oclock, and then I was hearing the watch [sic] again, and I lay there looking at the sinister bar across the rosy and motionless curtains, listening to the watch. Hearing it, that is. I dont suppose anybody deliberately listens to a watch or a clock. You dont have to. You can be oblivious to the sound for a long while, then in a second of ticking it can create in the mind unbroken the long diminishing parade of time you did not hear. Where up the long and lonely arrowing of light rays you might see Jesus walking, like. The true Son of Man: he had no sister. Nazarene and Roman and Virginian, they had no sister one minute she was  

Beyond the wall Shreve's bedsprings complained thinly, . . . 15  

Here for comparison, are the opening paragraphs of section two in the published book:    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, Quentin, I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it's rather excrutiating-ly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father's. I give it to you not that you 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. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools. 

It was propped against the collar box and I lay listening to it. Hearing it, that is. I dont suppose anybody ever deliberately listens to a watch or a clock. You dont have to. You can be oblivious to the sound for a long while, then in a second of ticking it can create in the mind unbroken the long diminishing parade of time you didn't hear. Like Father said down the long and lonely light-rays you might see Jesus walking, like. And the good Saint Francis that said Little Sister Death, that never had a sister.   

Through the wall I heard Shreve's bed-springs . . . (pp. 93-94) 

    Faulkner's alterations achieve certain improvements in phrasing and elaborate the insistence on time, but perhaps the most interesting of the new elements are the references to Mr. Compson. Throughout the section, as revised in the carbon typescript and the published book, Quenin's mind runs on his father almost as much as it does on Caddy. Quentin is, of course, very much like his father in many ways, and in his obsession with family tradition and honour it is understandable that he should refer to his father, the head of the family, as a transmitter of that tradition and as a source of authority and advice. The irony of this situation, however, and a major cause of Quentin's tragedy, is that just as his mother has failed him as a source of love so his father fails him utterly in all his roles of progenitor, confessor and counsellor. He has become, indeed, Quentin's principal enemy, his cold and even cynical logic persistently undermining the very basis of all those idealistic concepts to which Quentin so passionately holds. Throughout the section there is a battle in progress between Quentin's romantic idealism and Mr. Compson's somewhat cynical realism, a battle which is not finally resolved in The Sound and the Fury and which is resumed on an even larger scale in Absalom, Absalom!. Indeed, if we are to understand that the discussion between Quentin and his father at the end of the section is purely a figment of Quentin's imagination and never actually took place, then it has to be said that in The Sound and the Fury the battle is never properly joined as, according to Mr. Compson himself, no battle ever is and that it is, rather, a series of skirmishes in which Quentin suffers a progressive erosion of his position and a steady depletion of his reserves. Father and son are, in any case, too much alike in their fondness for words, for abstractions, and in choosing to evade life—the one in drink, the other in suicide rather than actively confront it. 
    Whenever Quentin acts, his concern is for the act's significance as a gesture rather than for its practical efficacy. He seeks pertinaciously for occasions to fight in defence of his sister's honour, knowing in advance that he will be beaten and concerned in retrospect only that he has performed the act in its ritualistic and symbolic aspects. It is the fight with Gerald Bland which reveals most clearly the degree to which Quentin's obsessions have divorced him from actuality since throughout the struggle it is the remembered fight with Dalton Ames which remains for Quentin the superior reality. Throughout a whole flay of quite extraordinary incident with two fights, an arrest, a court hearing' much movement and many encounters—Quentin's mind remains preoccupied with the past. It is almost as though Faulkner were playing on the idea That a drowning man sees his whole life pass before him, and we come to realise that this last day of Quentin's is a kind of suspended moment before death. 
