The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury

by William Faulkner
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The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury is the tragedy of the Compson family, featuring some of the most memorable characters in literature: beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the manchild Benjy; haunted, neurotic Quentin; Jason, the brutal cynic; and Dilsey, their black servant. Their lives fragmented and harrowed by history and legacy, the character’s voices and actions mesh to create what is arguably Faulkner’s masterpiece and  one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

“I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire. . . . I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” —from The Sound and the Fury

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679732242
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1991
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,235
Product dimensions: 5.14(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

William Cuthbert Faulkner was born in 1897 and raised in Oxford, Mississippi, where he spent most of his life. One of the towering figures of American literature, he is the author of The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, and As I Lay Dying, among many other  remarkable books. Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 and France’s Legion of Honor in 1951. He died in 1962.

Date of Birth:

September 25, 1897

Date of Death:

July 6, 1962

Place of Birth:

New Albany, Mississippi

Place of Death:

Byhalia, Mississippi

Read an Excerpt

April Seventh, 1928.

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence. Luster came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fence while Luster was hunting in the grass.

"Here, caddie." He hit. They went away across the pasture. I held to the fence and watched them going away.

"Listen at you, now." Luster said. "Aint you something, thirty three years old, going on that way. After I done went all the way to town to buy you that cake. Hush up that moaning. Aint you going to help me find that quarter so I can go to the show tonight."

They were hitting little, across the pasture. I went back along the fence to where the flag was. It flapped on the bright grass and the trees.

"Come on." Luster said. "We done looked there. They aint no more coming right now. Les go down to the branch and find that quarter before them niggers finds it."

It was red, flapping on the pasture. Then there was a bird slanting and tilting on it. Luster threw. The flag flapped on the bright grass and the trees. I held to the fence.

"Shut up that moaning." Luster said. "I cant make them come if they aint coming, can I. If you dont hush up, mammy aint going to have no birthday for you. If you dont hush, you know what I going to do. I going to eat that cake all up. Eat them candles, too. Eat all them thirty three candles. Come on, les go down to the branch. I got to find my quarter. Maybe we can find one of they balls. Here. Here they is. Way over yonder. See." He came to the fence and pointed his arm. "See them. They aint coming back here no more. Come on."

We went along the fence and came to the garden fence, where our shadows were. My shadow was higher than Luster's on the fence. We came to the broken place and went through it.

"Wait a minute." Luster said. "You snagged on that nail again. Cant you never crawl through here without snagging on that nail."

Caddy uncaught me and we crawled through. Uncle Maury said to not let anybody see us, so we better stoop over, Caddy said. Stoop over, Benjy. Like this, see. We stooped over and crossed the garden, where the flowers rasped and rattled against us. The ground was hard. We climbed the fence, where the pigs were grunting and snuffing. I expect they're sorry because one of them got killed today, Caddy said. The ground was hard, churned and knotted.

Keep your hands in your pockets, Caddy said. Or they'll get froze. You dont want your hands froze on Christmas, do you.

"It's too cold out there." Versh said. "You dont want to go out doors."

"What is it now." Mother said.

"He want to go out doors." Versh said.

"Let him go." Uncle Maury said.

"It's too cold." Mother said. "He'd better stay in. Benjamin. Stop that, now."

"It wont hurt him." Uncle Maury said.

"You, Benjamin." Mother said. "If you dont be good, you'll have to go to the kitchen."

"Mammy say keep him out the kitchen today." Versh said. "She say she got all that cooking to get done."

"Let him go, Caroline." Uncle Maury said. "You'll worry yourself sick over him."

"I know it." Mother said. "It's a judgment on me. I sometimes wonder."

"I know, I know." Uncle Maury said. "You must keep your strength up. I'll make you a toddy."

"It just upsets me that much more." Mother said. "Dont you know it does."

"You'll feel better." Uncle Maury said. "Wrap him up good, boy, and take him out for a while."

Uncle Maury went away. Versh went away.

"Please hush." Mother said. "We're trying to get you out as fast as we can. I dont want you to get sick."

Versh put my overshoes and overcoat on and we took my cap and went out. Uncle Maury was putting the bottle away in the sideboard in the diningroom.

"Keep him out about half an hour, boy." Uncle Maury said. "Keep him in the yard, now."

"Yes, sir." Versh said. "We dont never let him get off the place."

We went out doors. The sun was cold and bright.

