The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner
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Summary

June Second, 1910

Summary June Second, 1910

Quentin rides a trolley, thinking abstractly about time and about his past. He remembers talking to Herbert Head two days before the wedding, and that he and Herbert nearly came to blows before Caddy came in and sent Herbert away. Quentin remembers telling Caddy she was sick and that if she was sick she could not be married. Caddy replied that because of her pregnancy she had “got to marry somebody.” Quentin asked Caddy if she had slept with many men, and she answered vaguely. He then asked her whether she knew the identity of the father of her unborn child, and she again answered vaguely. Quentin then recalls another memory, when his father told him that the only reason Quentin was upset at Caddy’s pregnancy was because he himself was still a virgin. Mr. Compson was relatively unconcerned with Caddy’s pregnancy because he said that virginity was just a meaningless concept invented by men.

Quentin stands on a bridge looking down into the river. He remembers the time when he tried to persuade Caddy not to marry Herbert. Quentin told Caddy that Herbert was a “blackguard” who was thrown out of his club at Harvard for cheating at cards. He tried to convince Caddy to leave Jefferson with him, saying they could live off of the money meant for his Harvard tuition. Caddy refused, saying that Quentin’s tuition money was raised through the sale of Benjy’s favorite pasture, and that Quentin cannot drop out. Caddy is concerned that after their father’s death Benjy will be put in the mental hospital in Jackson.

Quentin meets a little Italian girl in a bakery. He buys the girl some bread and she follows him. Quentin tries to find out where she lives. Finally, the girl’s older brother Julio sees them and attacks Quentin, accusing him of kidnapping his sister. A constable arrives. As Quentin is being taken away to the squire, he sees Shreve, Spoade, Gerald Bland, and Mrs. Bland driving with some young girls. Quentin’s friends accompany him to the squire’s office. Quentin pays seven dollars in fines and is quickly released.

As they drive, Gerald Bland regales the group with stories about his exploits with women. Quentin remembers his confrontation with Caddy after discovering that she had had sex with Dalton Ames. Quentin frantically suggested to Caddy that they both kill themselves. Then he suggested that they claim it was Quentin who had taken Caddy’s virginity and that they could go away together and even believe that it was true. Indifferently, almost numbly, Caddy accepted all of Quentin’s suggestions. Afterward, in a frenzy, Quentin confronted Dalton Ames and threatened to kill him.

Quentin suddenly asks Gerald if he has a sister. Gerald says he does not, and Quentin hits him. Gerald fights back and gives Quentin a black eye. Quentin finds a trolley and rides back to Harvard. In his room, Quentin cleans a bloodstain off his vest and thinks about his mother. He remembers the time he told his father he had committed incest with Caddy, and that his father did not believe him. His father told Quentin that his feelings of despair about Caddy’s behavior would quickly pass. The class bell rings outside. Quentin puts his watch in Shreve’s desk, brushes his teeth, takes up his hat, and leaves the room.

Analysis

This section of the narrative relates Quentin’s tormented and jumbled inner thoughts on the day that he commits suicide. Faulkner uses Quentin’s narrative to continue his exploration of the human experience of time. Though not quite as disorienting as Benjy’s narrative, Quentin’s is nonetheless very abstract. Benjy is able to offer only vague impressions and objective observation. Quentin, however, has a conscious, subjective voice and frequently tends toward abstract thought. Quentin’s narrative plunges us into questions of human motivation, cause and effect, and circumstance that Benjy is unable to identify or consider.