Parisian Literary Salon

creating community through reading and discussing literature

The Sound and the Fury

- by William Faulkner

In William Faulkner’s first truly modernist work, he pushes to break through the confines of time and sequence to get at the essence of human nature- as Malcolm Bradbury explains, “Faulkner’s preoccupation with time has to do with the endless interlocking of personal and public histories and with the relation of the past to the lost, chaotic present.” The Sound and the Fury uses the interior world of its narrators to expose a crumbling world, through inference and allusion rather than through direct social critique. In the Modernist method, Faulkner employs stream of consciousness, symbolism as a connecting fiber and several interior realities (that show how one can see the world as absolutely in one’s way, and directly in contrast to others) that must compete for authority.

This Salon will draw upon individual’s questions and ideas to shed light on this complex text. The reading load should allow for re-reading as we study the work, enabling the first time reader access to Faulkner’s complex vision. Upon a first reading, the narratives appear jumbled and opaque but as the pieces start to fit together, one can see the complex and careful planning that Faulkner has used- and to what end? This is what we must grapple with for the Salon. The writing assignment for this Salon will include the use of subjective first person narrative and a close examination of the limits of perspective.

I am including some introductory comments from Richard Hughes that I think will help orient the reader in the opening chapter of the text:

Mr. Faulkner’s method in this book is successful, but it is none the less curious. The first seventy pages are told by a congenital imbecile, a man of thirty-three whose development has not advanced beyond babyhood. Benjy has no sense of time: his only thought process is associative: the event of the day, then, and what it reminds him of in the past are all one to him: the whole of his thirty-three years are present to him in one interrupted and streamless flood. This enables the author to begin by giving a general and confused picture of his whole subject. He offers a certain amount of help to the understanding, it is true, in that he changes from roman to italic type whenever there is a change in time: but even then I defy a reader to disentangle the people and events concerned at a first reading. But the beauty of it is this: there is no need to disentangle anything. If one ceased to make the effort, one soon finds that this strange rigmarole holds one’s attention on its own merits. Vague forms of people and events, apparently unrelated, loom out of the fog and disappear again. One is seeing the world through the eyes of an idiot: but so clever is Mr. Faulkner that, for the time being at least, one is content to do so.