    Quentin's own obsession with time derives primarily from his recognition of it as the dimension in which change occurs and in which Caddy's actions have efficacy and significance. His search is for a means of arresting time at a moment of achieved perfection, a moment when he and Caddy could be eternally together in the simplicity of their childhood relationship; his idea of announcing that he and Caddy had committed incest was, paradoxically, a scheme for regaining lost innocence:    It was to isolate her out of the loud world so that it would have to flee us of necessity and then the sound of it would be as though it had never been . . . if i could tell you we did it would have been so and then the others wouldnt be so and then the world would roar away . . . (p. 220)   The similarity between this conception and the image of motion in stasis which haunted Faulkner throughout his life, especially as embodied in Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn," suggests as do the echoes of Joyce that Quentin is in some measure a version of the artist, or at least the aesthete, as hero. But Quentin's conception is artificial, rigid, life-denying: as Mr. Compson observes, "Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature. It's nature is hurting you not Caddy . . ." (p.  143) The inadequacy of Quentin's position is exposed in terms of Caddy and her vitality and humanity. In the Benjy section we recognise Caddy as the principal sustainer of such family unity as survives: we glimpse her as the liveliest spirit among the children and their natural leader, as the protector and comforter of Benjy, and even as the pacifier of her mother, and it is highly significant for us as well as for Benjy that she is persistently associated with such elemental things as the fire, the pasture, the smell of trees, and sleep. Her sexual freedom appears as the expression of a natural rebellion against the repressive, contradictory, and essentially self-centred demands made upon her by the different members of her family; it certainly seems spontaneous and affirmative by the side of Quentin's fastidious or even impotent avoidance of sexual experience—we note, for example, his revulsion at his childish experiments with Natalie and the fact that he is known at Harvard for his indifference to women—or Jason's rigid compartmentalisation of his sexual life and strict subordination of it to his financial interests. 
    Caddy finds an outlet from family repression in sexual activity, but she is also both a principle and a symbol of social disruption. Her assertion of individuality is much less positive and urgent than that of such a character as Ursula Brangwen in D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow; even so, she is brought, like Ursula, to break with traditional patterns and, in so doing, to demonstrate just how moribund those patterns have become, how irrelevant both to modern conditions and to the needs of the human psyche. It is possible to feel, however, that although Caddy is the core of the book she is not herself a wholly successful creation. Faulkner often spoke of Caddy, outside the novel, with an intensely passionate devotion: "To me she was the beautiful one," he said at the University of Virginia, "she was my heart's darling. That's what I wrote the book about and I used the tools which seemed to me the proper tools to try to tell, try to draw the picture of Caddy.''16 The original image of the little girl with the muddy drawers grew into the rich and complex conception of Caddy, beautiful and tragic both as child and as woman, but although this conception is already present in the first section of the novel it is evoked, necessarily, in somewhat fragmentary fashion, as we glimpse Caddy in various family situations, as we sense how much she means to Benjy, as we come to associate her, through Benjy, with images of brightness, comfort and loss. In the second section Caddy is more clearly visible, and there are passages of remembered dialogue as revealing of Caddy's character as of Quentin's, but the world of Quentin's section is so unstable, so hallucinatory, that the figure of Caddy, like so much else, is enveloped in uncertainty. In Jason's section Caddy's agony is most movingly evoked, but only briefly so, while in the final section of the book she is no more than a memory. 
    It was an essential element in Faulkner's overall Conception of the novel that Caddy never be seen directly but only through the eyes of her three brothers, each with his own self-centred demands to make upon her, each with his own limitations and obsessions. Asked at Virginia why he did not give a section to Caddy herself, Faulkner replied that it seemed more "passionate" to do it through her brothers, and one is reminded of his remarks at Nagano about the beauty of description by understatement and indirection: "Remember, all Tolstoy said about Anna Karenina was that she was beautiful and could see in the dark like a cat. That's all he ever said to describe her. And every man has a different idea of what's beautiful. And it's best to take the gesture, the shadow of the branch, and let the mind create the tree.''17 It certainly seems likely that to have made Caddy a "voice" in the novel would have diminished her importance as a central, focal figure. As the book stands, however, Caddy emerges incompletely from the first two sections, and in the last two attention shifts progressively from her to her Laughter, Quentin. The different limitations in the viewpoints of Benjy, Quentin and Jason make unavoidable the shadowiness, the imprecision, of Caddy's presentation: because the mind of each is so closed upon its own obsessions it is scarcely true to speak of their interior monologues as throwing light upon Caddy from a variety of angles; it is rather as though a series of photographs in differing focus were superimposed one upon the other, blurring all clarity of outline or detail. The novel revolves upon Caddy, but Caddy herself escapes satisfactory definition, and her daughter's tragedy, simply because it is more directly presented, is in some ways more moving. 
