The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner
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Summary

April Sixth, 1928

Summary April Sixth, 1928

Jason makes it back to town, finishes his day at work, and returns home. Luster tells Jason that Miss Quentin and Mrs. Compson are upstairs fighting, and that Dilsey is trying to keep the peace. Luster wants to go to the minstrel show very badly and tells Jason he needs a quarter to buy a ticket. Jason has two tickets that he does not want, but he knows Luster does not have any money, so he burns up the two tickets in the stove while Luster watches.

Jason goes inside and Dilsey serves dinner. Jason does not explicitly mention that he saw Miss Quentin with the man in the red tie, but alludes to it indirectly several times. Miss Quentin angrily asks Mrs. Compson why Jason is always so hostile to her, and claims that she misbehaves because Jason has made her that way. Miss Quentin goes up to her room to study, but Jason suspects that she plans to sneak out of the house.

Analysis

Faulkner sets the tone of Jason’s section from the first sentence: “Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say.” Jason has grown into a petty, sadistic, and bitter man, and we see that the form of his narrative reflects this hardened mind. Jason’s narrative is clear, precise, swift, and almost completely emotionless. His clarity helps reveal several key plot details that the two previous sections have merely implied. Jason confirms that Benjy has been castrated, that Quentin drowned himself, and that Caddy was divorced. However, though a relief after the chaotic stream of consciousness of Benjy’s and Quentin’s narratives, Jason’s section is ultimately disturbing in its clear depiction of the hatred and cruelty with which Jason runs the Compson family.

Though cunning and clever, Jason does not put his talents to good use. Instead, he succumbs to his own hatred and wallows in a sense of victimization. He resents Caddy for costing him the job at Herbert’s bank, but fails to appreciate the fact that without Caddy he would never have been offered the job in the first place. The simple wickedness Jason displayed as child has intensified in his adulthood. He takes pleasure in tormenting everyone around him and takes strength from a conviction that, because he has been wronged, he is always right.

Considering that Jason is the new head of the Compson household, the family truly has sunk to an unfathomable low. Whereas his grandfather was a Civil War general and his great-grandfather the governor of Mississippi, Jason works as a clerk in a farm-supply store and steals from his own family. He is hardly of the same material as the ancestors who built up the family name. Ironically, however, Jason is the only one of the Compson children to win Mrs. Compson’s love. Jason abuses his mother’s trust, using it to blind her to the fact that he is stealing large sums of money from her. It is unclear why Mrs. Compson favors Jason so much, but perhaps it is because he shares Mrs. Compson’s tendencies toward misery and self-pity much more than the other children.

Jason is not bothered by failing to live up to his ancestors’ greatness because he is completely unconcerned with the past. Unlike Benjy and Quentin, Jason is wholly focused on the present and on manipulating the present for future personal gain. He does recall past events, but only concentrates on the effect those events have on him here and now. Jason dwells on Caddy’s divorce, for example, only because it has left him in a menial and unfulfilling job. However, despite Jason’s constant attempts to twist present circumstances to his own benefit, he does not really have any aspirations. He maintains overwhelming greed, selfishness, and focus on future gain, but does not use these to work toward any higher goal. Jason is all motivation with virtually no ambition.