Friday, May 30, 2008

Review: The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury is much easier to understand if you realize that it cannot be understood from the get go, but only when it is complete. To borrow a line from The Big Chill, sometimes you have to let art flow over you.

The book is divided into four parts, the first three of which are told in first-person, stream of conscious narrative from the perspective of three Compson brothers: Benjy, Quentin, and Jason.  Benjy’s section is particularly difficult to follow because he is mentally retarded and does not talk, but only narrates what he hears, in no particular chronological order.  Quentin’s and Jason’s sections are progressively more comprehensible as pieces of the story develop.  The final section is told by an omniscient third-person narrator, ties the loose ends together, and brings the story to its exciting close.

The first-person accounts are made even more confusing by the multiplicity of names.  Because this is the story of a large Southern family, many family members share first names.  There are two Moreys, although the younger of the two is renamed Benjamin, the first narrator.  The two Jasons, father and son, can usually be told apart, but the two Quentins, uncle and niece, are particularly confusing when introduced in Benjy’s section because the absence of chronological consistency brings both Quentins into the story at the same time, although the niece was born after the uncle’s death.

Reading The Sound and the Fury is like watching a masterpiece being painted.  Each brushstroke brings out more of the picture until the whole, beautiful composition is revealed.


If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


Reading The Sound and the Fury is also particularly satisfying for compulsive "list" readers, since it shows up on so many "best of" lists, including the following:

Books by Nobel Prize winners
The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century
Radcliffe's competing list of Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century
Time Magazine's All-Time Best 100 Novels (1923 to the Present)
The Well-Stocked Bookcase (Book of the Month Club)


  1. Sound and the Fury is on my all-time, top-ten favorite books list. Thanks for reminding me that I'm due for another reading of it.

    I hope you don't mind, but I've tagged you for the Si Random Things About Myself meme. Have fun!

  2. This was the first Faulkner book I ever read. I was fairly young when I read this and not a sophisticated reader. I remember the confusion and had never experienced that in my reading before. But I stuck with it and was I ever glad I did. I remember just sitting there thinking "wow!"

  3. Your statement that "Reading The Sound and the Fury is like watching a masterpiece being painted. Each brushstroke brings out more of the picture until the whole, beautiful composition is revealed" is spot on. And I am one for art and imagination! Thank you for your review...From this vantage point I can now make it through Faulkner! (I had done the same as you, placed it on my shelf and convinced myself it was read!)
    Michele Emrath

  4. *sigh* I love Faulkner. I love this book. It is my favorite book - tied with To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it every couple of years and because of that stream of consciousness style, I am never quite on sure footing regardless of how many times I have dived in - so it is like reading it all over again for the first time. Which is a wonderful thing to be able to experience again and again.


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