    It is characteristic that Jason should be the only member of the Compson family who is able to cope with the practical and social implications of Caddy's defection. Where Mrs. Compson can only moistly complain, Benjy bellow his incomprehending grief, Quentin commit suicide, Jason can adjust himself to the situation and turn it to his own advantage and profit. Jason the one Compson who was capable of meeting Snopes on his own ground, as Faulkner wrote to Malcolm Cowley18—becomes in this way the representative of the new commercial South, and his section strikes a specifically contemporary note in its evocation of the petty business man, with Jason himself appearing, in this role, as a typical figure, sharing the fundamental characteristics of a legion of other small businessmen in North and South alike. It is perhaps for this reason that Jason's seems much the least "Southern" of the sections. If it also seems the most readily detachable section—it was the one which Faulkner first suggested for inclusion in The Portable Faulkner19that is a measure of the degree to which Jason's singleminded and ruthless pursuit of material self-interest serves to isolate him not only from his family but from the community as a whole. The attitude of Jefferson towards Jason is sufficiently revealed through the reactions of such characters as Earl, Job, and, in the final section, the sheriff, while Jason's opinion of Jefferson is amply expressed in statements such as the following: "Like I say if all the business in a town are run like country businesses you're going to have a country town." His contempt for the town is only exceeded by his contempt for his own family, its history and its pretensions:  Blood, I says, governors and generals. It's a damn good thing we never had any kings and presidents; we'd all be down there at Jackson chasing butterflies. (p. 286)20   Since Jason's instincts are commercial and materialistic, they are also anti-rural and anti-traditional: his is a willed deracination from the community in which he continues to live. As we have seen, however, it is this very materialism and deracination which makes Jason the one male Compson with any practical competence. 
    The progression from Benjy's section through Quentin's to Jason's is accompanied by an increasing sense of social reality: Benjy is remote in his idiocy and innocence, Quentin moves from the isolation of his half-mad idealism into the total withdrawal of suicide, but Jason is wholly in the world, acutely sensitive to social values, swimming with the contemporary commercial current. The action of the novel is thus presented increasingly in terms of social, economic and political perspectives; it is  Jason who first refers, however ironically, to the family's more distinguished past, and it is not until the last section of the novel that we are first given an image of the Compson house in all it decrepitude. To interpret The Sound and the Fury simply as a socio-economic study of the decline of a Southern family is obviously inadequate; what can be said is that this is one of the novel's many aspects, and one which becomes increasingly important as the book proceeds. It seems possible that Faulkner felt that he had created the social context of the action in insufficient detail, that the book did not clearly evoke the patterns of manners and customs within which his characters moved: the Compson "Appendix" he wrote for The Portable Faulkner is devoted partly to clarifying the meaning of the novel at certain points but primarily to the elaboration of the Compson's family history and to the further definition of their place in the social and economic life of Jefferson. It is in the Appendix, too, that we find the abundantly particularised description of the farmers' supply store which Jason now owns and which Miss Melissa Meek valiantly enters,    striding on through that gloomy cavern which only men ever entered a cavern cluttered and walled and stalagwite-hung with plows and discs and loops of tracechain and singletrees and mule-collars and sidemeat and cheap shoes and horse liniment and flour and molasses, gloomy because the goods it contained were not shown but hidden rather since those who supplied Mississippi farmers, or at least Negro Mississippi farmers, for a share of the crop did not wish, until that crop was made and its value