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Topic: The Sound and the Fury discussion--Parts One and Two

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Subject: The Sound and the Fury discussion--Parts One and Two
Date Posted: 4/1/2009 8:10 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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In this thread we'll discuss the first section, "April 7, 1928," narrated by Benjy Compson and the second section, "June 2, 1910," narrated by Quentin Compson.

Some things to think about as you read...

Do you like the stream of consciousness style of this book or do you find it confusing? Do you feel stream of consciousness is an effective way of presenting Benjy and Quentin?

The title of the book is taken from a quote from Macbeth: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more. It is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing." How is this passage applicable to the book, and why do you think Faulkner chose it?

Why would Faulkner choose Benjy to introduce the Compson family to the reader?

What do you see as the meaning of Quentin's dual obsession with his sister's virginity and the loss of the family honor?

What are the differences in the way Benjy and Quentin see time?



Last Edited on: 4/1/09 8:12 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/7/2009 4:18 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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How's everyone doing? :-)

I've gotten through the first section so far, and I had a hard time. Fortunately, I picked up the Norton critical edition, and it has some explanatory essays in the back which have helped a little bit. It's a remarkably vivid feeling--you really feel like you're inside Benjy's mind. But it's hard to follow.

Date Posted: 4/7/2009 5:27 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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starting it today

Date Posted: 4/8/2009 10:20 AM ET
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I should be able to start it in the next day or two.

Rick B. (bup) - ,
Date Posted: 4/8/2009 10:31 AM ET
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It's tricky. *Besides* it being stream-of-consciousness, I also don't know if I can trust Benjy as a narrator. Is Caddie always "real"?

Date Posted: 4/8/2009 5:53 PM ET
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I like the unreliable narrator aspect, it makes it more interesting, more of a puzzle, where the reader has to decide how much of the story is the way the narrator says it is.  It took me a while to orient myself to Faulkner's prose and each of the narrators, but I'm very intrigued by S&F. I'm a big fan of southern gothic, and I usually like dysfunctional family stories.

Incidentally, has anyone seen Kurosawa's movie Rashomon?  As I was reading I was reminded of Rashomon.  Even though the stories are different, the style of storytelling is so similar.  In Rashomon, Kurosawa tells the story of a rich man and his wife who are attacked by a bandit, he tells the story three times from each person's POV, revealing the little differences, lies and omissions everyone has in their version of events.  It makes it more work to understand the story, but I think it makes a story much more intricate and fascinating.

Date Posted: 4/13/2009 5:57 PM ET
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I liked Benjy as the narrator and really feel like I understood his whole section. However the Quentin section was a little more difficult. He is so obsessed with Caddie's sex life and his need for his family to appear "acceptable". I see some similarities between A Room With A View and The Sound and the Fury - both have characters with a rigid sense of propriety. I don't like Mrs. Compson. She is weak-minded, needy and quick to put the blame for events (Benjy's mental limitations, Caddie's promiscuity, etc) on others.

Can't say I'm a fan of the stream-of-consciousness (SOC) writing. My first thought was that Faulkner was too lazy to put into real sentences what he wanted to say. I've only read a few pages of the Jason section and he hasn't employed the SOC technique yet. Perhaps he used the SOC technique to emphasize that Benjy and Quentin don't think coherently.

Vanessa - the Compson's are decidedly dysfunctional :-)

Date Posted: 4/13/2009 11:05 PM ET
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I'm not a fan of stream-of-consciousness, either. I understand what Faulkner was trying to get at by using it, but it's frustrating to try to read it.

It seems to me that Quentin was sort of the last hope for the family, the one who was supposed to succeed and pull the family back up to the class level they came from--hence the sacrifice of Benjy's pasture to pay for Harvard. Maybe it's that pressure and responsibility that helps to send him over the edge.

The disintegration of the family makes me think a little bit about Scarlett O'Hara's family in Gone With the Wind--the war takes them from the landed gentry class to a lower level, the father goes mad, the mother dies, one sister marries a poor "white trash" farmer, one sister goes to a convent. The Compsons seem to be cursed by being a part of the rubble of Southern society.

I wonder if Faulkner sees their come-down as retribution for the sin of owning slaves previously, and for the way the family treats its black servants. Dilsey is the only semi-heroic character.



Last Edited on: 4/13/09 11:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/14/2009 9:47 AM ET
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That's true Janelle, Quentin did feel pressure and responsibility, albeit self-inflicted to a certain degree.

Caddie's POV would have been interesting . . .

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 9:49 AM ET
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I haven't made up my mind yet about stream-of-consciousness.  Sometimes I enjoy it, and sometimes it just comes off as pretentious.  I definitely understand why Faulkner is considered such a groundbreaking author for developing SOC.  I liked Benjy's narrative & Jason's narrative, and I really liked the SOC technique for them.  Quentin's was the hardest to get through.

Last year I also read Blindness by Jose Saramago, who also uses a very SOC style, and loved it.  I haven't read anything by James Joyce, but doesn't he also use SOC in a lot of his work?  I'm trying to think of others I might have read to try and make up my mind about SOC.  Maybe parts of Atonement by Ian McEwan or The Road by Cormac McCarthy?  If not exactly SOC, they've definitely been influenced by Faulkner's style.

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 12:01 PM ET
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Also just thought of two other SOC works: Catcher in the Rye and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. 

Date Posted: 4/14/2009 12:55 PM ET
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Benjy's section made me think of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Vanessa, a few of the books you mentioned employing SOC were ones I enjoyed. Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury differ from them IMHO in that his SOC is very rambling and sometimes incoherent. The ones you mentioned were written in a much more coherent, easier to follow,  style.

Date Posted: 4/23/2009 8:11 AM ET
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Looking back I can see where you could compare Benjy to the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I had major difficulty in the beginning of the book with the whole SOC aspect. Something was missing in the style. However, I am glad that I did stick with it.

 

Date Posted: 4/25/2009 9:08 PM ET
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Hi everyone,

I started a thread in the Classic forum to take nominations for a May book - hope you will join us!