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The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner


THE STORY

APRIL SEVENTH, 1928
(BENJY'S SECTION)

You are about to read a section that is probably unlike anything you've ever read, for the narrator of these pages, Benjamin Compson, is severely retarded. How does such a person think? No one really knows for sure. William Faulkner created in Benjy a character who feels things deeply. Benjy can't interpret what is going on and doesn't understand the connection between cause and effect. But in simple sentences, most concerned with how things look, smell, and feel, Benjy manages to tell you a lot.

Benjy's section is set, as its title indicates, in the novel's present. April 7, 1928, is the Saturday before Easter Sunday. It is also Benjy's thirty-third birthday. Benjy is cared for by Luster, the son of Dilsey's daughter Frony. As he goes about his day, first outdoors with Luster and later in the house, events in the present trigger Benjy's mind to focus on events of the past. Benjy, however, can't distinguish between past events and present events. The earlier events are as current to him as anything actually happening in the present.

At first it may be hard to follow the narration in these pages. For example, Benjy first tells you that "I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was." What could this possibly mean? It turns out that Benjy is watching men play golf. The first paragraph of his section is a good description of what a game of golf would look like if you didn't understand it. It might help to form a mental picture of Benjy's words rather than just react to their strangeness.

Although, on first reading, the section may confuse you, it is possible to follow. Every word refers to a specific event. To help you to figure out what is going on and to follow the changes in time between the present and various moments in the past, you will find a list of the events described in Benjy's section in a Note at the end of this discussion. Besides that list, there are a number of clues that can help you follow the action at any given point in this section. They are:

  • TYPE CHANGES. A shift from roman to italic type, or back the other way, often (but not always) signals a movement in time. Where the time changes are not marked by changes in type, you will have to be alert to other elements.

  • BENJY'S CARETAKER. When Benjy was a small boy, he was taken care of by Versh, Dilsey and Roskus's oldest son. The presence of Versh means that an event occurred between 1898 and 1902. Versh was succeeded by their second son, T. P. If T. P. is taking care of Benjy, the event took place in 1905 or later. In the novel's present time, 1928, Luster, Dilsey's grandson, is looking after Benjy. Any reference to Luster as caretaker means that we are in the present. (But be careful. In the scenes of Damuddy's death, which take place in 1900, T. P. is present as a little boy, although Versh is the one in charge of Benjy. At another time, when T. P. is in charge of Benjy, Luster is a baby, playing with baby Quentin. Remember: you are looking for Benjy's caretaker.)

  • PATTERNS OF DESCRIPTION. Benjy's mind keeps returning to the same few events, and he usually describes them the same way. By paying attention to recurring images, you can usually tell when a scene is taking place. References to the branch (stream), for example, or to Caddy's muddy drawers point to Damuddy's death in 1898. Mentions of fire, rain, or mirrors signal the changing of Benjy's name in 1900. References to the cold and to other characters telling Benjy to keep his hands in his pockets evoke the time when Uncle Maury sent Caddy and Benjy to deliver a letter to Mrs. Patterson in approximately 1902. Mention of drinking "sassprilluh" refers to Caddy's wedding in 1910.

Three further warnings are in order. The first is that the narrator of this section was named Maury when he was born. His name was changed to Benjamin when he was five years old, in 1900. So in the very earliest scenes, he is referred to as Maury, not Benjy. For example, when Caddy tells Versh to carry Maury up the hill, she is talking about the character later known as Benjy. A second warning: Read closely, and don't let your mind drift. If you pay attention, you can follow the action. If you don't, it will really seem like "a tale / Told by an idiot." Finally, you will not understand the full meaning of everything in this section until later in the book. However, if you keep at it, the meanings and events will all fall into place.

The page numbers used in The Story section refer to the Vintage Books paperback edition (New York: Random House, 1954). The page number marks the beginning of a scene. The first three words have also been included to help identify the scene for you, since several scenes may appear on one page.

NOTE: EVENTS IN BENJY'S SECTION
The following list places the events described in Benjy's section in chronological order. It begins with the earliest, when Benjy was three, and ends in the novel's present. However, this is not the order in which the events are presented in the section. Benjy's mind shifts back and forth, returning to each past event several times. These scenes are explained in greater detail following this Note.

  • THE DISTANT PAST
    The children playing in the branch and Damuddy's death (1898) In these scenes, the children are all very young. They frequently talk about the death of their grandmother. Dilsey's son Versh is taking care of Benjy. These scenes occur on pages 19, 22, 23, 25, 38, 39, 42, 44, 45, 53, 74, 76, 89, 90. -

    Benjy's name change (1900) These scenes take place indoors. Benjy does not turn to them until the second half of the section, when Luster brings him into the house for his birthday cake. These scenes often contain images of Benjy looking into the fire or a mirror or listening to the rain. See pages 67, 69, 70, 74, 75, 76, 80, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87.