approximately computable, to show them what they could learn to want, but only to supply them on specific demand with what they could not help but need—and strode on back to Jason's particular domain in the rear: a railed enclosure cluttered with shelves and pigeon-holes bearing spiked dust-and-lint-gathering gin receipts and ledgers and cotton samples and rank with the blended smell of cheese and kerosene and harness oil and the tremendous iron stove against which chewed tobacco had been spat for almost a hundred years, . . .21   This was the kind of thing which Faulkner had done superbly in The Hamlet and Go Down, Moses, and it is possible to think that The Sound and the Fury would have been strengthened by some such stiffening, by a richer notation of setting and social context. Faulkner wrote the book from within the comprehensive conception of the world of Jefferson which he had tiredly achieved and amply demonstrated in Sartoris, and he may have underestimated the extent to which it was desirable to recreate this world for the reader of The Sound and the Fury. It is noteworthy, at any rate, that in subsequent novels such as As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, The Hamlet, and Go Down, Moses, Faulkner seems quite deliberately to create setting and context in both physical and social terms, at a very early stage of the book, evoking and defining the situation almost in the manner of Balzac or Hardy before proceeding to the main action.  
    It must be admitted that each of the first three sections of The Sound and the Fury has about it some suggestion of the tour de force: the Quentin section seems a deliberate exercise in the Joycean mode, while the Jason section raises to the level of art the self-revelatory interior monologue of the unimaginative man which Sinclair Lewis had developed in Babbitt and The Man Who Knew Coolidge, published in 1922 and 1928 respectively. The Benjy section seems to have been more exclusively Faulker's invention, a deliberate attempt to extend the boundaries of the novel beyond the point to which Joyce had already pushed them. Yet Faulkner never regarded the book as a tour de force; unlike As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury was a book which grew and developed as he worked upon it, and his adoption in the final section of t he point of view of the omniscient author seems to have been forced upon him not by the demands of a deliberate design but by the more immediate pressures stemming from an urgent need for self-expression. 
    In various accounts of the writing of The Sound and the Fury Faulkner says that having failed in three attempts to tell the story, to rid himself of the "dream," he had tried in the final section to pull the whole novel together, retelling the central story more directly and clearly.22 In fact, the section contributes relatively little to our understanding of the narrative events touched upon in earlier sections; rather it forces us to view some aspects of those earlier sections in a radically different way. Simply by giving us for the first time detailed physical descriptions of Dilsey, Benjy, Jason and Mrs. Compson, Faulkner playing on some of the most fundamental of human responses to storytelling effectively modifies our feelings towards them. Simply by recreating in such detail the routine of Dilsey's day, evoking the qualities demanded in performing such duties in a household such as that of the Compsons', Faulkner allows her to emerge for the first time both as a fully-drawn character and as a powerful positive presence. When the action shifts to Jason and his vain pursuit of Quentin we notice that many of his experiences have something in common with Quentin's experiences during the last day of his life there are, for example, the journeyings back and forth, the moments of violence, the unsatisfactory brushes with the representatives of the law- and we come finally to recognise that, for all the differences between them, both brothers display a similar obsessiveness and fundamental irrationality. 
    We read the fourth section in the emotional, as well as thematic and narrative, context of its three predecessors. The last of these, Jason's section, has been sustained on a scarcely varied note of savage bitterness, and imbedded within it have been some of the most painful incidents in the book, notably those in which Jason frustrates Caddy's frantic attempts to see her child, only the flashes of brilliantly sardonic humour have prevented its final effect from being one of total negation. It is therefore tempting, in the final section, to see in the immensely positive figure of Dilsey, and the importance given to her, a certain overall reassurance and even serenity; but although the section does contain positives which to some extent off-set the negations of the previous sections it would be too much to say that the novel closes on a note of unqualified affirmation. Dilsey "endures," but her endurance is tested not in acts of spectacular heroism but in her submission to the tedious, trivial and wilfully inconsiderate demands made upon her by the Compson family, as when Mrs. Compson allows her to make her painful way upstairs to tend to Benjy before telling her that he is not yet awake:        Mrs. Compson stood watching her as she mounted, steadying herself against the wall with one hand' holding her skirts up with the other.  
