ELEMENTS OF MODERNISM IN "THE SOUND AND THE FURY" Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 47
This research is an attempt to have a critical analysis of William
Faulkner's novels. Therefore the representative novels will be analyzed systematically at different levels; themes, character, form, technique, style etc. To this end, in this chapter, first, the researcher £fttempts to present the plot overview of "The Sound and the Fury" the most well known novel of the author. Next, theme, title, and the text of the novel will be studied respectively. Later, a critical analysis of the novel along with exposure of the elements of literary modernism such as stream of consciousness, multiple narrations, fragmentation etc. in the novel will be presented.
As a matter of fact, William Faulkner's power is still unmatched in
American literature. He turned storytelling inside out and made it seem an aspect of nature and invented a version of the South that eclipsed all other versions .His reputation as one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century is largely due to his highly experimental style.
Faulkner, a pioneer in literary modernism, often employs stream of consciousness narrative, discards any notion of chronological order. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 48 uses multiple narrators, shifts between the present and the past tense, and tends towards impossibly long and complex sentences. Not surprisingly, these stylistic innovations make some of Faulkner's novels incredibly challenging to the reader. However, these innovations showed the way for future writers to continue to experiment with the possibilities of the English language. For his efforts, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949, He died in Mississippi in
First published in 1929, The Sound and the Fury is recognized as one of the most successfully innovative and experimental American novels of its time as well as one of the most challenging to interpret.
The novel concerns the downfall of the Compsons, who have been a prominent family in Jefferson, Mississippi before the Civil War.
Faulkner represents the human experience by portraying events and images subjectively, through several different characters' memories of childhood. The novel's stream of consciousness style is frequently very opaque, as events are often obscured and narrated out of order. Despite its formidable complexity, The Sound and the Fury is a deeply moving Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 49 novel. It is generally regarded as Faulkner's most important and remarkable literary wbrk.
2.1. Plot Overview
Attempting to apply a traditional plot summary to ^The Sound and the Fury' is difficult. At a basic level, the novel is about the three
Compson brothers' obsessions with their sister Caddy, but this brief synopsis represents merely the surface of what the novel contains. A story told in four chapters, by four different voices, and out of chronological order. The Sound and the Fury requires intense concentration and patience to interpret and understand.
The first three chapters of the novel consist of the convoluted thoughts, voices, and memories of the three Compson brothers, captured on three different days. The brothers are Benjy, a retarded thirty-three- year-old man, speaking in April, 1928; Quentin, a young Harvard student, speaking in June, 1910; and Jason, a bitter farm-supply store worker, speaking again in April, 1928. Faulkner tells the fourth chapter in his own narrative voice, but focuses on Dilsey, the Compson family's devoted "Negro" cook who has played a great part in raising the Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 50 children. Faulkner harnesses the brothers' memories of their sister
Caddy, using a single symbolic moment to forecast the decline of the once prominent Compson family and to examine the deterioration of the
Southern aristocratic class since the Civil War.
The Compsons are one of several prominent names in the town of
Jefferson, Mississippi. Their ancestors helped settle the area and subsequently defended it during the Civil War. Since the war, the
Compsons have gradually seen their wealth, land, and status crumble away. Mr. Compson is an alcoholic. Mrs. Compson is a self-absorbed hypochondriac who depends almost entirely upon Dilsey to raise her four children. Quentin, the oldest child, is a sensitive bundle of neuroses. Caddy is stubborn, but loving and compassionate. Jason is largely spumed by the other children. Benjy is severely mentally disabled, an "idiot" with no understanding of the concepts of time. In the absence of the self-absorbed Mrs. Compson, Caddy serves as a mother figure and symbol of affection for Benjy and Quentin.
As the children grow older, however, Caddy begins to behave promiscuously, which torments Quentin and sends Benjy into fits of moaning and crying. Quentin is preparing to go to Harvard, and Mr. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 51
Compson sells a large portion of the family land to provide funds for the tuition. Caddy loses her virginity and becomes pregnant. She is unable or unwilling to name the father of the child, though it is likely Dalton
Ames, a boy from town.
Caddy's pregnancy leaves Quentin emotionally shattered. He
attempts to claim false responsibility for the pregnancy, lying to his father that he and Caddy have committed incest. Mr. Compson is indifferent to Caddy's promiscuity, dismissing Quentin's story and telling his son to leave early for the Northeast.
Attempting to cover up her indiscretions, Caddy quickly marries
Herbert Head, a banker she met in Indiana. Herbert promises Jason
Compson a job in his bank. Herbert immediately divorces Caddy and rescinds Jason's job offer when he realizes his wife is pregnant with another man's child. Meanwhile, Quentin, still mired in despair over
Caddy's sin, commits suicide by drowning himself in the Charles River just before the end of his first year at Harvard.
The Compsons disown Caddy from the family, but take in her newborn daughter. Miss Quentin. The task of raising Miss Quentin falls squarely on Dilsey's shoulders. Mr. Compson dies of alcoholism Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 52 roughly a year after Quentin's suicide. As the oldest surviving son,
Jason becomes the head of the Compson household. Bitterly employed at a menial job in the local farm-supply store, Jason devises an ingenious scheme to steal the money Caddy sends to support Miss
Miss Quentin grows up to be an unhappy, rebellious, and promiscuous girl, constantly in conflict with her overbearing uncle
Jason. On Easter Sunday, 1928, Miss Quentin steals several thousand dollars from Jason and runs away with a man from a traveling show.
While Jason chases after Miss Quentin to no avail, Dilsey takes Benjy and the rest of her family to Easter services at the local church.
2.2. Analysis of the The Sound and The Fury
2.2.1. The Title of the Novel
The title of The Sound and the Fury' refers to a line from William
Shakespeare's Macbeth. Macbeth, a Scottish general and nobleman, learns of his wife's suicide and feels that his life is crumbling into chaos. In addition to Faulkner's title, we can find several of the novel's important motifs in Macbeth's short soliloquy in Act V, scene V: Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 53
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage.
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Act V, Scene V, 18-27)
The Sound and the Fury literally begins as a "tale / Told by an
idiot," as the first chapter is narrated by the mentally disabled Benjy.