    The Patterson episode (sometime between 1900 and 1904) It is impossible to date these scenes precisely. Most of them occur just before Christmas, and there are frequent references to the cold and to the need for keeping hands inside pockets. These scenes can also be identified by references to Uncle Maury and to Mrs. or Mr. Patterson. See pages 3, 5, 13, 14, 51.

  • THE MIDDLE PAST
    Caddy reaches puberty (1905-1909) In several scenes, Benjy remembers how Caddy began to get involved with boys and to move away from him. The main image here is that Caddy no longer smells like trees. T. P. is the attendant. These scenes include:
    • Caddy uses perfume (around 1905), page 48.
    • Benjy must sleep alone (1908), pages 51, 53.
    • Caddy the swing (sometime between 1906 and 1909), pp. 55, 56.
    • Caddy loses her virginity (1909), pages 83, 84.

    Caddy's wedding (April 1910) T. P. is the attendant. The main images are the "sassprilluh" that T. P. and Benjy drink, Caddy in a white veil, and Caddy not smelling like trees. See pages 23, 43, 44, 45, 46.

    Benjy's castration (May or June 1910) The principal image is Benjy waiting at the gate for Caddy, page 62.

    Three deaths (1910-?) In these scenes, dogs howl, and Benjy and other characters cry and moan.

    • Quentin's suicide (June 1910), page 33.
    • Mr. Compson's death (1912), pages 32, 35, 37, 39.
    • The trip to the cemetery (sometime after 1912), page 8.
    • Roskus's death (date unknown), pages 38, 39.

  • THE PRESENT (APRIL 1928)

    These scenes can be identified by the presence of Luster and by references to the golf course and the show. See pages 1, 5, 8, 12, 14, 21, 23, 38, 42, 55, 56, 58, 64, 68, 69, 71, 79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90.

Page 1: "Through the fence..." (1928)

Benjy and Luster are walking along the fence that separates the Compson property from the adjoining golf course. Whenever the golfers cry "Caddie!" Benjy begins to moan. As you will soon learn, Caddy is the name of his lost sister. Luster tells you that today is Benjy's thirty-third birthday. Later it will be celebrated with candles and a cake. Luster wants to find a quarter he lost in the grass so that he can go to the show that night. Failing that, he hopes to find a golf ball he can sell back to the players. As they duck under a fence onto the course, Benjy gets caught on a nail.

Page 3: "Caddy uncaught me..." (December 23, sometime between 1900 and 1905)

Getting caught in the fence in the present sends Benjy's mind back to a time in the past when he had gotten caught in the fence. Note that Faulkner has signaled the move back in time by changing into italics. (Sometimes we know the date of a scene because it occurred at about the same time as an event whose date we know [like Quentin's suicide]. Sometimes there is internal evidence- for example, the children may mention their ages. In this scene, however, there is no definite indication of the date.) In this scene, Caddy and Benjy crawl under a fence. It is just before Christmas and very cold.

Page 3: "'It's too cold...'" (December 23, sometime between 1900 and 1905)

Earlier in the same day as the preceding scene, Versh bundles Benjy up and takes him outdoors. They wait at the gate for Caddy to come home from school.

NOTE: Remember this scene. The image of waiting at the gate for Caddy will become important later in the story.

Versh keeps telling Benjy to keep his hands in his pockets. When Caddy arrives, she rubs his hands to warm them. To Benjy, Caddy smells like trees. Throughout the novel, this is the way he identifies her.

NOTE: MRS. COMPSON Within the space of two pages, this scenes tells you a great deal about Mrs. Compson. She calls him Benjamin when everyone else calls him Benjy. When Benjy makes noise, Versh understands that he wants to go outdoors, but she doesn't- Versh is more observant of Benjy's needs than Mrs. Compson. Mrs. Compson says- not for the last time in the novel- that Benjy is "a judgment on me." She seems to care more about herself than about Benjy. Mrs. Compson pays no attention to Dilsey's needs, either. She proposes sending Benjy to the kitchen even though Dilsey is feverishly preparing for Christmas dinner.

In this scene, you meet Uncle Maury, Mrs. Compson's brother. He flatters her, saying she'll worry herself sick over Benjy. To help keep up her strength, he makes her a hot toddy. Uncle Maury is himself a big drinker, as you will later find out. He's also always sponging off the Compsons.

Page 5: "What are you..." (1928)

Benjy is probably moaning because he is thinking about Caddy. Luster doesn't understand this, but gives Benjy a flower to quiet him. This is your first indication of Benjy's great love of flowers.

