The Sound and the Fury Plot Summary 📖

‘The Sound and the Fury’ by William Faulkner chronicles the fall of the Compson family in Jefferson, Mississippi in the 20th century.

The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner

‘The Sound and the Fury’ focuses on the former Southern aristocracy who are dealing with their families and their reputation breakup. The family experiences financial collapse over the roughly 30-year period covered in the book, loses its religious conviction and the respect of the Jefferson community, and many of them tragically pass away.

‘The Sound and the Fury’ is separated into four sections, each told by a different person.

The first section is narrated by Benjamin ‘Benjy’ Compson as events happened on the 7th of April, 1928.

The second section tells the events of June 2nd, 1910. It focuses on Quentin Compson, Benjy’s older brother, and the events leading up to his suicide.

The third section is narrated as events that occurred on April 6th, 1928, by Jason. Quentin’s younger brother.

The fourth section is told from an omniscient point of view by William Faulkner. It chronicles the events of April 8th, 1928, and focuses on the life of Dilsey — a black servant who cares for the Compson family, particularly Miss Quentin and Jason.

Summary of The Sound and the Fury Part 1: April 7th, 1928

The challenging first part of ‘The Sound and the Fury’ is narrated by Benjy, who has no notion of time. Regardless of when they happened in his life, all events are depicted as occurring on April 7, 1928. The actual events that occurred on April 7th are quite unimportant. The memories that are triggered by Benjy’s experiences on that day are far more significant.

Only Caddy, his older sister, and Dilsey, a matronly family retainer, show true concern for Benjamin “Benjy” Compson, the novel’s narrator, who is a source of shame to the family (especially his mother) due to his limited mental capacity.

Luster, an African American kid who is responsible for watching over Benjy, is focused on retrieving a misplaced quarter so he may visit the local touring show. He starts the search with Benjy alongside the fence dividing the Compson property from a golf course.

His first memory, when he was three years old, is of the day his grandma Damuddy passed away. The following memories of Benjy revolve around his new name. His parents changed his name from Maury to Benjamin when they learned that he had a mental disability when he was five years old so that his uncle Maury wouldn’t be embarrassed by the fact that the challenged child had the same name as him.

Benjy recalls a time he saw the carriage house during a trip to the family graveyard as he and Luster passed the Compson property’s carriage house. In this memory, which dates from around 1912 or 1913, Benjy and his mother are traveling in the Compsons’ carriage to the cemetery to pay their respects to Quentin and Mr. Compson. Dilsey suggests that Jason replace the family’s aging carriage by purchasing a new one. Uncle Maury has been requesting money from Mrs. Compson, according to Jason. Benjy is reprimanded by Luster for crying again.

From their shared early years to Caddy’s wedding day in 1910—the day she leaves his life forever—many of Benjy’s recollections are drawn from that time. This portion also contains fragmented memories of traumatic events, including those leading up to his castration and the deaths of other individuals in his life.

Summary of The Sound and the Fury Part 2: June 2nd, 1910

This section of ‘The Sound and Fury’, titled “June Second, 1910,” is set at and near Harvard University and is told from Quentin’s perspective. He hears his watch ticking when he wakes up and tries to shatter it to silence it ineffectively. Then, before embarking on a series of errands, he puts his possessions in a trunk, gets dressed, and writes a few notes.

The purity and virginity of Caddy are Quentin’s greatest obsessions. He is fiercely protective of women, especially his sister, and is infatuated with the chivalrous ideas of the South. Quentin is appalled by Caddy’s promiscuous behavior. He seeks assistance and advice from his father, but the realistic Mr. Compson advises him not to take virginity seriously because it was created by males.

While on the tram, Quentin muses over the passage of time and his past. He recalls speaking with Herbert Head two days before the nuptials and how they almost exchanged blows before Caddy entered and sent Herbert away. Caddy was informed by Quentin that she was ill and that she could not be married if she was ill. In response, Caddy said she “had to marry somebody” due to her pregnancy. Then Quentin remembers another incident when his father explained to him that the only reason he was concerned about Caddy’s pregnancy was that he was still a virgin.

When Quentin gets into his car, he begins to daydream about his sister Caddy, revisiting his feelings of resentment towards her promiscuous relationships. He hits one of the men in the automobile as a result of mixing up the past and present. After bloodying his suit, Quentin needs to clean it in his Harvard dorm room before heading back to the bridge where he intends to commit suicide.

He runs upon a young Italian immigrant who cannot speak English. In a significant move, he refers to her as “sister” and spends most of the day unsuccessfully attempting to contact her and provide for her by locating her home. He laments the South’s decline and degradation following the American Civil War. Quentin drowns himself as a result of his contradictory thoughts and feelings.