The novel's central concerns include time, like Macbeth's "tomorrow
and tomorrow", death, recalling Macbeth's "dusty death"; and
nothingness and disintegration, a clear reference to Macbeth's lament
that life "signifies nothing." Additionally, Quentin is haunted by the
sense that the Compson family has disintegrated to a mere shadow of its
former greatness. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 54
In his soliloquy, Macbeth implies that life is a shadow of the past and that a modem man, like himself, is inadequately equipped and unable to achieve anything from the greatness of the past. Faulkner reinterprets this idea, implying that if man does not choose to take his own life, as Quentin does, the only alternatives are to become either a cynic and materialist like Jason, or an idiot like Benjy, unable to see life as anything more than a meaningless series of images, sounds, and memories.
2.2.2. Analysis of Section I, April 7th, 1928
Caddy Smells Like Trees.
The first chapter is a monologue by Benjy, the youngest of the
Compson's children. Benjy is mentally disabled; the members of his family refer to him as an idiot. His chapter consists of a complex and incoherent stream of thoughts randomly connected to each other by phrases, images, sounds and sights. His thoughts skip around in time and space depending on what random connection has suddenly caught his attention. Benjy is unable to express himself. However, he is not Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 55 merely an idiot, and his section is much more meaningful than it first seems.
When discussing Mr. Compson's death, Roskus states that Benjy
"know a lot more than folks thinks" (p.31), and in fact, for all his idiocy,
Benjy does sense when things are wrong with his self-contained world.
Benjy can "smell" when Caddy has changed; when she wears perfume, he states that she no longer smells "like trees," and the servants claim that he can smell death. He can also sense somehow when Caddy has lost her virginity; she has changed to him. From the time she loses her virginity, she no longer smells like trees to him. Although his section at first presents itself as an objective snapshot of a retarded boy's perceptions of the world, it is more ordered and more intelligent than that.
Most of the memories Benjy relates in his section have to do with
Caddy, and specifically with moments of loss related to Caddy. The first memory of Damuddy's death, for example, marks a change in his family structure and a change in his brother Jason, who was the closest to
Damuddy and slept in her room. His many memories of Caddy are Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 56 mostly concerned with her sexuality, a fact that changes her relationship with him and eventually removes her from his life. His later memories are also associated with some sort of loss: the loss of his pasture, of his father, and the loss associated with his castration. Critics have pointed out that Benjy's narrative is "timeless," that he cannot distinguish between present and past and therefore relives his memories as they occur to him. He is caught in a process of constantly recreating his sister in memory and losing her simultaneously. His life is a constant cycle of loss .When Benjy is trapped in a constantly replaying succession of losses, the objects show that. For example he often stares into the
"bright shapes" of the fire while the world revolves around him. The word "fire" is mentioned numerous times in the memory of his name change. Caddy and the servants know that he stops crying when he looks at the fire. The fire is a symbolic object; it is conventionally associated with the contrast between light and dark, heat and cold. It is a comfort, not merely to Benjy because of the pleasure he receives in watching it, but because it is associated with Caddy. The fire is therefore tied in Benjy's mind with the idea of Caddy; both are warm and comforting forces within a cold family. But unlike Caddy, the fire is Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 57 unchanging; there will always be a fire, even after she leaves him. The fact that Benjy bums himself on the kitchen stove after Luster closes the oven door reveals the pain - both physical and mental - that Benjy associates with Caddy's absence.
Another object that provides comfort to Benjy is the library mirror.
Like the fire, the mirror plays a large part in the memory of his name change, as Benjy watches the various members of his family move in and out of the mirror:
"Caddy and Jason were fighting in the mirror . ... we could see
Caddy fighting in the mirror and Father put me down and went into the mirror and fought too . ... He rolled into the corner, out of the mirror.
Father brought Caddy to the fire. They were all out of the mirror." (S&
F, p. 64-65).
The mirror is a frame of reference through which Benjy sees the world; people are either in or out of the mirror, and he does not understand the concept of reflection. Like the mirror, Benjy's section of the book provides readers with a similar exact reflection of the world that Benjy sees, framed by his memories. Characters slide in and out of Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in Th& Sound and The Fury 58
the mirror of his perception, theu* conversations and actions accurately
reported but distorted in the process.
As the "tale told by an idiot," Benjy's section makes up the center
kernel of the story of the Compson family tragedy. In this section, we
are told that Caddy sullies her garments in an act that prefigures her
later sexuality. She then takes off her dress, a further sexual metaphor,
causing Quentin to become enraged and slap her. Just as the loss of her
virginity upsets Quentin to the point of suicide, his angry and
embarrassed reaction to taking off her dress here reveals the jealous
protectiveness he feels for her sexuality. Benjy, too, is traumatized by
the muddying of Caddy's dress:
"Caddy was all wet and muddy behind, and I started to cry and she came
2nd squatted in the water" (Ibid: 19).
Just as her sexuality will cause his world to crack later on, her muddy
dress here causes him to cry. The scene ends with the image of Caddy's muddy drawers as she climbs the tree: Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 60
"We watched the muddy bottom of her drawers. Then we couldn't see her. We could hear the tree thrashing. ... the tree quit thrashing. We looked up into the still branches" (Ibid: 39).
This image of Caddy's muddy undergarments disappearing into the branches of the tree, the scene that prompted Faulkner to write the entire novel, is, as critic John T. Matthews points out, an image of Caddy disappearing, just as she will disappear from the lives of her three brothers.
2.2.3. Analysis of Section II: Quentin's Monologue, 2nd June
If I'd just had a mother so I could say Mother Mother!
From the very first sentence of this section, Quentin is obsessed with time; words associated with time like "watch," "clock," "chime," and "hour" occur on almost every page. When Quentin wakes he is "in time again, hearing the watch," and the rest of the day represents an attempt to escape time, to get "out of time". His first action when he wakes is to break the hands off his watch in an attempt to stop time, to escape the "reducto absurdum of Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 61 all human experience" which is the gradual progression toward death (S &
F,P. 76). Perversely taking literally his father's statement that "time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life," (Ibid:85). He tears the hands off his watch, only to find that it continues to tick even without the hands. Throughout this section, Quentin tries to escape time in similar ways; he tries to avoid looking at clocks, he tries to travel away from the sound of school chimes or factory whistles. By the end of the section he has succeeded in escaping knowledge of the time (when he returns to school he hears the bell ringing and has no idea what hour it is chiming off), but he still has not taken himself out of time. In the end, as he knows throughout this section, the only way to escape time is to die.
