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The first main point that Cleanth Brooks makes is that
the story is told through one obsessed consciousness after
another. Brooks response to this is that the “readers
movement through the book is a progression from murkiness to
increasing enlightenment, and this is natural since we start
with the mind of an idiot, go on next through the memories
and reveries of the Hamlet-like Quentin, and come finally to
the observations of the brittle, would-be rationalist
His second main point is that each section with the
brothers represents their different conceptions “of love
they imply.”2 Benjys being the most simple childlike form,
Quentin love being most complex with his sister and Jason’s
not having any love for anything except when it is strictly
The finale main point he makes is the brothers and
Dilseys relationship with time. Brooks says Benjy has no
more sense of time than an animal has. Quentins obsession
with his past makes him resent the future. As for Jason “he
is only concerned with something that has to be done and is
incapable of any real living.”3 On the other hand Dilsey has
no oppressed feelings about time.
All of these elements, love, time and stream of
consciences give us, as Brooks states, “the brothers status
as human beings.”4 Through each character we see the stream
of consciences marking memories with each person. With this
stream of consciences comes the complex kind of love each
one has towards another. We see this kind of love from a
maternal instinct to an obsession and finally to a self
gratifying cold hearted point of view. The perspective of
time, each Compson had, relays to us what state of mind each
one was in. The more we read into the book the more time
becomes relevant to us until we come to Dilseys section were
she says “I’ve seed de first en de last.”5 Which means that
the Compsons time has come to an end.
To summarize this article Brooks sees Benjys stream of
conscience as a vivid stream of the senses. He sees Benjys
conception of love as simple like a child seeking a maternal
love. Benjys perception of time tells Brooks that he “is
locked almost completely into a timeless present.”6 His
brother Quentin is filled with a low self esteem and can not
get over the failures of his family. He has an obsession
with his sister that is not about love but possession of her
virtuousness. He is infatuated with time because he can’t
posses it. Brooks describes Jason as someone who is out only
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with time has to do with any kind of money that he can make
fast and easy. Out of all the failures that have occurred to
the family Dilsey, a black slave, who has everything going
against her is the only one to come out with a life changing
Brooks response about the movement through the brothers
consciences starting out rough and ending up smooth is
followed clearly from beginning to the end of the book.
We begin with a mud puddle for a stream consciences with
Benjy. His only conception of anything is his sense of smell
which he regularly points out that “Caddy smells like
trees.”7 Next we are moved to Quentin who has a conscience
like a fast flowing river that separates often. Quentin can
never stop thinking and often times leaves us trailing from
one thought to the next without finishing the first thought.
For example, “Mr. and Mrs. Jason Richard Compson announce
the...”8 and then he starts to say something else. Lastly,
with Jason, we are in a cold lake. His stream of conscience
is to the point. His section starts off right away talking
about women. “Once a bitch always a bitch.”9 is what he
says. We can see, in Jason’s section, that the family is
heading for a breakup because of his clear stream of
conscience Faulkner provides us with.
The different levels of love each child posses is
something we can all relate to. At one point in our life
Benjys maternal love, with Caddy, was one that we had with
our mother. We all have had the protective love obsession,
like Quentin had with Caddy, with someone we don’t want to
see hurt. As for Jason, he is similar to a bad business that
we read about, he is only out for profit and not concerned
with the effects he is having on the people surrounding him.
Unlike what Brooks says about Benjy not having a sense
of time I have to disagree. If anyone in this family has an
acute sense of time it is him. He knew his time with Caddy
was coming to an end when he said, “ I couldn’t smell trees
anymore..” 10 even though her arms were wrapped around him
in this scene. He makes a couple of other references to
smell with other people but not as important as the comment
he makes about his brother Quentin. “Quentin smelled like
rain.”11 This could mean that he foresaw the death of
Quentin before it was going to happen. Giving us this
foresight, before we knew what was going to happen, we later
find out that Quentin throws himself into a river. So if
Benjy could smell the death of Damuddy why would the smell
of Quentins death be any different from hers? We see
Quentins obsession with time when he goes to commit suicide.
He can’t let go of his past failures and he is so wrapped up
in them that he doesn’t seem to notice the most prestigious
school he is attending. Jasons vulture approach to time is
measured by the dollar amount he can make. This is pointed
out most notably when he makes reference to the stock market
numbers coming to his broker to late to do anything about.
In this case time is to slow for him and he loses his
In conclusion Faulkner left his best character for us
last. Dilsey could be seen as our sane stream of
conscience. As one reads through this book trying to find
meaning to the Compsons brothers thoughts is like trying to
tell Dilsey her Easter sermon really wasn’t an enlightenment
just for her but for us also. This sermon makes references
to key biblical passages that coincide almost exactly with
what was happening with the Compson family. Their past,
present and future were told in that sermon and Dilsey
replied, “Never you mind me.”12 This is a reference to Jesus
speaking in Revelation 22.13 were he said “I am the Alpha
and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the
Last.”13 Shortly there after we come to the end of the
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