Quentin's Struggle in The Sound and the Fury

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Quentin's Struggle in The Sound and the Fury

Too much happens...Man performs, engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear.

That's how he finds that he can bear anything. William Faulkner (Fitzhenry 12)

In Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, we are given a character known as Quentin, one who helps us more fully understand the words of the author when delivering his Nobel Prize acceptance speech "The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself" (The Faulkner Reader 3). Quentin engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear, as the opening quote by Faulkner suggests is the fate of all humans, but he does not discover he can bear anything. Instead, Quentin's heart is so in conflict with itself, a condition Faulkner argues many overlook in his speech excerpt above, that he commits suicide.

There are three kinds of struggles in life. There is man versus the universe, man versus man, and man versus himself. Quentin's conflict is with himself. In fact, despite his imagining otherwise, Quentin is completely locked within himself, unable to cope with external reality. Internal reality is the only reality which he entertains. Like Hamlet, he tries to live up to the internalized idealized image of nature and himself that he imagines should be external reality. As noted in Thompson and Vickery (224) "Psychologically unbalanced by his own inner and outer conflicts, Quentin is represented as being partly responsible not only for what has happened to himself but also for what has happened to some other members of his family. He has permitted his warped and warping ego to invert exactly those basic and primit...

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Thus, we can see that Quentin's internal fictions of what he would like reality to be are too much for him to endure in the face of existential realities that are all too often not aesthetic. He cannot endure because he cannot bear the distance between his internal fictions of reality and reality as it truly exists outside those fictions.


The Faulkner Reader: Selections from the Works of William Faulkner. New York, Random House, 1954.

Faulkner, W. The Sound and the Fury. New York, Random House, 1956.

Fitzhenry, R. I. (ed.). The Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations. New York, Barnes & Noble Books, 1987.

Hoffman, F. J. and Vickery, O. W. William Faulkner: Three Decades of Criticism. New York, Harbinger, 1960.

Polk, N. New Essays On: The Sound and the Fury. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993.
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