The Sound and the Fury

This section of the book is commonly referred to as "Benjy's section" because it is narrated by the retarded youngest

The Sound and the Fury

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brothers:

What the novel has made, it has also lost . . . . [Caddy] is memorable precisely because she inhabits the memories of her brothers and the novel, and memory for Faulkner never transcends the sense of loss . . . . Caught in Faulkner's mind as she climbs out of the book, Caddy is the figure that the novel is written to lose (Matthews, 2-3). Thus the seminal scene in this section of the story is that of the sullied Caddy, "climbing out of" Benjy's life.

The scene of Damuddy's death is not the only part of this section that forecasts the future. Like a Greek tragedy, this section is imbued with a sense of impending disaster, and in fact the events of the present day chronicle a family that has fallen into decay. For Benjy, the dissolution of the life he knows is wrapped up in Caddy and her sexuality, which eventually leads her to desert him. For his mother and the servants, the family's demise is a fate that cannot be avoided, of which Benjy's idiocy and Quentin's death are signs. This is what prompts Roskus to repeatedly vow that "they aint no luck on this place," and what causes mother to perform the almost ritualistic ablution of changing Benjy's name. It is as if changing his name from Maury, the name of a Bascomb, will somehow avert the disastrous fate that the Compson blood seems to bring. This overwhelming sense of an inescapable family curse will resurface many times throughout the book.

Summary of June Second, 1910:

This section of the book details the events of the day of Quentin's suicide, from the moment he wakes in the morning until he leaves his room that night, headed to the river to drown himself. Like Benjy's section, this section is narrated in stream of consciousness, sliding constantly between modern-day events and memories; however, Quentin's section is not as disjointed at Benjy's, regardless of his agitated mental state. As with Benjy, most of the memories he relates are centered on Caddy and her precocious sexuality.

The present day:

Quentin wakes in his Harvard dorm room to the sound of his watch ticking: "when the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtain it was between seven and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch" (76). This is the watch his father gave him when he came to Harvard. He tries to ignore the sound, but the more he tries, the louder it seems. He turns the watch over and returns to bed, but the ticking goes on. His roommate Shreve appears in the doorway and asks him if he is going to chapel, then runs out the door to avoid being late himself. Quentin watches his friends running to chapel out the window of his dorm room, then listens to the school's bell chiming the hour (8:00 a.m.).

He goes to the dresser and picks up his watch, tapping it against the side of the dresser to break the glass. He twists the hands of the watch off, but the watch keeps ticking. He notices that he cut himself in the process and meticulously cleans his wound with iodine. He painstakingly packs up all his clothes except two suits, two pairs of shoes, and two hats, then locks his trunk and piles his schoolbooks on the sitting-room table, as the quarter-hour bell chimes.

He bathes and puts on a new suit and his (now broken) watch, puts his trunk key into an envelope addressed to his father, then writes two noes and seals them. He goes out the door, bumping into his returning roommate on the way, who asks him why he is all dressed up. The half-hour chimes and Quentin walks into Harvard Square, to the post office. He buys stamps and mails one letter to his father and keeps one for Shreve in his coat pocket. He is looking for his friend "the Deacon," an eccentric black man who befriends all the Southern students at Harvard. He goes out to breakfast; while he is eating he hears the clock strike the hour (10:00 a.m.).

Quentin continues to walk around the square, trying to avoid looking at clocks, but finds it impossible to escape time like that. He eventually walks into a jeweler's and asks him about fixing his watch. He asks if any of the watches in the window is right, and stops the jeweler before he can tell him what time it is. The jeweler says that he will fix his watch this afternoon, but Quentin takes it back and says he will get it fixed later. Walking back out into the street, he buys two six-pound flat-irons; he chooses them because they are "heavy enough" but will look like a pair of shoes when they are wrapped up and he is carrying them around the Square (85).

