THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner“Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”

Confused? If not, there’s about a 99 percent chance that you will be upon cracking open the spine of William Faulkner’s classic novel The Sound and the Fury. I read this with my Introduction to Literature class last semester and I have to admit that had I been reading this entirely on my own, without the guidance of my professor and insights from classmates, I would have been completely lost.

I’ve been putting off writing this review because I’ve struggled with how to approach discussing this book. My attitude towards this novel varied so much while I was reading it that it’s taken me quite some time to simply gather my thoughts and come up with a coherent opinion. Even now, months after having flipped the final page, writing about it is still difficult. There’s so much to say, that I could honestly write posts and posts about it (and maybe I will…). For now, however, I’ve decided to structure this review similarly to how  the novel itself is structured: with four parts.

Part 1: Benjy’s Narration

The first section is narrated through the mind of Benjy, a thirty-three year old man with a mental disability. His narration is incredibly jarring, confusing, and frustrating, mostly due to its lack of apparent logic and organization. I had no idea who the characters were, how they were all related to each other, or even if we were seeing Benjy’s present or past. But I’m going to tell you a not-so-secret secret: there is an order to all of Benjy’s rambling. (Hint hint: it has something to do with his sister.) Once you realize this (or, as with my experience, your English professor helps you realize this after you’ve already read the section) Benjy’s stream of consciousness narrative style begins to make a bit more sense. Still, while reading this section I was not a happy camper, and had Faulkner been sitting across the room I would have been sending frosty glares his way.

Part 2: Quentin’s Narration

First of all, you have no idea how relieved I was when I realized that the entire book was not narrated by Benjy. I just couldn’t take his rambling any longer! Quentin’s narration still isn’t very conventional or simple, but it is easier to understand than the first section. Secondly, you also have no idea how long it took me to realize that there are actually two Quentins in this story– one is female, the other is male.

It was during this second section that I became more interested in this story, primarily because of the interesting themes and questions that Quentin’s existential crisis allows us to explore. He’s clearly depressed, but the reasons behind his depression make for some fascinating discussions. Not only does it raise questions about family dynamics and sexuality, but it also relates to the state of the South (of the United States) when this story takes place. The South was experiencing a shift in its values, and Quentin struggles to accept this change. Through Quentin’s eyes I became more invested in this story, just in time to realize how his section would ultimately end. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, so it goes.

Part 3: Jason’s Narration

Oh, Jason. How I dislike you. Despite its clearer writing and more organized, logical order, this section was somehow even more frustrating to read than Benjy’s. At least with Benjy I felt sympathy and compassion– with Jason, I only felt a sense of revulsion. Jason treats everyone with cruelty, and it seems as though not a speck of warmth burns in his heart. Still, my interest in the story continued to grow as I understood more and more about the characters and what they were actually dealing with. I just couldn’t get over how horrible Jason was.

Part 4: The Omniscient Narration

This section is the only section with an omniscient narrator (otherwise known as a third-person perspective). It is not entirely without focus, though, due to the fact that it concentrates on Dilsey, the Compson family’s servant. This is by far my favorite section of the novel, mostly because a) I think Dilsey is the sanest of all the characters and b) it is the easiest to understand. In my edition this section is followed by an appendix which offers even more information and clarifies a lot of questions that I had about what actually happened to the characters. Without these two parts of the novel, I would undoubtedly still feel incredibly lost.

So, what message should be taken away from this rambling review? Ultimately, I believe that you’ll only get as much out of The Sound and the Fury as you choose to put into it. If you simply skim or quickly read the novel without doing any additional research or stopping to more closely analyze the text, then you’re bound to walk away from it being just as confused as you were on the very first page. However, if you actually spend time with this novel and make an effort to understand what it has to say, I think you’ll be pleased with the reward.

Overall, I’ve come to appreciate The Sound and the Fury much more since I’ve finished it than I ever did while actually reading it. I admire its cleverness, its intricacy, its impossible yet strangely logical disorder. I will most definitely be revisiting it in the future– whether he likes it or not, Faulkner has not seen the last of me.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, with a fair warning regarding its knack for being incredibly confusing and frustrating.

What do you think of this novel? What other works by William Faulkner would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!




15 responses to “THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner”

  1. Great review- I haven’t read this one, but I read As I Lay Dying- and I totally understand what you mean by Faulkner being confusing. To be honest, I don’t like authors that like to deliberately confuse the reader, so I can’t say I’ll ever be picking up another Faulkner- he’s definitely seen the last of me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of Faulkner (not yet, anyways) but I am nevertheless incredibly intrigued by his writing. Maybe I’ll try As I Lay Dying next and see how that goes!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh I wouldn’t recommend it- that is my least favourite book of all time! It’s deliberately confusing, so I had no idea what was going on half the time, the characters are insufferable, there is no plot, and it’s a book about how inadequate words are (as someone that loves words- this book is pretty much sacrilege) sorry for the angry rant- I just feel so strongly about this book! (whenever someone even mentions this book I just become a full on *rage monster*)


      2. Oh no!! Maybe not then haha I’ll do some research and find a better one– thanks for the warning!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. haha you’re welcome- I’m sure there are better ones to pick! 😀


  2. I’ve read this! It was one of my first classics, & I read it sans professor. I remember having no idea what was going on & loving that, for some reason. It was like poetry. I loved trying to figure out exactly what it was Benjy was trying to tell us. I also loved that the book became clearer as it moved forward, like a picture coming into focus. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “…like a picture coming into focus.” That’s a perfect description of what reading this novel feels like!! I loved that about it as well, not the least because it encouraged me to keep reading. I think it was smart of Faulkner to start out with Benjy’s part, because if the most difficult part had been at the end than it wouldn’t have had that same sense of poetic mystery.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read this one last fall and it drove me crazy! It took me way too long to figure out there were two Quentins also. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had been reading it with a class that was discussing it but even then I’m not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would have been completely lost if I hadn’t read this book with my lit class! A lot of people hate when they read books with a class, but I love it because I walk away with such a deeper understanding of the work. And OMG SAME– I had no idea there were two Quentins until we talked about it in class and my professor explained it!! Faulkner’s a tricky one, to be sure! 🙂


  4. Ah I love classic books. They’re so refreshingly barmy and contemporary. I swear, people need to read classics more – we seem to be repeating the same old ideas time and time again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES YES YES. That’s exactly how I feel!! I love classics for so many reasons, and I feel as though more people would as well if they gave them a chance. Despite their age many of them are still unbelievably relevant in today’s society, not to mention beautiful works of literature. CLASSICS FOR THE WIN! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] first experience reading Faulkner was with The Sound and the Fury, which was required reading for a literature class I took two semesters ago. Although I did enjoy it, […]


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