Saturday, 7 June 2014

Title of 'The Sound and the Fury'


Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5)

When Macbeth learns of his wife's death, he cries out the above lines, which can be used as a clue to the meaning of the novel or to the structure of the novel. Certainly Faulkner plays with the idea that life is nothing but a shadow. The word shadow appears continually throughout Quentin's section, and it also occurs frequently throughout the rest of the novel.

The implication of life is used by Faulkner to suggest that the actions performed by modern man are only shadows when compared with the greater actions performed by men of the past — that modern man is only a shadow of a being, imperfectly formed and inadequate to cope with the problems of modern life. Man is forced to commit suicide, as Quentin does, and while performing this destructive act, he sees his shadow rising up from the water beneath him. If man does not take his own life, then he is either a materialist like Jason, who values nothing except money, or else he is an "idiot" like Benjy, who can see only shadows of life.

“The Sound and the Fury” has as its major theme the decay and disintegration of an aristocratic family living in the American South. This family has had distinguished ancestors and a highly respectable tradition. But the family has now fallen on evil days and has to face crises after crisis, disaster after disaster, setback after setback and falls victim to those vices which Faulkner believed were responsible for the problems in the reconstructed South: racism, avarice, selfishness, and the psychological inability of individuals to become determinants. Over the course of the thirty years or so related in the novel, the family falls into financial ruin, loses its religious faith and the respect of the town of Jefferson, and many of them die tragically.

The first section of this novel is literally a tale told by an idiot Benjy. The second section tells of the sordidness of the lives of Quentin and Caddy. The third section acquaints us with the monstrous nature of Jason. The final section deals with the theft committed by Miss Quentin, her flight from home, and the discomfiture of Jason. Faulkner’s vision of life as revealed through his chronicle of the Compson family is, indeed, gloomy and pessimistic. None of the members of the Compson family represent any positive values with the possible exception of Quentin whose finer side is, however, swamped by his negative impulses.

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