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The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury
THE SOUND AND THE FURY, by William Faulkner

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William Faulkner's tragic depiction of the corruption of the Old South aristocracy in the post-Civil War world is ranked a masterpiece for its style and themes. Stylistically, Faulkner used stream of consciousness, interior monologues, discontinuous time, fragmented chronological order, multiple narrators, complex allusions, and allegory. The novel, set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, explores Southern memory, reality, and myth, with the focus on honor and sin as seen through the tragic decline of the Compson family. The novel tells the story through four different viewpoints: the three Compson brothers -- Benjy, Quentin, and Jason -- and their black servant Dilsey. Much of the novel's acclaim results from Faulkner's ability to use stream of consciousness to mirror how we imagine the way that people think.

The Civil War shattered the Southern genteel tradition, with its emphasis on male responsibility to defend female honor, purity, and virginity -- in short, the family reputation. In this novel, Faulkner explores how the Compsons, like the Old South they symbolize, lost touch with the new realities of the modern world, becoming ineffectual, loveless, and corrupt.

The novel is also celebrated for Faulkner's innovative use of time: he suggests that time is variable rather than constant, personal rather than objective. Benjy Compson, a severely handicapped 33-year-old, cannot distinguish between the past and present and thus has no fixed idea of time; in contrast, Quentin Compson, a Harvard student, is obsessed by time and thus imprisoned by his memories of the past, which drive him to suicide. Jason Compson rejects the past -- his heritage -- to embrace the present and future in his obsession with money. Only Dilsey understands the family's insignificant place in the inexorable march of history.

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The American Novel