"Where you heading for." Versh said. "You dont think you going to town, does you." We went through the rattling leaves. The gate was cold. "You better keep them hands in your pockets." Versh said. "You get them froze onto that gate, then what you do. Whyn't you wait for them in the house." He put my hands into my pockets. I could hear him rattling in the leaves. I could smell the cold. The gate was cold.

"Here some hickeynuts. Whooey. Git up that tree. Look here at this squirl, Benjy."

I couldn't feel the gate at all, but I could smell the bright cold.

"You better put them hands back in your pockets."

Caddy was walking. Then she was running, her book-satchel swinging and jouncing behind her.

"Hello, Benjy." Caddy said. She opened the gate and came in and stooped down. Caddy smelled like leaves. "Did you come to meet me." she said. "Did you come to meet Caddy. What did you let him get his hands so cold for, Versh."

"I told him to keep them in his pockets." Versh said. "Holding on to that ahun gate."

"Did you come to meet Caddy," she said, rubbing my hands. "What is it. What are you trying to tell Caddy." Caddy smelled like trees and like when she says we were asleep.

What are you moaning about, Luster said. You can watch them again when we get to the branch. Here. Here's you a jimson weed. He gave me the flower. We went through the fence, into the lot.

"What is it." Caddy said. "What are you trying to tell Caddy. Did they send him out, Versh."

"Couldn't keep him in." Versh said. "He kept on until they let him go and he come right straight down here, looking through the gate."

"What is it." Caddy said. "Did you think it would be Christmas when I came home from school. Is that what you thought. Christmas is the day after tomorrow. Santy Claus, Benjy. Santy Claus. Come on, let's run to the house and get warm." She took my hand and we ran through the bright rustling leaves. We ran up the steps and out of the bright cold, into the dark cold. Uncle Maury was putting the bottle back in the sideboard. He called Caddy. Caddy said,

"Take him in to the fire, Versh. Go with Versh." she said. "I'll come in a minute."

We went to the fire. Mother said,

"Is he cold, Versh."

"Nome." Versh said.

"Take his overcoat and overshoes off." Mother said. "How many times do I have to tell you not to bring him into the house with his overshoes on."

"Yessum." Versh said. "Hold still, now." He took my overshoes off and unbuttoned my coat. Caddy said,

"Wait, Versh. Cant he go out again, Mother. I want him to go with me."

"You'd better leave him here." Uncle Maury said. "He's been out enough today."

"I think you'd both better stay in." Mother said. "It's getting colder, Dilsey says."

"Oh, Mother." Caddy said.

"Nonsense." Uncle Maury said. "She's been in school all day. She needs the fresh air. Run along, Candace."

"Let him go, Mother." Caddy said. "Please. You know he'll cry."

"Then why did you mention it before him." Mother said. "Why did you come in here. To give him some excuse to worry me again. You've been out enough today. I think you'd better sit down here and play with him."

"Let them go, Caroline." Uncle Maury said. "A little cold wont hurt them. Remember, you've got to keep your strength up."

"I know." Mother said. "Nobody knows how I dread Christmas. Nobody knows. I am not one of those women who can stand things. I wish for Jason's and the children's sakes I was stronger."

"You must do the best you can and not let them worry you." Uncle Maury said. "Run along, you two. But dont stay out long, now. Your mother will worry."

"Yes, sir." Caddy said. "Come on, Benjy. We're going out doors again." She buttoned my coat and we went toward the door.

"Are you going to take that baby out without his overshoes." Mother said. "Do you want to make him sick, with the house full of company."

"I forgot." Caddy said. "I thought he had them on."

We went back. "You must think." Mother said. Hold still now Versh said. He put my overshoes on. "Someday I'll be gone, and you'll have to think for him." Now stomp Versh said. "Come here and kiss Mother, Benjamin."

Caddy took me to Mother's chair and Mother took my face in her hands and then she held me against her.

"My poor baby." she said. She let me go. "You and Versh take good care of him, honey."

"Yessum." Caddy said. We went out. Caddy said,

"You needn't go, Versh. I'll keep him for a while."

"All right." Versh said. "I aint going out in that cold for no fun." He went on and we stopped in the hall and Caddy knelt and put her arms around me and her cold bright face against mine. She smelled like trees.

"You're not a poor baby. Are you. Are you. You've got your Caddy. Haven't you got your Caddy."

