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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sexual Tension and Anguish in The Sound and the Fury

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Sexual Tension and Anguish in The Sound and the Fury


William Faulkner brings light on the importance of women in the south in his novel The Sound and the Fury. Caddy Compson has great importance relying on her virginity, and her sexual promiscuity leads to the ultimate collapse of the Compson family. With so much emphasis placed on her sexuality, the three brothers become very attached to her, but it develops into an incestuous tension, that also foreshadows the demise of the three brothers individually, as well as the Compson family as a whole.


Caddy Compson’s sexual perseverance is key to the Compson name. Older daughters brought honor and respect to the family name, which Caddy failed to do. She started at a young age, and her reputation was tarnished quickly. After Mrs. Compson discovers Caddy kissing a boy, she is more than disappointed. “And all the next day, she went around the house in a black dress and veil… crying and saying her littler daughter was dead.” (Levins 75).


After Caddy had grown up, her sexuality became of less importance, but even when mature, Caddy seemed to bring down her family by having an affair. She slept with Daulton Ames and had an illegitimate child. In doing this, “It is her “sin,” her breach of ethics or contract…” (Frederick 58). Caddy sinned on the family name, as well as upholding the prominence in being a woman from the south. Even if she had been caught as a little girl kissing boys, her affair with another man while married can only bring down her and the family’s image that much more.


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Mrs. Compson had higher standards for her daughter, being the ideal lady herself, but she could not set these examples for Caddy because Mrs. Compson did not encompass the normal motherly standards for her children (Levins 75). She laid sick in her bed, mostly complaining, and not setting a positive example for her children to follow. This let down in the family’s inner structure can only be the reason as to why Caddy became interested in boys. She was most likely looking for a source of attention in her life, lacking the parental figures that she needed.


Caddy Compson had to also play the role of mother to her younger brothers as well as grow up herself. (Clarke 1) Caddy looked after the three, and took care of their emotions as well. While taking care of her brothers, they all became deeply attached to her. She affected their lives greatly, even after she has left the house. Quentin had the overwhelming desire to protect Caddy’s virginity, but became obsessive over it instead (The Sound and The Fury 1). He fails in protecting it, and cannot reach his standards that he had set for himself (Hunt 6). Jason looks at the situation in a more negative way, rather than Quentin’s nostalgic point of view. Jason is a pessimist about the situation, and has mostly negative things to say about Caddy. This is portrayed in his treatment of Caddy’s daughter, Miss Quentin (Clarke 1). Benjy is too simple to realize what Caddy has done, so she remains in good terms with him.


Caddy’s sexual encounters are always considered negative, but she is a young women, “Her experiments in sex are “natural”, if foolish” (Hunt 6). The family does not look upon her in such a light way, and becomes self-destructive because of it. Quentin becomes so upset with Caddy, he confronts Dalton Ames, and has a fight over what has happened. Quentin and Dalton have very different views on virginity, and this shows that even Quentin has made the situation more serious than it already is. By having the different points of view, Faulkner has made the reader believe that not every woman must be kept locked away until she is ready to be married.


The constant punishment that Quentin has endured through his child hood catches up with him while he is at college. Quentin’s personal failures as a brother, lead him to commit suicide, because he has not become the image of what he wanted to be. He believed that he could protect his sister, and he obviously did not fulfill that objective. Caddy has been unphased by the negative attention she has been receiving from her family.


“The pathetic irony of Quentin’s situation comes from his incapacity, not hers. She is capable-or was before he corrupted her-of the natural power and fertility of the matriarch… Quentin’s fact that he has not only a promiscuous sister, but also a sister who will not admit, does not know, and cannot believe that her promiscuity involves anything more than a private and personal doom” (Hunt 6).


Jason, just as in youth, still has the possessive ideals as an adult. He gets very upset when Caddy’s husband, Herbet Head, finds out about her affair with Ames. This is only because he had a job promised to him, working at Head’s bank, if Head and Caddy got married. This did not happen, and Jason was outraged at Caddy (The Sound and The Fury 1).


He also resents Caddy through her daughter, Miss Quentin. Before Miss Quentin runs away with a man from the circus, she steals his life savings, essentially taking the one thing that has meant the most to Jason, money. Miss Quentin has performed this act because she is the embodiment of Caddy, even while Caddy is not present at the time. Caddy played the good girl until she had matured. Miss Quentin, however, had no chance at all, and is mad at the world. Miss Quentin are the internal feelings of Caddy, but brought out to let the reader know what is going on.