Jean-Paul Sartre, in his analysis of this novel, sees Quentin's suicide as not merely a way of escaping time but of exploding time. Quentin narrates the day's events in the past tense, as if they have already happened; the "present" from which he looks back at the day's events must be the moment of his death.
As Sartre puts it:
"Since the hero's last thoughts coincide approximately with the bursting of his memory and its aimihilation, who is remembering? .... [Faulkner] has Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 62 chosen the infinitesimal instant of death. Thus when Quentin's memory begins to unravel its recollections, he is already dead.
Like Benjy, Quenttn is obsessed with an absent Caddy, and both brothers' sections are ordered around memories of her, specifically of her promiscuity.
For both brothers, her absence is linked to her promiscuity, but for Quentin her promiscuity signals not merely her loss fi-om his life but also the loss of the romantically idealized idea of life he has built for himself. The loss of her virginity is the painful center of a loss as his illusions are shattered. The pain that Caddy's promiscuity causes Quentin seems too raw and too intense to be merely a disappointment at the staining family honor. And perhaps most importantly, Quentin's response to her promiscuity, namely telling his father that he and she committed incest, is not the act of a person concerned with family honor. Rather it is the act of a boy so in love with his sister and so obsessed with maintaining the closeness of their relationship that he would rather be condemned by the town and suffered in hell than let her go.
Quentin's wish to have committed incest is not a desire to have sex with
Caddy; that would shatter his ideals of purity even more than her encounters with Dalton Ames. Instead, it seems to be a way to keep Caddy to himself forever: Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 63
"if it could just be a hell beyond that: the clean flame the two of us more than dead. Then you will have only me then only me then the two of us amid the pointing and the horror beyond the clean flame" (S&F,P.116).
If time-words are the most frequently occurring words in this section, the second most frequent is the word "shadow." Throughout his journeys, Quentin is just as obsessed with his shadow as he is with time. For example, he walks on his shadow as he wanders through Cambridge:
"trampling my shadow's bones . . . . I walked upon the belly of my shadow" (p. 96).
When asked what the significance of shadows was in this section,
Faulkner (Minter.p. 6) replied: "that shadow that stayed on his mind so much was foreknowledge of his own death. Death is here, shall I step into it or shall
I step away from it a little longer? I won't escape it, but shall I accept it now or shall I put it off until next Friday ".
This explanation certainly seems to fit some of Quentin's thoughts; for example, at one point, he imagines drowning his shadow in the water of the river, just as he will later drown himself: Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 64
"my shadow leaning flat upon the water, so easily had I tricked it.... if
I only had something to blot it into the water, holding it until it was drowned, the shadow of the package like two shoes wrapped up lying on the water.
Niggers say a drowned man's shadow was watching for him in the water all the time" (p.90).
Here Quentin imagines his drowned shadow beckoning him from the river, drowned before him and waiting for him to follow suit.
Quentin's meeting with Dalton is a disaster. His conception of himself in the traditional role of protector of women collapses, not only because he fails to accomplish his purpose of beating Dalton up but because he is forced to recognize his own weakness. Dalton is actually a reflection of Quentin's vision of himself: calm, courageous, strong and kind. The real Quentin does not measure up to the ideal Quentin, just as reality does not measure up to
Quentin's romantic vision of what life should be.
Quentin is in actuality the "obverse reflection" of himself, a man who does not live up to his own ideals, who fails to protect his sister from a villain who turns out to be as chivalrous and Quentin is weak. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 65
Thus Quentin is a man whose disillusionment with his shattered ideals consumes him. His death is one step in the gradual dissolution and degeneration of the family.
2.2.4. Analysis of Section III: Jason's Monologue, 6th April 1928
/ wouldn 't lay my hand on her. The bitch that cost me a job, the one chance I ever had to get ahead, that killed my father and is shortening my mother's life everyday and make my name a laughing stock in the town. I wont do anything to her.
Jason's section appears more readable and more conventional; its style, while still stream-of-consciousness, is more chronological in progression, with very few jumps in time. It reads more like a monologue than a string of loosely connected events, like Benjy's and Quentin's sections were. Critics have claimed that the book progresses from chaos to order, from timelessness to chronology, from pure sensation to logical order, and from interiority to exteriority as it travels from Benjy's world of bright shapes and confused time through Jason's rigorously ordered universe to the third-person narrative of the fourth section. This third section represents a shift into the public world from the anguished interiority of Benjy and Quentin, and a shift into "normal" novelistic narrative as Jason recounts the story of the events of the day. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 66
The first sentence of each section reveals a lot about the tone and themes of that particular part; this is especially true with Quentin's and Jason's section.
In Quentin's section, the first sentence draws the reader into his obsession with being caught "in time" and includes two of the most common symbols in the section: time and shadows. Jason's section begins "once a bitch always a bitch, what I say," (p. 180) introducing both Jason's irrational anger not only toward his sister and her daughter, but towards the world in general, and also the rigorous logic that runs through this section. Jason's world is dominated by logic. Once a bitch, always a bitch; like mother, like daughter. Caddy was a whore, so her daughter is. He is furious at Caddy for ruining his chances at getting a job, and the way she ruined his chances was to bear an illegitimate daughter; therefore the way he will get revenge on her and simultaneously recoup the money he lost is through this same daughter. Caddy should have gotten him a job, but instead she had Quentin; therefore it is his right to embezzle the money she sends to Quentin in order to make up for the money he lost when he lost the job.
Each brother remains irrationally connected with the past, particularly with memories of Caddy. Benjy relives his memories of Caddy all the time, making no distinction between the present and the past. Quentin goes through Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 67 the routines of life washed in a sea of memories of Caddy. And Jason, for all he seems to have cut himself off from her by refiising to mention her name, is perhaps the closest of all to her. Not only he is surrounded by reminders of her in the shape of her daughter and her money, but he is also constantly reminded of her in his anger. It has been eighteen years since she lost his job opportunity, and yet he remains as angry with her as he ever was.