Page 5: "'What is it.'" (December 23, 19__)

This is a continuation of the scene before last, which was interrupted by Luster's reaction to Benjy's moaning. When Caddy returns from school, she and Versh bring Benjy indoors. Mrs. Compson hassles Caddy and Versh and calls Benjy her "poor baby." But as Caddy explains to him, he isn't a poor baby at all- he has her.

Page 8: "Can't you shut..." (1928)

Again, Luster complains as Benjy moans with feelings of Caddy's love. They notice the new wheel on the family carriage.

Page 8: "'Git in, now...'" (1912 or 1913)

Seeing the wheel on the carriage in 1928 sends Benjy into the past, when Dilsey drew attention to the dilapidated wheel on the surrey. This is typical of the first section of the novel: As Luster and Benjy move about the Compson property, Benjy thinks about events that took place at various locations.

In this scene, T. P. drives the surrey to the cemetery so that Mrs. Compson and Benjy can visit Quentin's and Mr. Compson's graves. You later learn that Quentin died in 1910 and Mr. Compson two years after. So this scene occurs either shortly after Mr. Compson's death in 1912 or a year or two following. Luster is a baby, and so is Caddy's daughter Quentin. Quentin was born in 1911, but you don't know exactly how old she is here.

Dilsey calms Benjy by giving him a flower. Mrs. Compson, as you have come to expect, criticizes Dilsey and T. P., and calls Benjy a "judgment." They stop at the hardware store where Jason works. He calls Benjy a "damn loony," which tells you something about Jason. He also speaks harshly to his mother. You probably are not surprised when Jason reveals that Uncle Maury is borrowing money from Mrs. Compson.

Page 12: "Cry baby, Luster..." (1928)

Again in the present, Luster complains about Benjy's moaning. They walk by the barn.

Page 13: "'Keep your hands...'" (December 23, 19__)

In a continuation of the December 23 scene, Caddy and Benjy walk by the barn. Caddy warns Benjy to keep his hands in his pockets because it is so cold. The two children are delivering a letter from Uncle Maury to Mrs. Patterson. They are not supposed to let anyone see it. Neither Caddy nor Benjy understands, but you realize that Uncle Maury is having an affair with Mrs. Patterson.

Page 14: "Mr Patterson was..." (later date)

It must be spring, because Mr. Patterson is hoeing his garden. Benjy has come alone to deliver another letter. Mr. Patterson is able to grab it out of Benjy's hands before he can give it to Mrs. Patterson. Eventually you will find out what happened as a result.

Page 14: "'They ain't nothing...'" (1928)

Luster is hunting for a quarter so that he can go to the show. He takes Benjy down to the branch, or stream, where people are washing clothes. Luster enters into a conversation with them and boasts that he whips Benjy when he bellows. (In fact, he doesn't.)

NOTE: The show becomes important in the later sections of the novel. Mean-spirited Jason, who had two tickets, dropped them in the stove rather than give one of them to Luster the night before these events took place. And later that same evening Quentin (the girl) will run off with one of the performers.

At the end of this scene, Benjy begins to play in the branch.

Page 19: "...and Roskus came..." (1898)

Playing in the branch in 1928 evokes images for Benjy of playing there as a child with his brothers and sister. This scene is easy to date because the children talk about how old they are. Caddy gets her dress wet and takes it off so it will dry. Quentin slaps her and she falls in the water, getting her drawers muddy. Versh says that he is going to tell, and Caddy threatens to run away. Benjy begins to cry, and Caddy comforts him. Benjy feels she smells like trees. Jason, meanwhile, is playing by himself.

The scenes at the branch reveal personality characteristics in the Compson children that foretell the kind of adults they will become. Caddy, in this scene, is bossy and adventurous. In taking off her dress in front of Quentin and Versh, she is doing something a girl isn't supposed to do. Quentin seems extremely upset that Caddy has taken off her dress. When he slaps her, she slips and gets her drawers dirty. This suggests both Quentin's incestuous feelings for Caddy and her later promiscuity. It also suggests that Quentin may be partly responsible for the latter- just as she gets her drawers muddy because Quentin has hit her. Benjy cries because Caddy is dirty, although he quickly reassures himself that she smells the way she always does- that is, that she hasn't changed. Jason is isolated from the others.

Page 21: "What is the..." (1928)

Benjy is once again moaning about Caddy's muddy drawers in 1898. Luster remarks that Benjy thinks he still owns the pasture. That tells you that the pasture used to belong to the Compsons but has been sold. Later you'll find out that Mr. Compson sold it to pay for Caddy's wedding and for Quentin's first year at Harvard.

Page 22: "Roskus came and..." (1898)

Benjy's thoughts are temporarily interrupted by Luster's question but quickly return to 1898. Here he repeats the words that first appeared on page 19. Roskus calls the children in to supper. They follow him, talking about the water fight in the branch.

