Places: The Sound and the Fury

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1929

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Stream of consciousness

Time of work: 1900-1928

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedYoknapatawpha County

Yoknapatawpha Sound and the Fury, TheCounty (YOK-nuh-puh-TAW-fuh). Beginning with his third novel, William Faulkner set a great deal of his fiction in the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner drew this county for a map included in his novel Absalom, Absalom! (1936). He included details about plot events and where they occurred. The county is named after a river in Mississippi and the Native American word Yoknapatawpha. The details make it clear that it corresponds to Lafayette County, Mississippi, where Faulkner lived in the town of Oxford, called Jefferson in his fiction. Throughout Faulkner’s fiction, he creates a detailed history of the land, its inhabitants, its changes, and its significance. By taking his home, what he called his own “little postage stamp of native soil,” and transforming it into the powerful mythical county of his fiction, Faulkner created an enduring literary landscape.

Jefferson

Jefferson. Typical southern town of the period, Jefferson plays a central role in the story. The siblings play on their land and the surrounding area, from Benjy’s pasture to neighboring yards, the riverbank, and the creek, where a number of important events take place. The powerful last scene of the novel takes place in the town square, complete with Confederate statue, where Luster upsets Benjy by going the wrong way on a one-way street. The town is also where Jason rushes in and out of the store where he works, in and out of the cotton trading office, back and forth from home, and up streets and alleys looking for the female Quentin. Through comparing the present-day surroundings to the characters’ memories of them, the reader sees that great changes have taken place.

Compson home

Compson home. Once-fashionable house that is the home of the Compsons, a fine family that has fallen on hard times. The family once owned the surrounding land, but so many parcels of it have been sold that now only the house and servants’ quarters remain. Benjy spends almost all his time here, watched by a succession of servants. The reader learns that “Benjy’s Pasture,” as the family calls it, a place where Benjy spent many happy hours with his siblings (especially his sister Caddy), has been sold to send his brother Quentin to college. By the time of the novel, it has been turned into a golf course; Benjy mournfully hopes for his sister’s return and mourns her absence every time a golfer yells “Caddy.” Mrs. Compson, the children’s mother, controls the environment in the house. A proud, bitter, neurotic, and manipulative woman, she reigns through guilt and suffering, creating an environment that first Caddy and then her son Quentin feel they must escape.

*Harvard University

*Harvard University. The second section of the novel, Quentin’s section, occurs in his dormitory room, the college grounds, and the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The narrative follows Quentin on the last day of his life, which begins and ends in his room. During the day, he walks through the town, into stores, and along the river. While physically set in Massachusetts, much of the content of this section plays out in Quentin’s memory, back in Yoknapatawpha County, through his memories of his sister, his long talks with his father, and his resulting anguish. At the end of this section, he jumps off the bridge to his death.

BibliographyBloom, Harold, ed. Caddy Compson. New York: Chelsea House, 1990. Contains ten critical essays focusing on Caddy Compson.Karl, Frederick R. William Faulkner: American Writer. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989. A 1,000-page biography of Faulkner that also provides insightful critical analyses of his major works. Karl’s discussion of how Faulkner wove together the complex parts of The Sound and the Fury is particularly illuminating.Matthews, John T. “The Sound and the Fury”: Faulkner and the Lost Cause. Boston: Twayne, 1991. A short but insightful book-length study of the novel, with chapters devoted to its importance in Faulkner’s canon and to its composition, critical reception, characterization, setting, and narrative technique.Vickery, Olga W. The Novels of William Faulkner. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. One of the first, and most useful, book-length studies of the Faulkner canon. The discussion of The Sound and the Fury focuses on the narratives of the Compson brothers.Volpe, Edmund L. A Reader’s Guide to William Faulkner. New York: Noonday Press, 1964. The best beginner’s guide to Faulkner’s work. Appendix contains scene-by-scene rendering of Benjy’s and Quentin’s sometimes confusing narratives and a useful Compson genealogy.
Categories: Places