Time in the Sound and the Fury

Topics: Absalom, Absalom!, Time, Southern United States Pages: 3 (1029 words) Published: May 9, 2000

One of the main realities of human existence is the constant, unceasing passage of time. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner explores this reality of time in many new and unexpected ways as he tells the tragic tail of the Compson family. The Compsons are an old Southern aristocratic family to whom time has not been kind. Years of degeneration mainly stemming from slavery have brought them to the brink of destruction. Most of the story focuses on the Compson children who are undergoing the worst of the social and moral decay. Each of the four children perceives time in a much different way but by far the strangest and most bizarre attitude toward time that is given in the text is held by one of the three male children, Quentin. He is totally consumed with his past and at times can think of nothing else. He also becomes determined to stop time itself—a futile effort that will eventually force him to take his own life. Quentin's obsession with the past and with the passage of time is a central theme of not only the Quentin section but of the entire book, and it is the key to understanding what Faulkner is trying to say about the decay of Southern culture and traditions. To fully understand the motif of time in the Quentin section it is first necessary to compare it with the different ways in which Faulkner uses time in the other three sections. The first section is narrated by the mentally retarded brother, Benjy, who has absolutely no concept of time whatsoever. He simply drifts back and forth through time as if the past were no different from the present to him. Benjy constantly thinks of his sister Caddie who has long since left the family home but because he has no concept of time, he has no idea that she has been gone for many years. The third section is narrated by the greedy and neurotic brother, Jason. To Jason time is all about the present and he grabs every second as it goes by much as he...
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