(originally published in my now-defunct blog, “Tonya Rice – Writer”: 11/22/2011)
After all this time, I finally got to one of Faulkner’s books. I thrive returning to the classics which seem to be wordy to many, but I find that they grasp the beauty and elegance of the language, which renews my own love and appreciation for our literature. It inspires me to become a better writer. This story is one of the most lyrical pieces of prose.
Written in 1929, The Sound and The Fury tackles all of the taboo elements that can lurk in the shadows of a family. Not just any American family, but a once-proud and affluent Southern family. Classic Southern literature. Pride remained a culture of post-Civil War society for many years and anything that had the potential to upset it warranted a phenomenal tale, just as Faulkner revealed. Distressing concerns from incest to the mentally challenged family member exposed to the world and anything imaginable in between held court for the Compson family.
Told in various points of view, the first is from the mentally-challenged Benjy, who is given the opportunity to communicate as effectively as possible with the reader. Next is from Quentin, who remains haunted and tormented by his past and narrates his tale with the underlying belief that time only exists when a clock stops. So he lives his days with a busted watch that continues to tick, reminding him and us that he simply can’t and won’t escape his haunts. He’s stuck in his time. In the third section, Faulkner allowed Jason to just pretty much spit at us as he glared through life. He was a pissed-off (and rightly so) soul, who, through his thoughts astounded me. He was pained, did not hide it and took everyone in his presence with him down his hell. Rapidly – on any given moment. The point of view from Dilsey, the family’s black servant, was told in third-person in the last section. Though a lifelong part of the household, she maintained a level of distance. Not so much as out of respect for the family, but simply because she had enough challenges of her own than to take on the unnecessary personal mental effects of the Compsons for whom she helped to care. I found her story revealed with unexpected compassion.
When I got to Dilsey’s section and I got to finally “see” a character that I was only told about and had “talk” to me, I gasped. At that moment, I felt that strength of Faulkner’s writing. I had to sit it down and take it in for a while. It was just that mesmerizing.
Nevertheless, they were a sad and tragic bunch, driven so by the torment of themselves.
It took several (almost the first 60 for me) pages to get through Faulkner’s renowned symbolism and stream of consciousness to finally understand all that was happening. This piece had all of the unmentionable drama one could have only imagined back then to see in print – at least all in one place, save for it all to happen with one family.
I’ve got several of his other works on my to-read list.
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