The Sound And The Fury: Compson Women Evolution

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 In The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner presents an escalation of selfishness in the Compson women reflecting the exacerbation of destructive behaviours as generations evolve.

The initiation of such behaviours is presented by Caroline Compson’s selfishness, self pity and self absorption. In Benjy’s section, Caroline speaks to Jason on the way “to the cemetery,” and very cunningly expresses concern when requesting him to accompany her as she would “feel safer” if he went with her. However, after Jason refuses, she then adds that she will “be gone soon,” suggesting her existence has no importance to her family, essentially pitying herself (Faulkner 8). Faulkner also demonstrates her manner of seeking attention from those that surround her by exploiting her illness. Caroline inspires guilt in her husband by implying that she is the one who must look after Benjy even though she is infirm. She purposely invites Benjy into her room and gets up to “take him downstairs and get someone to watch him,” however when her husband questions, “Where are you going,” she immediately replies, “you know I’m ill, yet you,” causing him to “shut the door” and leave with Benjy (Faulkner 28). Caroline expertly seeks attention, while also arousing a guilty conscience from Jason. She repeatedly says, “I know I’m nothing but a burden to you…But I’ll be gone soon…” to remind those around her of her illness (Faulkner 41), ultimately seeking more attention from them. In addition to Benjy, she uses Quentin to her advance her reputation by introducing him as “ ‘My Harvard boy’ ” to Herbert (Faulkner 62). According to Philip M. Wienstein, besides “…postmaternal complaint Mrs. Compson literally has nothing else to say,” which Faulkner evidently shows through Caroline’s dialogue. Moreover, Caroline enjoys Herbert’s “flattering,” even though she is “a grown married” woman (Faulkner 63). As shown by Faulkner, Caroline is “a cold, self-involved woman who expends her energies worrying about her ailments, complaining about her life…” (Shodhganga 65); a complete opposite of a traditional mother, who’s love is, ideally, “the epitome of selfless, unwavering care and concern.” (Weinstein 435)

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Although Caddy may be the only Compson to care about her siblings, especially Benjy, when is came upon her to be a paternal figure for Miss Quentin, she left her with a greedy uncle and progressed to live her life freely. Not only is Caddy selfish, but she also advances to become a promiscuous daughter and sister, affecting many that surround her. Her beloved brother, Benjy, for one, reminisces about a past incident with Caddy when he sees “Quentin and her beau in the swing…” (Faulkner 31) He envisions himself crying when he notices Caddy is with Charlie, whom Benjy loathes as he “cried louder” when Charlie “came back” near Caddy. Faulkner shows that Caddy can be selfish enough that she hurts her mute brother only to enjoy her freedom and promiscuity when Benjy pleads her to stay away from Charlie by pulling “at her dress” (Faulkner 32). She also hurts Quentin’s feelings through her promiscuity because he wants to have a perfect, normal family in which the girls are not wild like Caddy. As a result, when he learned that Caddy is pregnant with Dalton Ames’s child, he lies to his father saying “I have commited incest I said Father if was I it was no Dalton Ames”(Faulkner 53) because for Quentin commiting incest is better than having the Compson family name ruined by “birth” of an “illigitimate child” (Shodhganga 72). Caddy’s promiscuity has such profound effects on Quentin that he eventually commits suicide by jumping off the “bridge,” and drowning himself using “flat irons” as weights to prevent survival (Faulkner 77). Although Jason does not pursue such drastic measures, he does live a life full of resentment and hatred towards Caddy. Her promiscuity cost him “a lucrative job in Herbert’s bank,” evoking antipathetic feelings towards Caddy (Shodhganga 85). Caddy’s selfishness, therefore, “corrupts the environment in which” the Compson family resides.


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