Mr. Compson is a well-spoken but very cynical and detached man. He subscribes to a philosophy of determinism and fatalism—he believes life is essentially meaningless and that he can do little to change the events that befall his family. Despite his cynicism, however, Mr. Compson maintains notions of gentlemanliness and family honor, which Quentin inherits. Mr. Compson risks the family’s financial well-being in exchange for the potential prestige of Quentin’s Harvard education, and he tells stories that foster Quentin’s nearly fanatical obsession with the family name.
Though he inculcates his son with the concept of family honor, Mr. Compson is unconcerned with it in practice. He acts indifferent to Quentin about Caddy’s pregnancy, telling him to accept it as a natural womanly shortcoming. Mr. Compson’s indifference greatly upsets Quentin, who is ashamed by his father’s disregard for traditional Southern ideals of honor and virtue. Mr. Compson dismisses Quentin’s concerns about Caddy and tells his son not to take himself so seriously, which initiates Quentin’s rapid fall toward depression and suicide. Mr. Compson dies of alcoholism shortly thereafter.