Cant you shut up that moaning and slobbering, Luster said. Aint you shamed of yourself, making all this racket. We passed the carriage house, where the carriage was. It had a new wheel.

"Git in, now, and set still until your maw come." Dilsey said. She shoved me into the carriage. T. P. held the reins. "Clare I dont see how come Jason wont get a new surrey." Dilsey said. "This thing going to fall to pieces under you all some day. Look at them wheels."

Mother came out, pulling her veil down. She had some flowers.

"Where's Roskus." she said.

"Roskus cant lift his arms, today." Dilsey said. "T. P. can drive all right."

What People are Saying About This

Edmund Wilson

Faulkner… belongs to the full-dressed post-Flaubert group of Conrad, Joyce, and Proust.

Ralph Ellison

For all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must return to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for the greatness of our classics.

Robert Penn Warren

For all the range of effect, philosophical weight, originality of style, variety of characterization, humor, and tragic intensity [Faulkner's works] are without equal in our time and country.

From the Publisher

“I am in awe of Faulkner’s Benjy, James’s Maisie, Flaubert’s Emma, Melville’s Pip, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—each of us can extend the list. . . . I am interested in what prompts and makes possible this process of entering what one is estranged from.” —Toni Morrison
“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.” —Eudora Welty

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of three of William Faulkner's greatest novels: The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom! We hope that they will provide you with new ways of thinking and talking about three works that stand as major landmarks in the history of modern American literature, works that exemplify Faulkner's bold stylistic and formal innovations, his creation of unforgettably powerful voices and characters, and his brilliant insight into the psychological, economic, and social realities of life in the South in the transition from the Civil War to the modern era. In their intellectual and aesthetic richness, these novels raise nearly endless possibilities for discussion. The questions below will necessarily be limited and are meant to open several, but certainly not all, areas of inquiry for your reading group.