He takes a fruitless cable car ride, then gets off the car on a bridge, where he watches one of his friends rowing on the river. He walks back to the Square as the bell chimes the quarter hour (11:15), and he meets up with the Deacon and gives him the letter he has written to Shreve, asking him to deliver it tomorrow. He tells the Deacon that when he delivers the letter tomorrow Shreve will have a present for him. As the bell chimes the half-hour, he runs into Shreve, who tells him a letter arrived for him this morning. Then he gets on another car as the bells chime 11:45.

When he gets off the car he is near a run-down town on the Charles River, and he walks along the river until he comes across three boys fishing on a bridge over the river; he hides the flat irons under the edge of the bridge before striking up a conversation with the boys. They notice that he has a strange accent and ask if he is from Canada; he asks them if there are any factories in town (factories would have hourly whistles). He walks on toward the town, although he is anxious to keep far enough away from the church steeple's clock to render its face unreadable. Finally he arrives in town and walks into a bakery; there is nobody behind the counter, but there is a little Italian immigrant girl standing before it. A woman enters behind the counter and Quentin buys two buns. He tells the proprietress that the little girl would like something too; the proprietress eyes the girl suspiciously and accuses her of stealing something.

Quentin defends her and she extends her hand to reveal a nickel. The woman wraps up a five-cent loaf of bread for the girl, and Quentin puts some money on the counter and buys another bun as well. The woman asks him if he is going to give the bun to the girl, and he says he is. Still acting exasperated, she goes into a back room and comes out with a misshapen cake; she gives it to the girl, telling her it won't taste any different than a good cake. The girl follows Quentin out of the store, and he takes her to a drugstore and buys her some ice cream. They leave the drugstore and he gives her one of the buns and says goodbye, but she continues to follow him. Not knowing exactly what to do, he walks with her toward the immigrant neighborhood across the train tracks where he assumes she lives. She will not talk to him or indicate where she lives. He asks some men in front of a store if they know her, and they do, but they don't know where she lives either. They tell him to take her to the town marshal's office, but when he does the marshal isn't there.

Quentin decides to take her down to her neighborhood and hopefully someone will claim her. At one point she seems to tell him that a certain house is hers, but the woman inside doesn't know her. They continue to walk through the neighborhood until they come out on the other side, by the river. Quentin gives a coin to the girl, then runs away from her along the river. He walks along the river for a while, then suddenly meets up with the little girl again. They walk along together for a while, still looking for her house; eventually they turn back and walk toward town again. They come across some boys swimming, and the boys throw water at them. The hurry toward town, but the girl still won't tell him where she lives.

Suddenly a man flies at them and attacks Quentin; he is the little girl's brother. He has the town marshal with him, and they take him into town to talk to the police because they think he was trying to kidnap the girl. In town they meet up with Shreve, Spoade and Gerald, Quentin's friends, who have come into town in Gerald's mother's car. Eventually after discussing everything at length, the marshal lets Quentin go, and he gets into the car with his friends and drives away.

As they drive Quentin slides into a kind of trance wherein he remembers various events from his past, mostly to do with her precocious sexuality (to be discussed later). While his is lost in this reverie the boys and Gerald's mother have gotten out of the car and set up a picnic. Suddenly he comes to, bleeding, and the boys tell him that he just suddenly began punching Gerald and Gerald beat him up. They tell him that he began shouting "did you ever have a sister? Did you?" then attacked Gerald out of the blue. Quentin is more concerned about the state of his clothes than anything else. His friends want to take the cable car back to Boston without Gerald, but Quentin tells them he doesn't want to go back. They ask him what he plans to do (perhaps they suspect something about his suicidal plans). They go back to the party, and Quentin walks slowly toward the city as the twilight descends.

Eventually Quentin gets on a cable car. Although it is dark by now, he can smell the water of the river as they pass by it. As they pass the Harvard Square post office again, he hears the clock chiming but has no idea what time it is. He plans to return to the bridge where he left his flatirons, but he has to wash his clothes first in order to carry out his plans correctly. He returns to his dorm room and takes off his clothes, meticulously washing the blood off his vest with gasoline. The bell chim

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