2.2.5. Analysis of Section IV: Third Person Narrative, 8th April
Whoever God is, He would not permit that I am a lady. You might not believe it from my offspring, but I am.
Readers commonly refer to this section of the novel as "Dilsey's section," although it is narrated in the third person. Dilsey plays a prominent role in this section, and even if she does not narrate this section, she serves a sort of moral lens through which to view the other characters in the section .The section contrasts Dilsey's slow, patient progress through the day with Jason's irrational pursuit of Quentin and Mrs. Compson's self-centered flightiness. As we watch
Dilsey slowly climb up the stairs as Mrs. Compson watches to tend to Benjy, only to discover halfway up that he is not even awake yet, we begin to sympathize with this wizened old woman. Even Caddy, the object of Benjy Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 68 and Quentin's obsessions, was not as selflessly kind or as reliable as Dilsey.
Throughout the course of the section, she is witness to any number of the
Compson family's flaws, yet she never judges them. Instead she stands calmly in the midst of the chaos of the disintegrating household. Each of the brothers is selfish in his own way; Benjy because he cannot take care of himself and relies on her to, Quentin because he is too wrapped up in his ideals, Jason because of his greed and anger. Mrs. Compson is even worse, passive- aggressively manipulating the members of the family as she lies in her sickbed. And Miss Quentin is too troubled and lonely to sympathize with anyone else. Dilsey, however, in her kindness, ungrudgingly takes care of each family member with tenderness and respect.
In her selflessness, Dilsey conforms to the Christian ideal of goodness in self-sacrifice; therefore it is not surprising that the section takes place on
Easter Sunday. This section of the novel resounds with biblical allusions and symbols and revolves around the sermon delivered by Reverend Shegog at
Dilsey's church. The sermon profoundly affects Dilsey, who leaves the church in tears. Perhaps this is because the sermon seems to describe perfectly the disintegrating Compson family. There is the story's preoccupation with the end of the Compson family: Jason is the last of the Compsons, and he is Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 69 childless, his house literally rotting away. And finally there is Dilsey's comment that she has seen the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
Although the rtieaning of this statement is unclear, she seems to be discussing the end of the Compson family as well as her life, and perhaps the end of the world. Dilsey has borne witness to the alpha and the omega of the Compson family.
The last section does not satisfactorily bring the story of the Compson family to a close. The reader is left with a glimpse of the family's psychology and slow demise, but no real answers, no redemption. We don't know what will happen to the family or its servants. This is partially due to its nature as a stream-of-consciousness narrative; none of the three brothers' sections is purely chronological, therefore when the story ends their memories continue on. Matthews( 1992,86) claims that "the fourth section does not complete the shape of the fiction's form or retrospectively order; in fact it does not have much to do with the first two sections at all". The story doesn't end; its loose ends are not tied together. Instead it constantly repeats. The story of Caddy and the Compsons is not finished, but repeats itself eternally in its characters' memories. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 70
2.3. A Study of Structure in the Sound and the Fury
It is obvious that the narrative structure of The Sound and the Fury overlaps with the structure of its sahent mental image. Faulkner describes the original mental image as follows: "Caddy climbing the pear tree to look in the window at her grandmother's funeral while Quentin and Jason and Benjy and the negros looked up at the muddy seat of her drawers." (Bleikasten, Most
Splendid Failure, 51-58).
In short, Caddy is located in the center, surrounded by brothers and is never seen but through the gaze of others. Caddy is never concretely presented in the way that her brothers are in the novel. Caddy is an object that is seen and narrated, in other words, an "empty center" or a "blank counter.
Consequently, as a Southern lady who bears the burden of New Southern nostalgia, Caddy's voice is silenced. Furthermore, when a Southern lady is no longer sexually pure, she is even regarded as dead.
As a matter of fact, in the first three sections of The Sound and the Fury,
Faulkner combines the use of first-person narration with a decisively additional improvement provided by stream-of-consciousness techniques. The first person technique forces each character to reveal himself to the reader. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury ^ 71
In the first section, we are maneuvered by the novelist into taking over all of Benjy's senses as Millgate (1986,90) states "...his eyes become our eyes, his sense of smell is ours, his unique experience of the world around him is ours...though we retain, at the same time, our own awareness". What Faulkner has achieved in the Benjy section is a use of language to evoke more perceptions and feelings than the reader has ever experienced in any other unpoetic prose.
In Quentin's section of The Sound and the Fury, the technique dominates, even though Faulkner employs first person narration. Quentin's past-tense reporting of the external facts, functions like omniscient third-person narration, whom he himself replaces.
"He took one look at her and knew that she was the one who loved him the most in the world. "(S&F,p.l24).
Since a first-person narrator is not aware of others' thoughts and feelings unless they are directly revealed to that character, it can be surmised that Quentin was at some times more representative of an omniscient narrator.
To report his character's thoughts, Faulkner shifts to a direct reporting technique based on the present tense. For example Quentin says:
"/ don't remember forgetting them. I don't remember how many chins Mrs.
Bland has either" (S&F, p. 175). Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 72
Since he has taken the place of omniscient narrator, all of the observations are thus limited to his perceptions. As narrator, Quentin attempts to describe objectively the environment and the events around him. He does this even though his objectivity is nullified firom the start by his mind's distortions. The apparent objectivity with which he begins each of the opening paragraphs disintegrates almost immediately into a memory of a conversation with his father. The first five paragraphs work this way, but the fifth becomes more complicated as, Quentin inadvertently begins to reveal the "stream" of his mind.
Quentin's patterns of association become involuntary, as several thoughts rush into his mind at once, we the readers begin to relate our own consciousness to his, and come upon the realization that we have more thoughts than we care to recognize. As Quentin gives an interpretation for incidents, Benjy does not interpret any situations or events.
Benjy's observations do not pass through an intelligence which is capable of ordering and interpreting. He reports the events with a camera- like fidelity.
Benjy's simplistic and easily confiased nature is evident in the statement: Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury ^^ 73
"They came on. I opened the gate and they stopped, turning. I was trying to say, and I caught her...she screamed...and the bright shapes began to stop..."(S&F.p:64).
