The Destructive Nature of Time: The Sound and the Fury Essay

The Destructive Nature of Time: The Sound and the Fury Essay

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The passage and oppressive nature of time in one of the most important themes in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.


Throughout the novel the men of the Compson family are concerned with time in varying ways. How they deal with this seems to dominate their lives and the plot of the novel. Each of the three men in the newest generation of the family, Benjamin, Quentin, and Jason all struggle against it and this leads to the ultimate destruction of the family. While the obsession varies between these men in both style and severity, it does lead these men down the paths that they take. Benjy is a slave to time and the past. Quentin is obsessed with it and cannot move on. Jason is completely unable or unwilling to see it and learn from it. The family is ultimately doomed far before the beginning of the narrative as this story is told very much in the form of flashbacks or broken narratives. It takes time lines and very close reading to string together the past events from the present. In some points the narrative breaks down completely to what appears to be just random thoughts. Also due to the fact that the only third person narrative exists in the final section, the reader may not be inclined to believe most of what Quentin or Jason may be saying. The two most trustworthy characters are Dilsey who is a single step above a slave and Benjy who has a major mental deficiency. These flashbacks that may not be entire truths make the novel what it is though. As Faulkner said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”.
The Compson family was a strong figure of southern lifestyle. Going back to a former Governor it now ends finally with a bitter, greedy, farm store clerk. Through time the family has decayed into somethin...


... middle of paper ...


... Quentin the one most dominated by time is so obsessed with the past and how he cannot control or change it that it eventually leads to his suicide while away from home. The old codes and ways of honor that used to define the south are finally dead with this family. There is little hope that the family could have ever been saved. Unable or unwilling to change they pass by into obscurity just as each second passes by seamlessly and unendingly into the oblivion that is the past.



Works Cited

Fletcher, Mary D. "Edenic Images in "The Sound and the Fury"" John Hopkins
University Press 40.4 (1980): 142-44. Print.
Faulkner, William. The sound and the fury: the corrected text. New York: Vintage
Books, 1990. Print.
Kartiganer, Donald M. "The Sound and the Fury and Faulkner's Quest for Form." John
Hopkins University Press 37.4 (1970): 613-39. Print.

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