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Compson Family

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Sound and the Fury


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Novel by Faulkner, published in 1929. The story is told in four parts, through the stream of consciousness of three characters (the sons of the Compson family, Benjy, Quentin, and Jason), and finally in an objective account.

The Compson family, formerly genteel Southern patricians, now lead a degenerate, perverted life on their shrunken plantation near Jefferson, Miss. The disintegration of the family, which clings to outworn aristocratic conventions, is counterpointed by the strength of the black servants, who include old Dilsey and her son Luster. The latter tends the idiot Benjy Compson, who is 33 and incapable of speech or any but the simplest actions. Through his broken thoughts, which revert to his childhood at every chance stimulation of his acute senses, is disclosed the tragedy of his drunken father; his proud, sniveling, hypochondriac mother; his weakminded Uncle Maury; his sister Candace (Caddy), whom he adores because she is kind to him; his mean, dishonest brother Jason; and his sensitive brother Quentin, a promising student at Harvard, who goes mad, obsessed by love of Caddy, and, shamed by her seduction, commits suicide. When Caddy is forced to marry and leave home, Benjy is desolate, but he plays like a child with her illegitimate daughter, until she grows up, gives evidence of her mother's nymphomaniac strain, runs away with a tent-show performer, and steals a sum of money from Jason.


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William Faulkner (1897—1962) American novelist