In addition, respecting to the first paragraph of the novel two things have been shown at the same time. First it makes the reader feel the idea of reality as chaos, and also allows readers slowly to appreciate, through re-reading and re-re-reading that how the author's intelligence is everywhere behind the
"chaos" of the opening paragraph, so that in fact all its details are incredibly
(textually) significant. Benjy is looking for something that isn't really there i.e.
"caddie". In fact, the opening scene, like the whole novel, establishes one thing: reality is the sound and the fiiry, full of noise and loss and confiision.
To sum up. The Sound and the Fury is structured, full of meaning, even over-determined as a work of art.
2.4. Chronological Order in the Novel
Though the reader can experience the disjointed sense of reality as Benjy sees or experiences it in the first section of the novel, one can only puzzle at what meaning there is behind it. Indeed, in Benjy's section Faulkner Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 74 establishes the title's link with the famous lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth.
So disorienting is the first section of the novel that even Malcolm Cowley
(1965, p.73) admits: "In The Sound and the Fury, which is superb as a whole, we can't be sure that the four sections of the novel are presented in the most effective order; at any rate, we cannot ftiUy understand the first section until we have read the three that follow".
The ordering of the sections, however, is precisely what the novel seems to draw attention to in designating them by dates and narrating them through different character's points of view, even if the matter of each section does not always seem to reveal events from the same story. Upon examination, however, it may be seen that the first two sections of the novel offer every detail of the backstory for the final two sections. Cowley's request that
Faulkner provides an introduction for the inclusion of Jason's section seems indicative enough that the placement of these two sections was necessary and that Jason's section just doesn't make sense without Benjy and Quentin's sections.
The disorientation at the beginning of The Sound and the Fury underscores the intimate relation between narrative events and time. The first section, Benjy's, is designated "April Seventh, 1928." Quentin's section, the second, is "June Second, 1910." The third section, Jason's, takes place on Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 75
"April Sixth, 1928." Finally, Dilsey's section falls on Easter Sunday, "April
The headings of sections as they appear in the novel, to whom each
section belongs and the chronological order of the sections in relation to each
other are represented by Fredrickson (1966,34) in the following diagram:
Benjy ( Section 1)
Quentin April 8,1928
(Chapter!) Dilsey (Section 4)
Jason (Section 3)
April 7, 1928 June 2, 1910 April 6, 1928 April 8, 1928
Chronological Order & Narrative focus of Sections : 3,1, 2, 4 Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 76
As it can be seen, the chronological order of the sections is 3, 1, 2, 4. In fact, the movements in chronological time (in terms of the dates heading each section) are bounded by those that follow tQ the other two sections. In terms of the chronological relationship between sections, the middle of the novel
(Quentin's and Jason's sections) is chronologically in sequence. Significantly, the order of the narration in terms of the familial relations is in sequence with their chronological ages: Quentin, the eldest, then Jason, then Benjy. The matter of Quentin's section is most remote from what follows it in Jason's.
Benjy's section is most comprehensive regarding events in the familiar experience through all of the years that the novel encompasses through flashback, while Dilsey's section makes the most comprehensive sense of those events. In Benjy's section the present swallows up the past. In Quentin's section, the past swallows up the present. In Jason's section, the past is entirely denied. In Dilsey's section, the meaning of the past is understood, finally, within a present that signals for her its fulfillment.
Yet, the novel is not as disordered as at first seems to be the case. Its serpentine nature links beginning, middle, and end together in a way that suggests a powerfully intimate relation between each section of the novel, despite Cowley's objection that the novel is not, perhaps, "presented in the most effective order." In chronological terms, the Easter weekend—Good Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 77
Friday (Jason), Holy Saturday (Benjy), and Easter Sunday (Dilsey)—are offered neither in proper nor reverse order. Instead, the novel begins in the middle, with Benjy's section, and is immediately interrupted with a date apparently outside the dominant time-line with Quentin's section (June
Second, 1910). It then resumes with Jason's section, chronologically the first in terms of Easter weekend and the second in terms of linear time after
Quentin's section. The novel ends with the only section that is in its chronologically proper position, Dilsey's section, Easter Sunday. And she, unlike any of the characters of the novel, is the one who can say, "/ seed de first andde last. .. I seedde beginnin, en now I sees de endin" (S&F,p. 344).
In fact, disjointed time line as a trait of Modernism which is shown through The Sound and the Fury, divides the book into three chapters, each depicting a different brother of the Compson family as the main character.
Further, each chapter is written at a different point in time, and the plot is not developed in sequence. The beginning of the book starts on April 7th, 1978, which is actually the latest date in the entire book. The second section is on
June 10th, 1910, and the final section is a day before the first section.
To conclude, it can be said, William Faulkner uses a disjointed timeline chronological disorder to show important days for the main characters. For example, Faulkner talks from Quentin's perspective on June lO'*' 1910, Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 78 because that is the day that Quentin commits suicide. If Faulkner was following a sequential time line, he wouldn't have been able to use about a third of the book because Quentin would have been dead. Thus, the technique facilitates understanding of the characters and the plot in a more complex fashion.
2.5. Elements of Modernism in The Sound and the Fury
As it is said in the previous chapter, some of the features of literary modernism are: an emphasis on impressionism and subjectivity in writing, an emphasis on how seeing rather than on what is perceived. A movement away from third-person narrators, fixed narrative points of view, a blurring of distinctions between genres, so that poetry seems more documentary and prose seems more poetic, an emphasis on fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives, a rejection of the distinction between "high" and "low" or popular culture, both in choice of materials used to produce art and in methods of displaying, distributing, and consuming art.
Based on the above said, William Faulkner's landmark novel. The Sound and the Fury, represents Modernist literature through its use of stream-of- Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 79 consciousness, Freudian psycliology, disjointed timeline, blurring of distinction between genres, fragmented form and discontinuous narratives.
2.5.1. Stream-of-Consciousness in the Novel
In fact, the name of Faulkner has always been associated with stream-of- consciousness. Stream-of-conciseness can be identified as a technique whereby the author writes as though he is in the minds of the characters. It can be said that the complexity of the structure of the initial section of the novel is due to this technique. Likewise, Benjy's thought can be interrupted halfway through a thought; sometimes he can return to it and sometimes it is lost forever. Thus, in the Benjy section everything is presented through an apparently unorganized succession of images.
