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.
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