Q. What are the key characteristics of the main characters in William Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and The Fury?
The Sound and The Fury Major Characters
Benjamin “Benjy” Compson
A key figure among The Sound and The Fury Characters, Benjamin Compson, often called Benjy, has profound cognitive disabilities. His sensory-driven narrative offers readers a kaleidoscopic view of the Compson family’s decline. Benjy, the novel’s first narrator, is a mute individual with mental disabilities.
Despite his inability to understand the world in the way others do, Benjy’s love for his sister Caddy and his distress over her departure is a thread that binds his otherwise disjointed narration.
His instinctual understanding of morality contrasts sharply with his family’s ethical decay, making him a figure of innocent suffering in a decaying aristocratic world.
Quentin, the eldest Compson child and the novel’s second narrator, embodies the family’s intellectual and moral torment. At Harvard, he is physically removed from the Southern culture of his family but remains psychologically entangled with it.
His narrative is a stream-of-consciousness reflection on concepts of time, honour, incestuous love for Caddy, and the disintegration of Southern values.
Quentin’s struggle to reconcile these ideas with the reality of his life leads to a profound existential crisis that culminates in his tragic suicide.
Jason Compson IV
Jason embodies the Compson family’s moral decay. His anger and bitterness stem from his perception of being cheated out of a job promised by Caddy’s husband. Jason’s resentment leads him to steal the money that Caddy sends for her daughter, Quentin.
His narrative is more linear and reliable than his brothers’, but it’s steeped in cynicism and devoid of empathy. Jason’s section highlights the absence of familial affection and a preoccupation with money, capturing the selfishness and corruption at the heart of the Compson decline.
Candace “Caddy” Compson
Caddy is a central figure whose actions significantly influence her brothers’ lives. Her rebellion against the social norms of her aristocratic Southern family and her subsequent fall from grace is a driving force in the novel.
Caddy’s loss of virginity, her failed marriages, and her daughter Quentin symbolize the transgressive female sexuality that her brothers struggle to comprehend or control. Despite her flaws, Caddy’s capacity for love, particularly towards Benjy, distinguishes her from the moral bankruptcy surrounding her.
Jason Compson III (Mr Compson)
Jason Compson III, the patriarch, is a fatalistic and disillusioned man. His philosophical cynicism and consistent devaluation of the concept of honour greatly influence his children, particularly Quentin.
He fails to provide the emotional support his children need, further contributing to the family’s disintegration. His dependency on alcohol and neglectful parenting contrast with the Southern ideal of the patriarch and reflect the decay of the Southern aristocracy.
Caroline Compson (Mrs Compson)
Caroline, the matriarch of the Compson family, is an ineffective and detached parent. She was consumed by self-pity and an obsession with her genteel Southern heritage. She largely neglects her children’s emotional needs.
Caroline’s selfishness and victimhood, coupled with her denial of her family’s moral and social decline, further intensify the family’s dysfunction.
The illegitimate daughter of Caddy, Miss Quentin, grows up in a loveless and repressive environment. Her rebellious nature echoes the young Caddy, and her strained relationship with her Uncle Jason forms a significant part of the latter’s narrative.
Miss Quentin’s theft and subsequent escape demonstrate her refusal to be controlled or defined by her family’s past, representing a desperate attempt to escape the cycle of misery and resentment.
Compson family’s black housekeeper, Dilsey, emerges as the novel’s moral centre. Her compassion, endurance, and unwavering faith sharply contrast the Compson family’s moral laxity.
Despite her status as a servant, Dilsey’s role often transcends into that of a surrogate mother, particularly towards Benjy and Quentin. Dilsey’s perspective in the novel’s final section offers a sobering view of the Compson family’s irrevocable decline.
Roskus, Dilsey’s husband, is part of the Compson household staff. Despite his limited presence in the novel, Roskus often provides insightful commentary on the Compsons.
He predicts the family’s downfall due to their moral decay. His death midway through the novel signifies the end of an era and the ongoing decay of the old Southern values.
Luster, the grandson of Dilsey, serves as Benjy’s primary caretaker in the later part of the novel. Despite being just a teenager, he displays an understanding and patience towards Benjy that most of the Compsons lack.
He often unknowingly triggers Benjy’s painful memories but also tries to soothe him. Luster’s interactions with Benjy expose the Compson family’s neglect and the responsibilities thrust upon the servants.
The Sound and The Fury Minor Characters
Versh is Dilsey’s son and Luster’s uncle, who cared for Benjy during his childhood. His character subtly emphasizes the importance of black characters in the Compson household.
His initial role as Benjy’s caretaker illustrates the long-standing involvement of Dilsey’s family in the Compsons’ lives, further underscoring the deep-rooted racial dynamics in Southern society.
Frony, Dilsey’s daughter, also works for the Compson family. She has a minor role in the novel but serves as a symbol of the younger generation of black people, who are less tied to the white families they serve than their elders. This generational shift subtly emphasizes the changing racial dynamics in the South.
T.P. is another of Dilsey’s sons and often accompanies Benjy in the novel. His interactions with Benjy reflect the familial responsibilities shouldered by the black servants in the Compson household.
Uncle Maury Bascomb
Caroline Compson’s brother, Uncle Maury, predominantly depends on his sister. He is often seen to be asking for money, contributing little to the family’s welfare. Maury symbolizes the decaying southern aristocracy, living off his relatives’ wealth without offering anything substantial in return.
He also has an affair with a married woman, Mrs Patterson. This scandalous relationship further accentuates the downfall of morality within the Southern gentry.
The image of Quentin, a young boy forced to deliver Uncle Maury’s love letters to Mrs Patterson, reflects the twisted moral fabric within which the Compson children are raised.
Shreve is Quentin’s roommate at Harvard. While he doesn’t appear extensively in the novel, he plays a critical role in Quentin’s narrative as a sounding board for Quentin’s tormented thoughts about time, honour, and his sister, Caddy.
As an outsider to the South, Shreve’s perspective challenges Quentin’s deeply ingrained Southern beliefs.
Mr Compson is the grandfather of the Compson children. Though deceased before the novel’s events, his character is referenced frequently. As an ex-Confederate general, he represents the old Southern aristocracy, whose values conflict with the present reality.
In Quentin’s narrative, Gerald appears to symbolize the new South, which Quentin despises. His sexually aggressive behaviour towards women, including Caddy, is a source of conflict and disgust for Quentin. She struggles with the traditional Southern ideals of female purity.