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The Sound and the Fury 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 110 reviews.
McCarthy92 More than 1 year ago
William Fauklner's forth novel and considered by many to be his masterpeice, The Sound and the fury is an absolute great read. A Challenging yet rewarding book, the novel contains 4 chapters, each narrarated by 4 different speakers, the three Compson brothers and the fourth is told in third-person. The First chapter is told by the mentally retarded benjy. The Second is told by the sad elder-child Quentin, and the third told by the mean and selfish Jason. many consider benjy's chapter to be the most difficult, however, I found the chapter a lot easier than Quentin to be much more difficult. The last 2 chapters were very simple. One of the best books I have ever read I would recommend reading SparkNotes for a litle aid if you are new to these harder and more rewarding works of fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Faulkner brilliantly tells the inherent evil in the ignorance that humans establish in life through the Compson family. The setting takes place in the South where one family will not change from their slave driven ways causing the downfall and torture of every member. You will see the consequences of evil ways through: Caddy, the beautiful yet tragically promiscuous daughter. Benjy, the mentally retarded manchild who can't grow up Quentin, the suicidal son who is tortured with the realization of the evil that exists within his family Jason, the posessor of this inherent evil that has been passed down through his family This book is one that captures the truth of what ignorance can truly cause. It is dark novel that gives but a glimpse to what the humans can possess. This novel is one that I only hope everyone takes the time to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the highest heights reached in American literature. Let the English lit professors argue about modernism's relevance. This is a profound story told in a complex and powerful way. Faulkner's powers are at their peak in his masterpiece. This is not an easy read at first, especially for those unaccustomed to the non-linear storytelling style of modernism. The story's multiple points of perspective may also be initially confusing. The end result though makes the journey worth the undertaking.
christian2795 More than 1 year ago
I can only speculate as to the overall quality of the review to follow, as I have only read this book once. This is one that, after I set it down and thought about for a week, replaying key scenes and revisiting key images in my mind, I desired greatly to read again. But I didn't; I went ahead and read two other Faulkner novels, those being 'Light in August' and 'As I Lay Dying'. I found that I could not get enough of the man's work, because as a writer and something of a closet aesthete, I fell in love with his brilliant style, with its fluctuating regard for proper punctuation and its haunting stream-of-consciousness passages. I became intrigued by his characters and by the way they functioned and thought and failed. No book has altered the way that I think more than this one. This is one that remains always in the back of my mind even now, three months after completing it. I have never physically been to the South, but after reading this and two of his other novels, I feel that I know it much better than if I had simply gone and stayed in Mississippi for a week, having been taken there mentally, having felt the overwhelming hubris, impotency and humanity of the Compson family. One gets the feeling, reading through 'The Sound and the Fury', that Faulkner has tossed proper method out the window, leaving us only with the madness. I can only say that it is a madness well worth experiencing multiple times (in fact, it demands it), and that I shall be returning to it shortly.  
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book, and Faulkner's ability to use the thoughts of others and to incorporate them into the story. Some say that this story is babble, but they can't understand that this story was written in the early 1900s. Faulkner had his own way of starting and ending a story. It's brilliant dialogue and cultural visions, give us a glimpse into the life of a family in the South during the times of racism and slavery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for an english project and ended up loving it. The beginning section seems at first an insurmountable obstacle, but the further you get into it the better it gets. This novel is a profound exploration of human nature that captivates the diligent reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Because this book is a classic, I wanted to like it very much. I found the characters really hard to follow and the book itself to be a little confusing. Overall, it is a good read, just not my favorite.
Book-touched More than 1 year ago
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner is purported to be the sixth greatest English language novel of the 20th Century. It spins a tale about the travails of the Compson family of Mississippi from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. It is divided into four books each of which is narrated by one of three Compson brothers, the fourth by Faulkner himself. Two of the main female characters Caddy, the Compson brother’s sister and Dilsey, the African American family servant though central to the story are interestingly not given narratives, perhaps symbolic of their disenfranchisement during this time period. To me the book is a series of puzzle pieces. The first book or puzzle piece is the most challenging as it is Benji’s perceptions, memories and feelings. Benji is mentally disabled, his narratives are disjointed and extremely challenging to read, yet they depict what Benji must have perceived his world to be thus giving the reader a glimpse into that world. Each narrative/book thereafter provides additional pieces to the puzzle as events surrounding this family’s story slowly unfold. It is a very dark book with little splashes of tenderness and great writing for relief. Beware this is not light reading for an afternoon’s pleasure. It requires patience, study and research; however, if you enjoy solving puzzles, theorizing and challenging your mind this may be the book for you. Be prepared to forget a linear chronology of events this one jumps from different points in time to different points of view. There was an addendum in the edition I read which explained the family’s history that I wish I had read first for context. The book is fertile ground to formulate your own interpretations thus providing the final puzzle pieces yourself. I used a reading guide to help me test my theories and keep myself on track. Overall, I enjoyed the challenge, read it and see what you think!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This might be the best book I have ever read. For anyone bold enough to pick it up, I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would recommend that you read The Sound and the Fury it is a great book that shows you how society was back in the early 1900's. It shows how people were treated because of race or disabilites. This book will teach you to have a better view of the way the south was and also how people lived in day to day life. It also will show you how people can just cast out thei8r own family members and how people can be very decitful. I strongly recommend that you read this book.
Anonymous 11 months ago
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
So I came into this expecting Jack London and got Mark Twain. I never recovered from that and it colored my view of the whole book. I liked the non-linear aspect of it - not only did it keep me on my toes but it focused my attention on the book. The story is told in four voices - the three Compson boys and the fourth is a third person narrator. Benjy tells his story simply, for he is simple. It's disjumbled and non-linear. Quentin, the scholar, is losing his mind. The style reflects that as we see him go from being a Harvard man to coming to grips with family shame to finally being unable to bear it all. Then, comes Jason. In many ways, the most honest of the three. He's cold, selfish, and money hungry. He uses people for his convenience and preys on the people he should love and seek to protect. In a way, his section was the easiest to read because it had the least amount of guile. Jason is straightforward about his faults, although he would argue they're virtues. All in all, I might have enjoyed this more had I not thought I was getting into a nature book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A simply beautiful piece of literature.
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Arguably the most difficult book I have ever read, but also one of my all time favorites.  Faulkner himself acknowledged how difficult the book was to read when he originally requested having different text colors for the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the book that made me love Faulkner.
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If nothing else, one must appreciate the artfullness and craft that Faulkner exhibits in this masterpiece. Those whom rate it poorly must not be avid readers or lack the patience and open mind that reading classics sometimes requires. I admit that it was confusing to keep up with it at first, given the fact that the first chapter is from the perspective and thought process of Benjy, a retarded sibling of the Compson family, but as the book progesses, so does the solidity and apparent interconnectedness of the novel.
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