full title The Sound and the Fury
author William Faulkner
type of work Novel
genre Modernist novel
time and place written 1928; Oxford, Mississippi
date of first publication 1929
publisher Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith
narrator The story is told in four chapters by four different narrators: Benjy, the youngest Compson son; Quentin, the oldest son; Jason, the middle son; and Faulkner himself, acting as an omniscient, third-person narrator who focuses on Dilsey, the Compsons’ servant.
point of view Benjy, Quentin, and Jason narrate in the first person, as participants. They narrate in a stream of consciousness style, attentive to events going on around them in the present, but frequently returning to memories from the past. The final section is narrated in third-person omniscient.
tone The world outside the minds of the narrators slowly unravels through personal thoughts, memories, and observations. The tone differs in each chapter, depending on the narrator.
tense Present and past
setting (time) Three of the chapters are set during Easter weekend, 1928, while Quentin’s section is set in June, 1910. However, the memories the narrators recall within these sections cover the period from 1898 to 1928.
setting (place) Jefferson, Mississippi, and Cambridge, Massachusetts (Harvard University)
protagonist The four Compson children: Caddy, Quentin, Benjy, and Jason
major conflict The aristocratic Compson family’s long fall from grace and struggle to maintain its distinguished legacy. This conflict is manifest in Caddy’s promiscuity, her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, her short marriage, and the ensuing setbacks and deaths that her family members suffer.
rising action Caddy’s climbing of a tree with muddy drawers; Benjy’s name change; Caddy’s pregnancy and wedding; Quentin’s suicide; Benjy’s castration; Mr. Compson’s death from alcoholism
climax Miss Quentin’s theft of Jason’s money, and her elopement with the man with the red tie
falling action Dilsey’s taking Benjy to Easter Sunday service and Benjy’s trip to the cemetery
themes The corruption of Southern aristocratic values; resurrection and renewal; the failure of language and narrative
motifs Time; order and chaos; shadows; objectivity and subjectivity
symbols Water; Quentin’s watch; Caddy’s muddy underclothes; Caddy’s perfume
foreshadowing Caddy’s muddy drawers when she climbs the pear tree foretell an inevitable dirtying of the Compson name that will never wash away.