Andrea (first_lobster) wrote in oprah_book_club,

Hey guys, I'm Andrea.
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 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?
      — phillsu

      </td></tr><tr><td class=""></td></tr>
      <tr><td class="">
      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!
      — schwalm61

      </td></tr><tr><td class=""></td></tr> <tr><td class="">
      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?
      — summerlvso

      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
      Compson yard.

      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.

      Basically, by
      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 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


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 time during the work week
Weekends work best
Weekday evenings

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 ( or leave suggestions in the comments.  :)

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Thank you for offering to take over the discussion. I just lost of one of partners I was emailing with about the book because she found it too difficult. I've been trying my best to read this book but it is difficult. I appreciate you going to Oprah's website and relaying any pertinent info here. I've fallen off the wagon w/the lectures and need to get back on it. I have more to post but I'm really feeling crappy right now and need to go get some lunch. Thanks again, hopefully we can revive the discussion! :)
Hey no problem. I'm sorry to hear that about your friend. I'm struggling with the book too- this isn't light reading- but I think if we use the right tools, we can all start to "get it" and then we'll feel extra accomplished at the end of the summer. :)
I'll be finished today up to page 76. Hopefully tonight I can get to the lectures and put some notes in my book. Basically, I'm just plowing through it even if I don't understand some things, so I'm going to finish it. Actually, now I'm kind of glad its harder than As I Lay Dying, because I'll feel good when I get through it. I do think Faulkner is an aquired either love him or hate him lol...
I'm kind of taking the same approach- just keep reading- even if things aren't making sense.
Haha, I agree- I think if we can get through these next two we're gonna feel super smart. :)
Hi, I just finished reading through page 76. I actually re-read the first 15 pages about six times trying to understand what was going on, then I went and read the things on and that helped a little bit with the shifting of time. Even though I knew there were multiple characters withe the same names, I still couldn't keep them straight. I also gave up on trying to understand each "section" and just decided to read it straight through, hoping at the end of the chapter I would have some sort of grasp of the plot...but I still don't think I've got it straight! That's when I joined this community - hoping that I could find some support to stick with this book!
We seem to have the same approach. I've been reading reading reading and sorting it out later. One of the things I've read about Faulkner is that you have to read it a few times- and now I understand why. I see that there is genius there, but these aren't easy books to understand- in the same way that a stranger wouldn't be able to easily navigate my own mind, I quickly got lost inside Benjy's head when I started this book.