Quentin, the character who narrates the second section, as Benjy was the narrator of the first, also produces a stream-of-consciousness in telling his tale.
However, in contrast to Benjy, Quentin's stream reveals voluntary and involuntary thoughts and moves between these thoughts much more quickly.
As this section progresses he becomes more and more immersed in his voluntary thoughts, as Benjy was only conscious of what came to him naturally. Faulkner builds upon the basic method and combines it with other Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 80 techniques. In the conclusion of his section Quentin does commit suicide that gives a tone of finality which sheds negative light onto the stream-of- consciousness technique and its self-destructive nature. Whereas Faulkner's style is relatively incomplex in presenting Benjy's simple mind, when he turns to the intricate mind of Quentin, his style changes drastically. In Quentin's section the reader finds long, complex, and difficult ideas.
Quentin is trying to solve complicated moral issues; therefore his section is more complicated. Also, like Benjy's, in the Quentin section everything is presented through random ideas connected by association.
Faulkner employs the Modernist trend of stream-of-consciousness to tell the story of the three Compson brothers' fixation with their sister Caddy and creates a particular difficult text to read which is set in the protagonists' minds. In Faulkner's stream-of-consciousness one idea or instance flows into another by the relation of a person, place, or event. For example, in pages 1 to
3 of the novel, Benjy is walking near a golf course. The images of the area and the voices of the golfers calling for their caddies, remind him of a time almost twenty years prior, when he was taking a walk in the same surroundings with his sister Caddy. The lack of a transition or any other type of explication between these two instances causes the unprepared reader to become confused Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 81
and frustrated. Faulkner however shows this fact by changing the type style of
writing to italics. Therefore, the reader must be constantly aware of the type
set and let it be an aid in understanding the novel. With the discernment of the
obscure stream-of-consciousness technique and the recognition of Faulkner's
subtle hmts, one begins to employ, a new way of reading fiction.
Having a deep look at the stream-of-consciousness issue, it can be seen
that, in creating stream-of-consciousness narration, most writers use a third
person observer whose point of view is almost identical with that of the
character in question. Faulkner is nearly unique in his choice to employ
stream-of-consciousness in first person narration. By using first person
narration, Faulkner gains an advantage, which lies in the opportunity to show
the contrast between a strong dramatic action and the mental reactions of a
character without a narrative disruption or a significant tone difference. In many cases Faulkner creates characters who are themselves detached witnesses of the main action and whose monologues are interior in form only.
Even in the genuine stream-of-consciousness passages there are many shifts to ordinary discourse and conventional flashback descriptions.
Although internal monologues and the stream-of-consciousness are virtually common assets for the 20 century modernist novelists, but, this Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 82 technique and the natural flow of the chain of internal monologues in
Faulkner's novel was nothing neither experimental nor borrowed. It was something which comes inherent in his narratives. Of course we can see examples of internal monologues so masterfully manipulated in other modernist stories. But these examples show only the "common assets" of the
20* century novelists. However, Faulkner, on the other hand, while exploiting modernist techniques, still embraced a deep-seated connection with the
Southern culture and history.
The development of Freudian psychology, which focused on the subconscious, is also infused in Modernist literature. Freud claimed that true human desires were repressed from everyday life due to society and the moral acceptance of what is considered to be right and wrong. He also said that those desires, when repressed, continued to dwell in a place he called "the subconscious." In Faulkner's book, he tells of a character named Quentin who has gone against society's grain and wants to have a sexual relationship with his sister:
"fijf we [Quentin and Caddy] could have done something so dreadful that they would have fled hell except us " (S & F,p. 18).
Quentin knows that his feelings are wrong and describes them as being worthy of hell. Faulkner adds in this sentence to show that struggle of what Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 83 the body truly yearns for versus the taboo of society and religious beliefs against such yearnings. Quentin knows what he wishes for is wrong, yet he still wants it. This section of the book reflects the heavy influence of Freudian psychology on Modernist literature and thought.
2.5.2. Narrative Technique in the Novel
In his novel, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner employs a unique structural assembly to show a complex plot to his readers. The Sound and the Fury contains four narrations each appeared in one section.
As the novel progresses, this divided narrative grows into an enigmatic structural masterpiece. M.Coindreau(2001,90) speaks of the divisions as
"...four movements of a symphony" . These "movements," may not become apparent to the reader during his first attempt, but as he begins to listen more carefully to the Faulkner's song, he becomes increasingly conscious of The
Sound and the Fury's harmonious plot.
The opening section of the novel is narrated from the perspective of the character Benjy, a thirty-three year old man whose mind is developed no further than one of a child. The individual sentence structure is very simple.
This does not mean that the section is simple, but there are no difficult words because the vocabulary of an idiot would naturally be elementary. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 84
Faulkner's novel moves from the self to other, from the interior to the exterior, from Benjy's and Quentin's montage and stream-of-consciousness to
Jason's more rational but very subjective interior monologue to the limited,
omniscient narrator who is not a character in the story. It emphasizes differing modes of apprehending truth and reality, and implies that objective truth and reality do exist.
Comparing narrative technique of the sections of the novel, it can be said that Benjy and Dilsey's section share aspects that make them different from
Quentin and Jason's sections. Benjy's section, though labeled "April Seventh,
1928" is constituted by experiences that range from 1898 to 1928. Dilsey's section, though confined to the experience of Easter Sunday, "April 8th,
1928," is the only section told from the point of view of a third person omniscient narrator. In this sense, the two sections of Benjy and Dilsey offer an overarching perspective not available in the other two sections. The reader of the Benjy section must supply that perspective, but it is supplied in the form of the third person narration for Dilsey's section. Both sections, however, offer a kind of objective view when compared to the other two sections that, in being wholly devoted to a single day and the view of a single character, supply narrowly subjective views of their realities. In terms of perspective, the novel's structure suggests a kind of development from Benjy's section to Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 85
Dilsey's section: Benjy's section is so wholly subjective that it yields to a kind
of narratorless objectivity; Quentin's section is subjective but intensely
concerned with how that subjectivity can or cannot connect to a larger reality;
Jason's section, by contrast, is also wholly subjective but lacks any concern
for the views of others; and, finally, Dilsey's section combines the objective
view of third person narration with Dilsey's special subjectivity and its
sensitivity for the reality of others' views and experiences.
