The Sound and the Fury follows the family tragedy of fallen landowners the Compson family in the South. Old Compson loafed and drank too much. His wife is selfish and cruel and complains about everything. The eldest son Quentin desperately clings to the so-called old traditions of the South because his sister Caddy’s liberal approach to sex is seen as a disgrace to the identity of a southern lady. The second son Jason is cold and greedy. The third son Benji is mentally disabled he has the intelligence of a three year-old at age thirty-three. Through the inner monologue of the three sons, the whole novel starts around Caddy’s depravity, and finally it is supplemented by the limited perspective of the black maid Dilcey Gibson. Faulkner adopts a multi-angle narrative approach in this book.
The relationship between children who live without love and warmth in a family is full of contradictions and discord. Jason was a victim of his parents’ cold war. His mother’s preference for Jason caused him to be isolated from the other children. While in childhood Caddy, Quentin, and Benji played together, Jason was far away alone. In order to protect the interests of Benji, Caddy rankled Jason. Growing up in isolation, Jason lacks a sense of security and trust in others and becomes callous and cynical. After taking charge of family affairs as an adult, Jason curses, sneers, and blackmails Katie as a kind of revenge. In the absence of maternal love in the family, all these problems potentially led to the decline of the Compsons.
As for Benji, Mr. Compson showed no love and care because of his mental deficiency. With Jason, Mr. Compson took a cold and dismissive attitude. Mr. Compson was partial to his daughter Caddy but neglected her proper guidance, letting her go as she pleased. Mrs. Compson as a mother exhibited the least care and love for her children and never thought of their welfare. She saw her mentally retarded son as a punishment from God, believed that Caddy had been hostile to her since childhood, and that Quentin’s suicide was an act of revenge against her. From The Sound and the Fury, we can also see Faulkner’s high level of understanding and summarizing ability of life and history. Although his work is confusing and sometimes dreamlike, it actually presents a side of historic change in the American South through the disintegration and dying of an old family. As you can see, the old South has indeed collapsed irretrievably. Its economic base has long since deteriorated, and its remaining superstructure is crumbling. Caddy’s fall implies the downfall of the Southern code of ethics. Benji had limbs but no ability to think, while Quentin had complicated thoughts but lost the ability to act. The other brother Jason saw only money in his eyes and simply abandoned his old values.