Innovative Techniques in The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury has been seen as an "example par excellence of modernist American fiction" (Cohen). Its publication represented a watershed in American literature as it introduced several modernist techniques among which: the destruction of chronological order, the division of the perspectives, the increased number of narrators, the free association technique, the stream of consciousness. I have selected three fragments from the first three sections of the novel in order to highlight some of these new literary devices. Each fragment represents the corresponding narrator point of view about the event that marked the beginnig of the decline of the Compson family-Caddy's virginity loss.
The first fragment comes from the section "April 7th, 1928" where gradually we find out about the Compson tragedy. The narrator- Benjy a youngest son of the family, also a thirty-three year man afflicted by idiocy-has no concept of time or morality. Thus in his narration the present and the past fuse in indiscernible ways making the comprehension of the plot difficult to follow. Benjy's memories are blending with the present happenings or amalgamate with each other. The events are narrated in the present tense which renders whatever claim of chronology futile. He says that he could "hear the fire and the roof" and then he could "could hear Caddy walking fast" (Faulkner) in this way the clear shift from one memory to another is obscure. This is another innovative technique Faulkner used creating an apparent continuity on the surface of the narration by repeting certain phrases from one scene to another, a sort of harmony in chaos.
Beside the fragmentation of the traditional linear time, the author resort to another modernist device in order to capture the reader's attention: he doesn't fully depicts the events, he only alludes at them, we are only witnessing the characters reaction to them. For example, Benjy, despite his idiocy, can sense that something bad has happend as soon as Caddy comes home, walking fast: "We could hear Caddy walking fast. Father and Mother looked at the door. Caddy passed it, walking fast. She didn't look. She walked fast."(Faulkner) However we cannot tell what that thing is, we are left to imagine it, to conjecture it. We are only seeing Benjy's and Caddy's reaction to it:
Her eyes flew at me, and away. I began to cry. It went loud and I got up. Caddy came in and stood with her back to the wall, looking at me. I went
toward her, crying, and she shrank against the wall and I saw her yes and I
cried louder and pulled at her dress. She put her hands out but I pulled at
her dress. Her eyes ran. [..]
We were in the hall. Caddy was still looking at me. Her hand was
against her mouth and I saw her eyes and I cried. (Faulkner) The event of Caddy's loss of virginity is never narrated, this omission only adding to the increased ambiguity of the novel.
Despite the fact that it is not conspicuously delineated all major characters relate to it some way or another, for it has a crucial role in the development of the plot. It also appears in the second section of the novel "June 2nd, 1910" narrated by Quentin the eldest brother. He goes to Harvard to complete his education but being deeply marked by the promiscuity and consequent fall of his sister, comits suicide. In this section we get a glimpse of the story from his perspective. Even though the present-day of this section is almost eighteen years prior to the present-day of Benjy’s section, it nevertheless follows roughly the chronological development of the novel, for while many of Benjy’s recollections are of their early childhood, most of Quentin’s flashbacks record their adolescence, particularly Caddy’s dawning sexuality and its consequences on the family name and honor.
Contrary to Benjy, Quentin is aware of time and can differentiate between present and past,...
Cited: April 7th , 1928
We could hear Caddy walking fast
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