To conclude, it can be said that Faulkner often uses shifting points of
view in his narrative structure to break up reality and to emphasize that reality
is a matter of perception and is seen differently by different people.
2.5.3. Element of Time (Disjointed Time Lines)
The time element in Faulkner's work is as essential for the reader to understand as his stream-of-consciousness technique. In Benjy's section clock time is almost completely disregarded, because Benjy himself is completely oblivious of time. He makes no distinction between an event that happened only hours ago and one that occurred years ago. Benjy's memory of the branch scene when he was ten years old is as vivid in his mind as something that just happened that morning twenty-two years later. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 86
The Sound and the Fury lacks chronological structure, contains four narrators in which the lines between present and past, reality and fantasy are blurred. Benji thinks;
"You 're not a poor baby. Are you. You 've got your Caddy. Haven't you got your Caddy.' Cant you shut up that moaning and slobbering, Luster said.
Aint you shamed of yourself, making all this racket. We passed the carriage house, where the carriage was. It had a new wheel "Git in now, and set still until your maw come" (S&F,pp: 28-29).
In this quarter of a page, the time period switches three times. The first is actually a memory of a Christmas day when he was a kid and playing with his sister Caddy. The second time period is actually the present time (April 7th
1928) and starts with Luster telling Benjy to be quiet and ends with the new wheel. Finally, the third change in time is a memory of his family going to visit his father's grave. This approach, which requires tremendous diligence by the reader, was used most often in the more extreme authors of the modernist period.
SartreJ1955, 88) explains that "In Faulkner's work there is never any progression, never anything which comes from the future" (Sartre 88). This is explained by that, if Benjy goes on a walk with Caddy through his field in
1929, it is because he has done so since 1902. He is as enthusiastic about this Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 87 walk in 1929 as he was years earlier. The many years that Caddy was not there to walk with him are non-existent to him because he remembers only those events which made him happy. Faulkner displaces conventional time chronicles in order to emphasize Benjy's rejection of the difference between various times and, more importantly, to show how actions of the past are important to Benjy because they gave him pleasure. In contrast to Benjy who is completely oblivious of time, Quentin expends all his energy trying to understand time.
Quentin's section can be simply regarded as a time bomb ticking to its inevitable blast. This fleeting and unimaginable immobility, can however, be arrested and pondered. Quentin can say "I broke my watch," but when he says it, his gesture is past. The past takes on a sort of super-reality, with perimeters that are definite and unchangeable. These perimeters are apt to disguise the present. Sartre (Ibid, p. 91) concludes with the following excerpt:
"The coming suicide which casts a shadow over Quentin's last day is not a human possibility; not for a second does Quentin envisage not killing himself This suicide is an immobile wall, a thing which he approached backward, and which he neither wants to nor can conceive."
Quentin is so concerned with this configuration of past events fixed in his mind that the present to him has become submerged in the past. Also, that Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 88 which is lived in the present is also lived in the past because what was previously the present now is the past. As these complex ideas are slightly confusing, the idea to keep in mind is that Quentin tries to stop time from passing, and the only way that he can accomplish this is by committing suicide, which he carries out at the end of the section.
To sum up, the novel narrated by four diverse characters, presents a challenging task to a brave reader with the use of a complex structure and many different literary motifs. With its extraordinary message of mind over matter it persuades one not to give into the little things in life, like Quentin, but to face all obstacles, like Benjy, and to look forward to each day as if it was one's birthday.
Broadly speaking, Faulkner's treatment and representation of time in this novel was hailed as revolutionary. Faulkner suggests that time is not a constant or objectively understandable entity, and that humans can interact with it in a variety of ways. Benjy has no concept of time and cannot distinguish between past and present. His disability enables him to draw connections between the past and present that others might not see, and it allows him to escape the other Compsons' obsessions with the past greatness of their name. Quentin, in contrast, is trapped by time, unable and unwilling to move beyond his memories of the past. He attempts to escape time's grasp by Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 89 breaking his watch, but its ticking continues to haunt him afterward, and he sees no solution but suicide. Unlike his brother Quentin, Jason has no use for the past. He focuses completely on the present and the immediate ftiture. To
Jason, time exists only for personal gain and cannot be wasted. Dilsey is perhaps the only character at peace with time. Unlike the Compsons, who try to escape time or manipulate it to their advantage, Dilsey understands that her life is a small sliver in the boundless range of time and history.
2.5.4. Blurring of Distinctions between Genres (Prose and
One of the features of literary modernism is breaking the boundaries between various literary genres so that poetry seems more documentary and prose seems more poetic. This is true of Faulkner's writings. To have a comparison between verse and prose in The Sound and The Fury, first we read the following passages:
(1) From wall to wall, down to the nethermost tower, hells on golden twilight slide lightly down. An hour, another hour is stripped from time, discarded on the ground. He lies and listens, while the bells echo his life away. The ghostly river rises and walks on feet of muffled sound, shakes the darkness where he lies and tosses; then the bells again. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 90
(2) "The Lights and the Sparrows"
The sparrows, beginning to swarm in the trees in the court house yard, never got still until full dark; the night they turned on the new lights around the court house waked them up and they were flying around and blun dering into the lights all night long. They kept it up two or three nights, then one morning they were all gone.
Talking about peace on earth, good will toward all and not a sparrow can fall to earth. But what?
Passage (1) might seem to be from the section of Quentin in TheSound and the Fury who is obsessed with time, but it really comes from a poem in
Vision in Spring with a change of "the ghostly sea" to "the ghostly river": Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 91
From wall to wall, down to the nethermost tower,
Bells on golden wings slide lightly down.
An hour, another hour
Is stripped from time, discarded on the ground.
He lies and listens, while the bells
Echo his life away. The ghostly sea
Rises and walks on feet of muffled sound,
Shakes the darkness where he lies and tosses;
Then the bells again. (ViS,p: 47).