Summary of The Sound and the Fury Part 3: April 6th, 1928

Jason, the third child and Caroline’s favorite, narrates the third segment. Ironically, he is the sole child that doesn’t require her affection or desires it back. It occurs on Good Friday, the day before Benjy’s section. Jason’s piece is the easiest to understand of the three brothers’ sections, which reflects his unwavering drive for material success. His unsuccessful investments in the cotton market, which represent the South’s financial collapse, are a clear indication of this goal.

Beginning the morning with an argument between Jason and Miss Quentin, Dilsey steps in to save the girl from Jason’s threats of physical assault. Caroline, his mother, moans and feels sorry for herself. While driving Miss Quentin to school on his way to work, Jason continues to argue and make threats. When Jason is at work, he is more concerned with the four letters he has gotten than with cooperating with his supervisor, Earl, or giving his job his all.

Jason, who is now in his mid-thirties, has developed into a cunning and cruel individual. He has devised a complex plan to steal the funds Caddy provides him to help with Miss Quentin’s upbringing. Mrs. Compson is unable to recognize Jason’s plot due to her weak vision and blind love for him. For fifteen years, Jason has so far taken close to $50,000 from his sister and niece. He plays the cotton market with the additional cash and hires a prostitute in Memphis with it. Only Caddy doubts Jason and believes he is plotting something.

Jason can barely stomach the sight of his brother Benjy, who is mentally challenged, and his mother’s melodramatic displays of self-pity. Jason wants to take Benjy as soon as possible to the Jackson mental institution since he is so ashamed of him.

Jason’s day is disrupted by Miss Quentin’s unexpected request for money and her overt involvement with a male travel show performer. The latter prompts Jason to start a car chase after her and the man, leading him into the wilderness, where they deceive him by deflating the tires of Jason’s vehicle. Jason is certain to make everyone at the Compson home miserable that evening because he is so furiously angry. He reveals the many reasons for his rage and bitterness, including his conviction that his two older siblings have amassed all of the family money, his disappointment at losing the job Caddy’s husband had promised him, his disgust at having ineffective parents, and more, which further demonstrates his conviction in his righteousness.

Summary of The Sound and the Fury Part 4: April 8th, 1928

Easter Sunday, 1928, follows Jason’s narration by two days and Benjy’s by one day. Despite opposition from Luster and Mrs. Compson, Dilsey enters the Compson home and successfully starts the kitchen. Jason is irate because someone smashed the window in his room, Luster informs Dilsey. Benjy whimpers while eating his food. When Jason reappears, he angrily asks Dilsey to invite Miss Quentin to breakfast. Miss Quentin’s chamber is unresponsive. Jason jumps up the stairs in an instant, grabs his mother’s keys, and opens Miss Quentin’s door. Miss Quentin has left, and the window is open.

Jason phones the police and reports that his money has been taken, but he chooses not to pursue the matter because doing so would entail admitting to embezzling Quentin’s money. He then sets out on his own to find her again, but he loses track of her in the adjacent town of Mottson and declares her lost forever.

Easter is spent soothingly by Dilsey, the main character of this section of ‘The Sound and the Fury,‘ who takes care of everyone in her family and the Compson family, attends church, and muses on the meaning of life. The narrative concludes with Luster driving Benjy to the cemetery every week in the carriage.

As they approach the cemetery, Luster takes a different route than T.P. had always taken, which causes Benjy to howl in protest. Benjy and Luster are discovered by Jason. Benjy is struck to calm him down, and Luster is told not to deviate from the path he is used to taking. Benjy keeps howling. Benjy finally calms down when Luster drives him home, and he sees the familiar buildings, doorways, windows, signs, and trees of Jefferson in their proper positions.


Why did Quentin kill himself in ‘The Sound and the Fury’?

Quentin killed himself out of desperation about Caddy’s deteriorating morality.

Why did Jason become bitter and resentful in ‘The Sound and the Fury’?

After Caddy’s promiscuity wrecks his prospects of earning the job Caddy’s husband had promised him, Jason lives a life of resentment and hatred.

Who is the favorite Compson child in ‘The Sound and the Fury’?

It is Jason. It is unclear why exactly Mrs. Compson favours Jason over other kids but perhaps it’s because he more closely resembles Mrs. Compson’s propensity for unhappiness and self-pity than any of the other kids.

Who is the protagonist of ‘The Sound and the Fury’?

Dilsey. She is the black servant of the Compson family and cares for the children. She is, perhaps, the only character that truly loves Benjy. She takes him to church and uplifts his spirits whenever he is feeling down.

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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