Caddy’s promiscuity now has directly affected Quentin’s life and Jason’s. Quentin killed himself because he could not fulfill what he felt was needed, and Jason because he had his all important item stolen from him, money. Jason is the more superficial of the two brothers, but Quentin is the dramatic one, taking his own life because his sister has become a whore.


While caring for her brothers at a young age, they all became reliant on Caddy. Each of them had a certain expectation of her. Quentin believed that Caddy would stay as the all-knowing, always caring mother, even though she was his sister. While believing in this thought, Quentin is led to having his life revolve around Caddy both emotionally, and sexually. Faulkner almost leads the reader to believe that Quentin relies on Caddy as a sexual passageway, to release his own frustration, and Quentin becomes attracted to it. (Clarke .)


Jason became attracted to Miss Quentin, and expressed it as contempt for her. He numerously made comments about what she wore, and almost sexually analyzes her. This is how Jason releases his feelings on the world, negatively (The Sound and The Fury 1).


Even though Caddy had become a mother to her brothers, the non-motherly figure in her life only adds to the downfalls of the family (Hunt 6). After Caddy kept her child, Miss Quentin, she sends her back to the Compson house, so Jason could watch over her. This showed Caddy to be a weak mother, rather than the cornerstone of the family. Jason did watch over Miss Quentin, but is negative towards her all the time, displaying his hatred for Caddy, through Miss Quentin (The Sound and The Fury 1).


Jason was shown up by Miss Quentin, who stole what was most important to him, his wealth. Caddy had done this with Quentin when she refused to agree to his terms of sexual activity. An embodiment of Caddy had taken away a piece of her brothers once again. Miss Quentin runs away from home, with Jason’s money, now leaving both brothers with a major piece of what they based their lives around.


Caddy’s promiscuity had now all but destroyed everything that the Compson family has based it’s moral code on. Caddy always broke the normal traditional roles in her family, being the strong sister figure, rather than being a non-suggestive, compliant sister. Quentin’s role in the family had been undermined when Caddy had become sexually active (Clarke ). Jason had been robbed of his wealth by the offspring of Caddy, and Benjy stayed in his suspended moment of time, not really realizing what had happened.


Caddy Compson played mother to her three brothers, because Mrs. Compson was not the motherly figure that the family needed. Caddy took on this extremely hard role, and succeeded early in her life to live it out. However, in lacking a mother herself, only lead to the downfalls of her personality, and her own moral code. After Caddy had become her own person, she should have been able to do what she wanted to do, but because her brothers looked at her in a motherly fashion, it was hard for the brothers to let go of what Caddy had done to them at an earlier age. Quentin paid for it with his life, and Jason paid for it in the loss of his life savings to Miss Quentin. The downfall of the Compson family is directly related to Caddy Compson’s sexuality, and her need to find that something that isn’t in her life.


The Compson family has been ripped apart by the ideals of what a person should be, rather than looking at the person in their own way. Quentin’s moral codes can only be supplied by how the women of the south are viewed.


Works Cited


Clarke, Deborah. “Deborah Clarke On Caddy Compson As Sister And Mother.” Robbing the Mother Women in Faulkner. Jackson University Press of Mississippi, 14. 0-. Rpt. In Bloom’s Notes. Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers, 1. 0-.


Hoffman, Frederick J. “Frederick J. Hoffman On Caddy’s Affair With Dalton Ames.“ William Faulkner. New York Twayne Publishers, 161. 51-5. Rpt. in Bloom’s Notes. Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers, 1. 57-5.


Hunt, John W. “John W. Hunt On Quentin’s Moral Outlook.” William Faulkner Art in Theological Tension. Syracuse Syracuse University Press, 165. 56-57. Rpt. in Bloom’s Notes. Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers, 1. 6-6.


Levins, Lynn Gartrell. “Lynn Gartrell Levins On The Sound And The Fury As Chivalric Romance.” Faulkner’s Heroid Design. Athens University of Georgia Press, 176. 1-1. Rpt. in Bloom’s Notes. Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers, 1. 6-6


“The Sound and The Fury.” Novels for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Nopierkowski. Vol. 4. Detroit Gale, 18. 11-1. 1 vols.


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