Passage (2) is a ballad-like poem with 4 and 3 feet alternately. It may be also said to be a sonnet, for it has 14 lines. It expresses anger against the confusion in nature with an allusion to the Bible, and keeps itself on an intellectual level.
The last line has only 4 syllables, which suggests that the silence is caused by anger against human beings.
But the "poem" of passage (2) is actually composed of some sentences from the Jason section in The Sound and the Fury. In fact, Jason does not write a poem; but it is made up from the underlined parts of the following passages: Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 92
The swallows had begun, and I could hear the sparrows beginning to swarm in the trees in the courthouse yard. (S&F, p: 155)
"Sometimes the sparrows never got still until full dark. The night they turned on the new lights around the courthouse it waked them up and they were flying around and blundering into the lights all night long. They kept it up two or three nights, then one morning they were all gone. Then after about two months they all came back again '\(pfid,pp: 157-58)
"The sun was down beyond the Methodist church now, and the pigeons were flying back and forth around the steeple, ...Talking about peace on earth good will toward all and not a sparrow can fall to earth. But what does he
[Parson Walthall] care how thick they get, he hasn't got anything to do: what does he care what time it is. " (Ibid: 154)
These passages describe what Jason sees when he goes home from the town, and they reveal his ambivalence towards home.
These two quotations suggest, in The Sound and the Fury there is no rigid distinction between verse and prose and show how Faulkner achieves a stylistic level where verse and prose are one.
As a matter of fact, the 20th century is said to be an age of prose. In its beginning, because of the change of literary sensibility, verse was considered out of date and clumsy for the tempo and style of common life and the novel Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 93 in prose, which etymologically means "bare word," viz words without music, is the most proper genre for life in 20th century.
The poets at the beginning of the 20th century resist this tendency. Their poetry is the renovation of traditional concepts and rules; it is written in prosaic verse, verse without rhyme, that is, "free verse." The poets make many poetical experiments, and this movement has come to be called "modernism."
The old poetic form is considered too regular to express the sense of modem life and rhymed verse is even considered shabby and old fashioned.
Modernism is, however, full of contradictions. There is no "free verse," as "verse" is not at all free from rhyme. Many poets proceed from one genre to another, trying to destroy the established genre from inside and outside. For example, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, and
T.S.Eliot write not only poetry but also novels, and/or drama. Their conflict lies in their sense of mission as a poet to save human beings, even though their readers may be few .In fact, they know that modernism transcends its age.
We can also see that the tradition of the novel influences the poets.
Flaubert, as well as Henry James, is in their minds when they compose poetry.
22.214.171.124. The Poetic Elements in The Sound and the Fury Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 94
As many critics point out no one would read Faulkner's poems if he was not a master of his novels. How did he precede from poetry to the novel, from verse to prose, especially to his masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury? When he was asked why he quit verse, he answered: ''l found my best medium to be fiction. My prose is really poetry. " (LG 56)
His answer reminds us of the Flaubert's famous letter to Louise Colet, dated oit March 27, 1853:
"It is perhaps absurd to want to give prose the rhythm of verse (keeping it distinctively prose,) and to write of ordinary life as one writes history or epic . I often wonder about this. But on the other hand, it is perhaps a great experiment, and very original, too. "(Flaubert 148)
In this letter Flaubert hints at the effort "to give prose the rhythm of verse," while feeling it absurd, hinting at the absurdity dominant over the 20th century. The following is the opening sentence of The Sound and the Fury:
Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting (S&F,p. 3)
What would happen to the novel if the following were the first sentence? Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 95
I could see them hitting, through the fence, between the curling flower spaces.
The contents of each sentence are the same, but the sense, effects and impressions are totally different. If the opening sentence starts with "I" from the first word, it gives misdirection to the unconsciousness of Benjy. He reacts against and/ or for the atmosphere and the other characters, and he never takes the initiative; he is an idiot. That's why the first sentence should never start with the word "I" which would suggest the initiative and lead to a subjective and independent narrator. The style in the Quentin section inherits Faulkner's earlier poetic style; for example, it shares a keen sense to butterflies and light, and the color "gray" frequently used in The Marble Faun darkens in the scenes of his remembering Caddy. The "shadow" repeatedly used in Vision in Spring is also used in the scenes of obsession with death.
Similarly, the first part of the Dilsey's section is as follows:
"The day dawned bleak and chill, a moving wall of gray light out of the northeast which, instead of dissolving into moisture, seemed to disintegrate into minute and venomous particles, like dust that, when Dilsey opened the door of the cabin and emerged, needled laterally into her flesh, precipitating not so much a moisture as a substance partaking of the quality of thin, not quite congealed oil". (S&F,p. 265) Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 96
We cannot say that this is not the style for a novel, but these parts
surprise us as they are metaphors, similes, and figurative expressions.
These examples of poetic style in The Sound and the Fury do not
disprove that it is a novel; truly it is a genuine novel which is written in paragraphs in most parts, and leaves the guesses and judgments to the reader
as novels do. Still it is full of poetic sense, and is written in lines in some parts
like a poem preserving many elements of the Faulkner's poems indicating the mix between prose and poetry considered as an element of literary modernism.
2.5.5. Selected Reader
As a final point, it has to be said that in respect to the aesthetic of
Modernism, it requires a very selected reader, educated, with enough leisure to read and re-read under a trained professoriate. As opposed to Whitman's belief that the American author should try to reach the widest audience. Modernism deliberately carried literature away fi-om the mass audience. This is true of
Faulkner's novels. However; it wasn't just an intricate order as an antidote to chaos, or a complexly meaningful aesthetic work as a refuge from meaninglessness, but also the attempt to create through art a new kind of aristocracy. Modernism, in fact has had a definitive role in shaping 20th century American literature. Chapter Two: Elements of Modernism in The Sound and The Fury 97
The Sound and the Fury is clearly a Modernist text. Faulkner wrote the book using stream-of-consciousness to help invoke the characters' thoughts and feelings in the moment, he used Freud's theory to show the conflict between what we desire and what we deem is moral, and he used a disjointed timeline in order to show each character at a pivotal point in their development of consciousness. The Sound and the Fury is a masterful piece of writing that engages the reader in a challenging, but fascinating journey through human consciousness.