Characters Perceptions of Time in The Sound and the Fury

Time in The Sound and the Fury william faulkner
Q. How do the characters’ perceptions of time in the Sound and the Fury affect their experiences and behaviors?

In William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” how characters view time affects their actions and feelings. Benjy can’t tell past from present, which confuses and upsets him, especially when he remembers his sister, Caddy.

Quentin is stuck in the past and can’t move forward, leading him to despair. His obsession with time shows in his constant focus on his watch.

Jason sees time more simply and is focused on the present, but he is bitter and blames past family failures for his problems.

Unlike her family, Dilsey views time as a continuous cycle, influenced by her strong faith. She handles life’s hardships with a steadier heart, providing a contrast to her troubled employers.

1- Benjy Compson

Benjy Compson’s perception of time in William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” is distinctively non-linear and deeply influenced by his memories and senses.

He does not experience time as a sequential flow but as a series of present moments triggered by sensory details that remind him of the past.

For example, when Benjy smells something that reminds him of his sister Caddy, he is immediately transported back to the time of the memory associated with that scent.

This shows that his understanding of time is directly tied to his experiences and emotions rather than in chronological order.

This method of experiencing time means Benjy lives in constant confusion and emotional flux as past and present blend together in his mind.

When he hears the word “caddie” on the golf course, he becomes upset because it sounds like Caddy’s name. It brings back memories and feelings as if she were still present.

These examples illustrate how Benjy’s perception of time is fragmented and deeply connected to his emotional responses. He lives in a perpetual state where time circles around key moments and figures, especially Caddy.

2- Quentin Compson

Quentin Compson, a character in William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” is deeply troubled by his family’s decline and his sister Caddy’s loss of innocence.

He is obsessed with preserving the past and maintaining his family’s honor, which causes him great distress. Quentin’s section of the novel is filled with his thoughts about time, showing his struggle with the linear progression of life.

He often thinks about stopping time and is haunted by the ticking of his watch, which he eventually breaks to escape the relentless march of time.

Quentin’s narrative is complex because his thoughts often shift between the past and present without clear transitions. It reflects his mental state and inability to let go of past events.

He is especially fixated on memories of Caddy, and these memories significantly influence his thoughts all day.

Ultimately, Quentin’s inability to accept life’s changes and his intense desire to cling to the past lead to his tragic end.

His story highlights the destructive effects of not adapting to changes and the pain of clinging too tightly to lost realities.

3- Jason Compson

Jason Compson’s perception of time in William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” contrasts with that of his siblings. While Benjy and Quentin are deeply entrenched in the past, Jason focuses on the present and future.

He views time as a resource to be managed, often concerning himself with money and how he can benefit from any situation. Unlike his brother Quentin, who tries to stop time and escape its effects, Jason exploits the present for personal gain and plans for future advantages.

This practical yet bitter approach to time reflects Jason’s overall dissatisfaction with his life and the decline of the Compson family. Jason resents the past.

He blames his family, especially Caddy, for his troubles, using this to justify his manipulative behavior. His focus on the present lacks emotional depth. Unlike his siblings, he shows a cold and calculating approach.

4- Dilsey

Dilsey is a significant character in William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.” She is the Compson family’s cook and has a unique perspective on the family’s decline.

Unlike the Compsons, who are consumed by their tragedies and obsessions, Dilsey displays endurance and strength in adversity. She is often seen as the moral backbone of the story, providing stability and care where the actual family members cannot.

Dilsey’s perception of time contrasts with that of the Compson siblings. She views time as continuous and unending, reflected in her steady and unwavering presence in the novel.

She witnesses the family’s disintegration over the years but remains resilient. Dilsey adapts to changes and challenges without losing her sense of self or purpose.

Her narrative in the novel’s final section brings closure and continuity. It suggests that life goes on despite the suffering and chaos around her.

Dilsey’s role is crucial in showcasing how to persist and maintain dignity, even when surrounded by decay and decline. Her understanding of time and change provides a grounding perspective within the novel.

It highlights her importance not just as a servant in the household but as a key figure in the narrative.


In “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner, the characters’ diverse perceptions of time shape their experiences and interactions.

Benjy’s confused sense of time reflects his mental state. Quentin’s struggle with past events leads to his downfall. Jason’s practical, bitter view focuses on personal gain. This contrasts with Dilsey’s resilient and enduring outlook.

Dilsey’s stable perspective on time helps her maintain dignity and strength despite the family’s ongoing decline. Each character’s approach to time highlights their challenges and responses to life’s hardships, showing the profound influence of time on human behavior.