The Sound and the Fury: A Tale of Two Families
The Sound and the Fury, one of William Faulkner’s most celebrated novels, is the story of the Compson family and its inevitable and somewhat tragic downfall. The Compsons, a family which once thrived in distinction and promoted traditional Southern ideals, are doomed to collapse from the beginning of Faulkner’s tale, and the story follows them as they creep slowly toward their demise. Beginning the story from the perspective of Benjy, the youngest of the Compsons, born with some sort of mental deficiency, Faulkner introduces the chaos and dysfunction that plagues the family. Benjy’s thoughts are muddled and, at times, nonsensical, much like the Compson family itself, which contains characters who both love and loathe one another and themselves at different times throughout the book. The family dwells in a state of disorder, self-absorption, and dysfunction, brushing aside its once-treasured Southern values, like family honor and strength, gentlemanly integrity, and feminine purity. This is not to say, however, that no sense of honor, strength, or order is present within the story. Existing alongside the Compsons are the Gibsons, a black family whose members function as servants for the Compsons as well as striking contrasts to the Compson characters. The Gibsons, in almost direct disagreement with the characteristics of the Compsons, are a family of responsibility, both to themselves and to others, as well as of honor, strength, and stability. In creating the Gibson family to coexist with and sharply contrast the Compsons, Faulkner effectively spotlights the flaws in the Compson family members—flaws which eventually bring about their downfall.
Faulkner begins to foreshadow the Compson family’s unfortunate end as early as in the first chapter of the book, as he starts to highlight the flaws of the individual characters. The first, possibly most obvious, imperfection is shown in the first section’s storyteller,...
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