About the Book

Book Protagonist: Dilsey, the Compson children
Publication Date: 1929
Genre: Classic, Literary Fiction

Historical Context

The Sound and the Fury

By William Faulkner

'The Sound and the Fury' is widely regarded as one of the most influential American novels of the twentieth century.

In a list released in 1998 by The Modern Library, ‘The Sound and the Fury’ was ranked sixth in a list of the greatest English-language books of the 20th century.

About William Faulkner

In 1897, William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, to a wealthy family. His forefathers took part in the Civil War, the Mexican-American War, and the Reconstruction.

Faulkner wasn’t an especially good student. Although he never completed high school, his status as a military veteran allowed him to enroll in the University of Mississippi in 1919. Even though he barely attended college for three semesters before leaving in 1920, he did start to discover his voice as a writer during that period.

The post-Civil War deterioration of the Deep South piqued Faulkner’s interest in particular. Many of his books examine how the Southern aristocracy degraded after the Civil War and Reconstruction destroyed its wealth and way of life. In the wake of African-American slavery, the families in Faulkner’s novels are filled with miserly sons, dishonored daughters, and simmering resentments.

Years after the publishing of ‘The Sounds and the Fury’, Faulkner received a new degree of respect at home as he rose to popularity on a global scale. Between 1954 and 1961, he traveled extensively as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department to Latin America, Asia, and Europe. A Fable earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1955, and in 1956 he was appointed writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia. Up until the day of his passing on July 6, 1962, he kept writing. For ‘The Reivers’, he received a second Pulitzer Prize in 1963.

The Reception of The Sound and the Fury

WhenThe Sound and the Fury was initially published in 1929, neither critics nor readers were impressed, probably as a result of how challenging the stream-of-consciousness style was. The American publisher Cape & Smith published ‘The Sound and the Fury’ on October 7, 1929, with the first edition of 1,789 copies. It did not sell well because many competent readers were turned off by the novel’s challenging first portion.

The story of ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ which many now regard to be Faulkner’s greatest work, gained popularity as Faulkner’s fame did, though. ‘The Sound and the Fury’ was ranked as the sixth-greatest English-language novel of all time by the Modern Library in 1998.

The Style and Philosophy of William Faulkner

The main reason Faulkner is regarded as one of the finest authors of the 20th century is because of his extremely experimental writing style.

By significantly departing from the forms and structures that had been used in novels up until his time, Faulkner was a literary modernism pioneer. Faulkner frequently writes in the present tense while switching to the past tense, frequently uses multiple narrators, and frequently employs a stream-of-consciousness narrative. He also has a penchant for sentences that are absurdly long and complex.

Yoknapatawpha County is populated with the ghosts of great men, patriarchs, and generals whose aristocratic families failed to live up to their historical greatness, as well as the skeletons of old mansions and old mansions. These families make an effort to hold on to outdated Southern values, rules, and mythologies that are perverted and misplaced in the reality of the current world while hiding behind the shadow of former grandeur.

Readers find Faulkner’s books to be quite tough. But these daring inventions opened the door for numerous other writers to pursue their explorations of the English language in the future. In recognition of his achievements, Faulkner received the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Setting of The Sound and the Fury

After Reconstruction, in the postbellum American South, is where ‘The Sound and the Fury’ was written (and takes place) (1865–77).

At this pivotal juncture in American history, the South was in the process of redefining itself and its values in the absence of slavery. Some families in the South (mostly the older landed families) declined to take part in this. Instead, they retreated within and clung to their customs and principles—to hazy ideas of honor, innocence, and virginity.

The Origin of the Title of The Sound and the Fury

A soliloquy spoken by William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the play’s eponymous character, serves as the inspiration for ‘The Sound and the Fury’. In that soliloquy, Macbeth muses on the passage of time and the futility of life.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.

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.


Who were William Faulkner’s influences for The Sound and the Fury?

William Faulkner cited writers like Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, and Sherwood Anderson as inspiration for creating ‘The Sound and the Fury’.

Is The Sound and the Fury a difficult read?

Readers and critics alike have described the book as difficult and inaccessible to the average reader. This is because of the stream-of-consciousness style William Faulkner employed in writing the book.

Was The Sound and the Fury a hit upon release?

It was not. Faulkner had to earn a living by writing and selling short stories. It took years before the literary world came to appreciate ‘The Sound and the Fury’.

Who did The Sound and the Fury influence?

‘The Sound and the Fury’ became a landmark work of literary modernism in the 20th century and inspired Gabriel García Márquez to pen a masterpiece of his own titled ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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