    "Are you going to wake him up just to dress him?" she said. 
Dilsey stopped. With her foot lifted to the next step she stood there, her hand against the wall and the grey splash of the window behind her, motionless and shapeless she loomed. 
    "He aint awake den?" she said. 
    "He wasn't when I looked in," Mrs. Compson said. 'Tut it's past kits time. He never does sleep after half past seven. You know he doesn't." 
    Dilsey said nothing. She made no further move, but though she could not see her save as a blobby shape without depth, Mrs. Compson knew that she had lowered her face a little and that she stood now like a cow in the rain, as she held the empty water bottle by its neck. 
    "You're not the one who has to bear it," Mrs. Compson said. "It's not your responsibility. You can go away. You dont have to bear the brunt of it day in and day out. You owe nothing to them, to Mr. Compson's memory. I know you have never had any tenderness for Jason. You've never tried to conceal it." 
    Dilsey said nothing. She turned slowly and descended, lowering her body from step to step, as a small child does, her hand against the wall. "You go on and let him alone," she said. "Dons go in afar no mo, now. I'll send Luster up soon as I find him. Let him alone, now." (pp. 338-339)  
The Easter Sunday service in the Negro church is immensely moving, an apotheosis of simplicity, innocence, and love, with Dilsey and Benjy as the central figures:  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. (pp. 370-371)   But the moment passes; the sense of human communion rapidly dissolves as they move into the world of "white folks" (p. 371) and return to the Compson house, described now for the first time and seen as a symbol of decay:    They reached the gate and entered. Immediately Ben began to whimper again, and for a while all of them looked up the drive at the square, paintless house with its rotting portico. (p. 372)   It is clear, however, that Faulkner does not intend any simple moral division between the Negroes and their white employers. Luster in particular has been less impressed by the service than by the performance on the musical saw he had witnessed the previous night, and in his treatment of Benjy he displays a streak of mischievous cruelty. Dilsey tries to comfort Ben, but she is forced to rely upon the treacherous Luster to take him to the cemetery and it is with a note of pathetic resignation that she says, "I does de tees I kin." (p. 396) On the final pages of the novel it is pride, the sin which has been the downfall of the Compson family, which incluces Luster to drive to the left at the monument instead of to the right, and if the final restoration of Benjy's sense of order seems at first to offer a positive conclusion to the novel we must also remember that the order thus invoked is one purely of habit, entirely lacking in inherent justification, and that it is restored by Jason, whose concern is not with humanity or morality or justice but only with social appearances. As so often in this novel, such meaning as at first sight the incidents appear to possess proves on closer inspection to dissolve into uncertainty and paradox. 
    In Shakespeare's play, Macbeth's "sound and fury" soliloquy is  spoken as death approaches, and by the end of Faulkner's novel the doom of the Compson family seems about to be finally accomplished. In Macbeth the forces of good, embodied in Malcolm and Macduff, are gathering strength and it is perhaps characteristic of the desperate mood of The Sound and the Fury that the forces of good are not so readily identifiable, nor seen as ultimately triumphant. Yet in Macbeth the forces of good are external to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, whereas in The Sound and the Fury some of the elements making for life do appear within the Compson family group, most notably in Dilsey but also in Caddy and her daughter. It is Quentin who gives Luster the quarter he so desires, it is Quentin who struggles in the last section to maintain at least some semblance of family harmony and order but who finally breaks down under Jason's verbal torture, and it is perhaps to be taken as a sign of hope especially in view of the resurrection images which some critics have perceived in the description of her empty room—that Quentin finally makes good her escape and that, unlike her mother, she leaves no hostage behind. In the Compson genealogy Faulkner speaks of Quentin in pessimistic terms, yet the suggestion that Faulkner wanted to write a novel about Quentin after her departure from Jefferson23 at least indicates that he felt the Compsons were not yet finished with, that there was more to be said—or perhaps only more to be suffered. 


