Since jennala9 is still working on As I Lay Dying, I volunteered to head up the discussions on The Sound and the Fury. There seems to be a lot of frustration about the book (at least the first 75 pages...) and I hope that as a group we can try and stick it out and finish this book by August.
I'll be keeping up with the updates on Oprah.com and re-posting things here that I think might be helpful. Also, I know some of you have been using other websites to guide you through the books- please feel free to share these with the rest of us- anything that you think will help us gather a better idea of who the Compson family is will be appreciated.
I've been trying to stick to the reading schedule myself, but everyone reads at different paces, (this shouldn't be new) but any discussion that could contain spoilers should definitely go behind a cut with some kind of warning.
Just to start off, here are some of the things I found extremely helpful while reading Benjy's section (pages 1-75):
- Lecture 1- I really suggest watching these. They helped me out a lot with As I Lay Dying. I watched this before I read the section, and though I didn't understand what she was talking about when she referred to the plot, while reading, I found myself thinking back on some of the things she mentions, specifically the bits about thinking about the book like you would a t.v. show or a movie- with flashbacks and voice-overs. (Also, just a reminder, there is a new lecture tonight, so maybe some more of our questions about Benjy will be answered there...)
- Meet the Characters- I've gone back to this a few times just because I was getting confused as to who is who (especially when they changed Benjy's name and also when the female Quentin was introduced.) This also helped me with the time shifts- I knew when Benjy mentioned Luster that he was an adult, ect.
- Q & A with the Professor- I found this extremely helpful, I think people asked some really interesting questions this time around. I've copied and pasted the ones that helped me the most here, but you can click on the link for a few more.
I remember hearing that Faulkner wanted to print The Sound and the Fury in different colors when the time and events shifted. Is that true?
At the time of the publication of The Sound and the Fury,
Faulkner did indeed suggest to his publisher that different color inks
be used to signal the shifts in time between the past and the present.
Faulkner thought that the different colors would help readers because
Benjy as an idiot couldn't distinguish between his memories and the
present reality and thus his section of the novel is in a constant
state of flow between past and present with sensory stimuli causing the
shifts in time and proving the correspondence between the past and the
The publisher rejected the idea because of the cost involved and instead used a system of italics and Roman typeface. (See Selected Letters of William Faulkner, edited by Joseph Blotner.) As late as 1955 during his visit to Japan,
Faulkner recalled his idea of printing the first section of the novel in different colors of ink and the rejection of the idea because of the expense. He goes on to state: "But if it could have been printed in different colors … anyone reading it could keep up with who was talking and who was thinking this and what time, what moment in time it was" (see Faulkner at Nagano, edited by Robert A. Jellife).
- <tr><td>In the last part of "April Seventh, 1928," Benjy frequently refers to the "roof:" "I could hear the clock … and I could hear the roof… we could hear the roof" 2 or 3 times. I can't figure out what that means! What does the sound of the roof symbolize? Help!
Benjy's references to the roof and hearing the roof are connected to his hearing of rain. It is one of the ways of marking the earlier periods in the narrative and Benjy's childhood when Caddy attempts to teach him different concepts to prove that he is not a "poor baby" as his mother refers to him. Usually, the concepts are quite elemental, such as fire, cold, rain and sleep. In one of the instances after Caddy leads Benjy to the fire, he looks at its "bright smooth shapes" and he thinks, "I could hear the fire and the roof" (p. 57). The next short paragraph reads, "Father took me up. He smelled like rain" (p. 64). Here Faulkner provides the signal with Mr. Compson's smelling like rain that what Benjy hears is the sound of the rain on the roof of the house. Following that section is an italicized shift to the present with Luster and Jason in the kitchen commenting on Benjy's moaning and attempts to quiet him, and then a return to the point in the past on the rainy day when during his childhood Jason cut up Benjy's dolls: "We could hear the roof. Quentin smelled like rain, too." The boy Quentin remarks to Caddy, "I wish it wouldn't rain… You can't do anything" (p. 66).
An interesting point connected to the symbol of the roof is that in the present there is a large hole in the roof of the old barn in the Compson pasture, called Benjy's pasture, that Mr. Compson sold to finance Quentin's year at Harvard. The jagged hole in the roof and the deteriorated condition of the barn along with the diminished pasture function as a sign of the changed circumstances of the Compson family and of the decay and loss it has experienced. From Benjy's perspective, the loss of the sound of rain, the loss of his pasture, and the loss of Caddy are all associatively connected.
- I just don't understand who these characters are. Is it just me, or did Faulkner skip the part where he introduces everyone?
it is not just you. Faulkner did not introduce the characters in any
conventional way, so you did not miss or skip the introduction.
Faulkner begins his novels "in medias res," in the middle of things.
Like many modernist authors, he sought the active engagement of an
active, rather than passive, reader. In The Sound and the Fury,
he not only begins in the middle of the present action, but he also
begins in the middle of the consequences or results of past actions. In
the first section of the novel, "April Seventh, 1928," Benjy Compson,
the 33-year-old youngest of the four Compson siblings, is the center of
attention and of consciousness. Along with his black caretaker, Luster,
the grandson of Dilsey Gibson, the Compson housekeeper and cook, Benjy
spends his days in what is left of the Compson pasture. There he can
see and hear the men playing golf on the other side of the fenced in
The novel begins on his birthday when particular
sights and sounds correspond to times past, specifically in his
childhood when his sister Caddy gave him love, affection, and attention
despite his being retarded.and unable to communicate verbally. Benjy
moans or howls, but he cannot speak. When he hears the golfers yell
"Caddie," he hears his sister's name and immediately associates her
name with one of several defining incidents from his childhood and the
Faulkner utilizes the scenes from the past to introduce
the characters: Caddy, Quentin, and Jason—Benjy's sister and brothers;
Jason and Caroline Compson, his parents; Uncle Maury Bascomb, Caroline
Compson's brother and the uncle for whom Benjy was initially named;
Roskus and Dilsey Gibson, the black caretakers of the Compson place,
and their children—Versh, T. P. and Frony.
repetition of the key scenes in Benjy's section, Faulkner provides
access to information about the characters and their traits and
personalities, their needs and desires. All of the important pieces of
information about the characters will be repeated, in one form or
another, so that by a kind of accretion of repeated scenes, incidents,
and details, character portraits take shape. This method of introducing
characters requires the involvement of the reader actively engaging
with the text and constructing a character's profile, and it also
obviously requires a lot of patience and trust that the effort on the
part of the reader will be worthwhile.
- And these are just some more links from Oprah.com that I found helpful:
All that said, I'd just like to get a general feel of how you guys like to discuss these books. I was thinking we could start with a couple of the discussion questions each week and go from there. Here's just a little poll so I know how many people are actually reading this book and also so I know when the best time to post discussion questions and things are so the most people can participate...
Are you reading The Sound and the Fury?
If you are, are you trying to stay with the reading schedule from Oprah.com?
If we were to pick a day of the week as "discussion" day- where questions would be posted and more of the discussion would take place, which would it be? (So, basically, when are you on LJ more...)
Any other times/ suggestions?
If you have any other ideas on how to keep us all involved in this book, please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave suggestions in the comments. :)