The Sound and the Fury Themes and Analysis 📖

‘The Sound and the Fury’ interweaves themes of the nonlinearity of time and the nostalgia for the Old South.

The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner

William Faulkner fashioned the title of the book ‘The Sound and the Fury’ from the Shakespearean play ‘Macbeth’ where the speaker bemoans the futility of a person’s life in the face of history’s and time’s unrelenting march. The overall deterioration of the Compson family and each member is thus symbolized by this subject.

The Concept of Time, Past and Present in The Sound and the Fury

In ‘The Sound and the Fury’, time permeates everything, yet it also confuses readers as well as characters. Benjy’s story abruptly transitions from the past to the present and back again. Since time means nothing to him, it will be difficult for readers to follow his mental ramblings and decipher what initially appears to be his jumbled thoughts. Since the narrators are all inconsistent in some way, their stories are not always truthful, and any accurate analysis of the story is made challenging by its interweaving and nonlinear structure.

By changing the timeline of the story in the middle of a paragraph to move the years back or forward, Faulkner gives Benjy the impression that he is experiencing things through his own eyes. Faulkner can do this by drawing unexpected and moving parallels between the present and the past.

Time is Quentin’s obsession, and he is unable to stop it from passing. Since Caddy’s loss of virginity represents the lost glory of Quentin’s family, the incessant chiming of clocks and the ticking of his grandfather’s watch become a representation of the fall he cannot avoid. The Old South’s code of honor, which mandates that men should behave as gentlemen and women should preserve norms of purity, is something he is enamored with but also perplexed by because he can no longer apply it to his own family.

Quentin desires to freeze himself and his family in the present to prevent more dishonor. However, future development is unavoidable. Because he is unable to change the future, Quentin commits suicide.

Dilsey, the only one of the main characters who can stand back and perceive herself and the Compson family as a small piece of history — she has seen the beginning, and now she sees the end — has the only positive relationship with time and the past.

Corruption and Decay of Family Values in The Sound and the Fury

The Compson home is falling apart in every way and is in a condition of deterioration. However, more than just the Compson family is perishable. Jason III is an alcoholic, Caroline is a self-obsessed hypochondriac, Benjy is severely mentally handicapped, Caddy is shamed and abandoned, Quentin is suicidal, and Jason IV is resentful, avaricious, and cruel. These are physical, mental, and moral manifestations of the Compson fall.

When Faulkner examines the steady collapse of this particular family, which was once a proud nobility, he is also remarking on the gradual decay of the Old South, which is so apparent at the time he writes the novel. Faulkner demonstrates how the aristocracy deteriorated following the Civil War when the upper-class whites’ slave-based wealth was decimated, yet old families like the Compsons continued to adhere to archaic rules and traditions.

Caddy defies the concept of the honorable, gallant Southern gentleman, while Quentin’s obsessive fixation with his sister’s chastity is a perversion of the ideal of the pure Southern lady. Only Dilsey appears to uphold the traditional Southern virtues of honor, goodness, diligence, and religious faith without being corrupted by self-centeredness.

Revival and Hope

The events in three of the book’s four sections occur on or around Easter in 1928. It is crucial that Faulkner chose this weekend for the novel’s conclusion since it is connected to Easter Sunday and Good Friday, when Christ was crucified.

Although Easter weekend is connected to death, it also raises the possibility of rebirth and resurrection. Even though the Compson family has failed, Dilsey offers optimism. Dilsey resembles Christ in various ways. In her lengthy career of service to the dissolving Compson family, Dilsey has gone through misery comparable to that of the suffering servant of the Bible.

Racism and Classicism in The Sound and the Fury

‘The Sound and the Fury’ takes place in Mississippi in the early 1900s, when slavery was still very much alive. The Compson family has black live-in servants who are, all things considered, essentially slaves. The Civil War in the 1860s put an end to slavery, but African-Americans continued to be treated as second-class citizens.

The black servants are mocked by the Compsons in the book, but it is revealed that the Gibsons are more rational and competent than the Compsons themselves. The Gibson family’s matriarch Dilsey is the book’s most endearing protagonist. Dilsey’s cool composure in the face of evil and insanity is resilient enough to withstand the tragedy of the Compsons’ world.


What is the message behind The Sound and the Fury?

‘The Sound and the Fury’ is about the decline of the Compson family and its nostalgia for the Old South. But more so, it is about the self-absorption, hubris, and delusions of grandeur that belly the human psyche.

What did Benjy’s character symbolize in The Sound and the Fury?

Given that Benjy was born on Holy Saturday and is already 33 years old, the same age as Christ was when he was crucified, some critics have referred to him as a Christ figure. Benjy might stand in for Christ’s ineffectiveness in the contemporary world and the necessity for a new Christ figure to emerge. Faulkner might also be suggesting that modern society hasn’t seen Christ in its ranks.

Why is Dilsey considered the protagonist in The Sound and the Fury?

Dilsey remained the only character that maintained kindness, courage, and resoluteness amidst the moral decay of the Compsons.

What was the philosophy of Jason Compson III in The Sound and the Fury?

Although Mr. Compson has a hazy idea of family honor, which he imparts to Quentin, he is enmeshed in his alcoholism and holds a fatalistic view that he does not influence the circumstances that affect his family.

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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