Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

This is the second time I've tried to make it through The Sound and the Fury; the first time I made it halfway through and just told everyone I finished it. Well, I didn't finish it. I'm sorry. I never meant to betray your trust. I've finished it now.

The Sound and the Fury is the story of a once proud Southern family, the Compsons, and their downfall. It is split into four parts: The first is narrated by Benjy, the family's youngest son and a mentally retarded person. His account jumps through time with little warning or help to figure out what's going on. The second is narrated by the neurotic son Quentin, who is sent off to Harvard and has trouble dealing with his childhood incestual feelings toward his sister Caddy. The third is narrated by Jason, who is an asshole and controls his mother and Caddy's daughter Quentin (confusing) with an iron fist. The fourth is a third person narrator. The plot itself is difficult to describe, but the central character seems to be Caddy, and how she's depicted throughout the book. She's presented as a tragic figure, who becomes sexually active at a young age and is ultimately the cause of her brother's suicide (guess which one), and is then kept from seeing her teenage daughter.

Faulkner, in fact, found the story so powerful that he said The Sound and the Fury caused him the most grief to write of all his books. But to me it seems that, like most Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury is best enjoyed at an intellectual level and not an emotional one. Faulkner is surely a genius, and the four-part narration (similar to As I Lay Dying) is an amazing thing to behold, but the book for me lacks emotional heft. The Benjy section in particular is too confusing to really be affecting, though Quentin's and Jason's sections fare a little better.

So, I've finished it. Between this and As I Lay Dying, I'll take the latter: it has a dude who can read minds.


Nihil Novum said...

Is this book harder than As I Lay Dying? I've started that one 3 or 4 times and I can't crack the 25% mark.

Carlton said...

I get to 18.7% every time and have to stop.

Christopher said...

Sometimes it's harder, yes.

CaptPoco said...

The trick with S&F is to read a few pages, then read a short summary, then read through the whole thing once, retaining nothing or almost nothing, and then read everything you can find *about* S&F, and finally read it through a second time. And, for the record, the easiest Faulkner novel is Sanctuary and the hardest is "Absalom, Absalom!". S&F falls somewhere in between. However, the Benjy chapter, the first chapter, is by far the hardest thing Faulkner ever wrote. So S&F *seems* really tough. But once you get through the first chapter you're essentially home free. Every chapter after that becomes progressively easier, until the last chapter is practically as straightforward as The Color Purple.