*. Reprinted, with permission, from The Achievement of William Faulkner (London: Constable, 1965), pp. 86-103, 313-14. 

1. The deposit of the Massey Collection in the Alderman Library has happily reunited the original first page of the manuscript of The Sound and the Fury with the remainder; page 5 is still missing (see James B. Meriwether, The Literary Career of William Faulkner [Princeton, 1961i, p. 65.   

2. Quentin's experience seems strongly reminiscent, in certain respects, of the "weird seizures" suffered by the Prince in Tennyson's The Princess: see, for example, III. 167-173; see also the Prince's injury, VI. 1-3j and especially VII 30-35, in which the word "twilight" twice occurs.    

3. See A Green Bough, X, entitled "Twilight" on its first publication in Contempo, I (February 1, 1932), 1.    

4. Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (New York, n.d.), pp. 4-5.   

5. Faulkner's Dallas Morning News article on Anderson, in Princeton University Library Chronicle (Faulkner number), p. 90. See William L. Phillips, "Sherwood Anderson's Two Prize Pupils," University of Chicago Magazine, XLVII (January l9S5), 12.   

6. Faulkner to Cowley, 4 in Faulkner-Cowley correspondence, Yale University.   

7. Faulkner at Nagano, pp. 103-105, ed. Robert A. Jelliffe (Tokyo, 1956).   

8. Coindreau, Preface to Le bruit et la fureur, p. 7; cf. My Brother Bill, pp. 69, 125; above, pp. 105-111.  

9. Literary Career, p. 175.   

10. Coindreau, op. cit., pp. 9-12; above, pp. 105-111.   

11. Manuscript, Alderman Library, p. 26.   

12. See George R. Stewart and Joseph M. Backus, " 'Each in Its Ordered Place': Structure and Narrative in 'Benjy's Section' of The Sound and the Fury, " American Literature, XXIX January 1958), 440-456; their conclusion, after discovering that "a change in type does not always indicate a break between units and that a new unit can be introduced without a change in type," is that Faulkner's device becomes "worthless" (p. 446).   

13. James B. Meriwether, "Notes on the Textual History of The Sound and the Fury," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 56 (1962), pip 294-299.   

14. Faulkner to Wasson, undated, in Massey Collection.   

15. Manuscript, Alderman Library, p. 34 (reproduced as Fig. 10 of Literary Career).   

16. Faulkner in the University, ed. Frederick L. Gwynn and Joseph L. Blotner (Charlottesville, Va., 1959), p. 6.   

17. Faulkner at Nagano, p. 72.   

18. Faulkner to Cowley, 7.   

19. Faulkner to Cowley, 7.   

20. Cf. Scott, Quentin Durward (London, n.d.), p. 63. When Quentin first introduces himself he is asked whether Durward is "a gentleman's name":   

"By fifteen descents in our family," said the young man; "and that 
makes me reluctant to follow any other trade than arms." 
"A true Scot! Plenty of blood, plenty of pride, and right great scarcity 
of ducats, I warrant thee."  

21. Portable Faulkner (New York, 1954), pp. 745-746.    

22. E.g., Writers at Work, ed. Malcolm Cowley (New York, 1958), p. 130.   

23. Linscott, "Faulkner Without Fanfare,'' Esquire, 60, No. 1 (1963), p. 38.