NOTE: Once again, the adults' personalities are revealed in the actions of the children. In this scene from their childhood, Jason threatens to tell on Quentin and Caddy; Caddy pretends not to care; and Quentin tries to protect Caddy, attempting to convince Jason not to tell. As adults, Jason is sneaky and likes to punish other people; Caddy pretends not to care about other people's reactions when she does things that are wrong; and Quentin still tries, without much success, to protect Caddy from the consequences of her own actions.

Note that Benjy is called Maury here. His name has not yet been changed.

Page 23: "See you all..." (1928)

Luster's comments temporarily interrupt Benjy's thoughts.

Page 23: "'If we go...'" (1898)

The children leave the branch and begin to return to the house. Jason walks with his hands in his pockets, symbolizing that, as a grownup, he will only care about making money. Meanwhile, Roskus is milking the cow.

Page 23: "The cows came..." (April 1910)

The image of Roskus milking the cow in 1898 makes Benjy think of another scene with cows. This scene contains many strange, disordered images- of the cow jumping out of the barn and of Benjy's recollection that "the barn wasn't there and we had to wait until it came back." You can't figure them out until you realize that T. P. and Benjy are drunk on champagne (T. P. calls it "sassprilluh"). He mentions a wedding, and you realize that it is Caddy's. Later, in Quentin's section, you learn that it took place in April 1910.

NOTE: In this scene, Quentin beats up T. P. Why does he do that? Is he upset because T. P. has made Benjy drunk? Later, in Quentin's section, you'll find out why Quentin is so upset by Caddy's wedding. And when Quentin hits a fellow Harvard student, you'll remember this early example of his capacity for violence.

Page 25: "At the top..." (1898)

After Benjy gets drunk at Caddy's wedding, Versh carries him up the hill. That image slides into another of a time when Versh carries him up the hill after he played with the other children in the branch. Dilsey then gives the children supper. You can see that she knows how to manage them very well. You can also see that the children's grandmother has died, and that Mrs. Compson is upset.

Page 32: "There was a..." (1910 or 1912)

The thought of his grandmother's death reminds Benjy of other deaths he has experienced. In the next few scenes he thinks about several of them: his father's, Quentin's, and Roskus's. The first scene probably refers to Mr. Compson's death, because there would not have been a fire when Quentin died in June. And there would have been no need to keep Benjy away from the big house. "Taint no luck on this place," Roskus says to T. P.

Page 33: "Taint no luck..." (1910)

Roskus's words in 1912 echoed what he had said at the time of Quentin's death two years before. This time you can be sure that it is Quentin's death that is referred to, because Roskus notes that Benjy is fifteen years old. Roskus refers to two "signs" that the Compson family is cursed, Benjy's birth and now Quentin's death. He wonders what the third sign will be.

Page 35: "Take him and..." (1912)

This scene occurs at the time of or shortly before Mr. Compson's death. Once again there is a fire. You can tell that it is later than in the previous scene because Luster has been born. So has little Quentin, who was brought to Mississippi in 1911, a year after her uncle's death. Roskus says that baby Quentin's illegitimate birth is the "third sign" he expected.

Page 37: "You can't go..." (1912)

Benjy sees Mr. Compson's funeral cortege. T. P. takes him to look at the carriage with the body.

Page 38: "Come on, Luster..." (1928)

Luster, in the present, interrupts Benjy again. He takes away the golf ball that Benjy wants to play with.

Page 38: "Frony and T. P...." (1898)

The golf ball he's not allowed to play with in 1928 makes Benjy think of T. P.'s jar of fireflies thirty years earlier. Death is also still on his mind. Frony asks whether the funeral has begun, and Versh tells her that she's not supposed to tell the Compson children about it. Frony mentions the custom among blacks of "moaning" for the dead. She is waiting to see whether the Compsons will moan too.

Page 38: "They moaned at..." (19__)

Dilsey moans and the dog howls. It seems fairly clear that Dilsey's husband Roskus has died.

Page 39: "'Oh.' Caddy said..." (1898)

Caddy doesn't understand that her grandmother is dead.

Page 39: "Dilsey moaned, and..." (19__)

You are taken back again to the time of Roskus's death. Nothing in this scene tells you exactly what year it is. But Frony is doing the cooking and Luster is old enough to take care of Benjy. That suggests it is at least several years after Mr. Compson's death.

Page 39: "I like to..." (1898)

Frony tells Caddy that her grandmother is dead. But all Caddy knows of death is that Nancy (a farm animal) fell in the ditch and had to be shot by Roskus. Then the buzzards ate her flesh.

Page 39: "The bones rounded..." (1912) Benjy saw Nancy's bones on the night his father died. You can tell this passage is about Mr. Compson's death because Benjy mentions "Father was sick" and T. P. talks about forgetting Benjy's coat. He wouldn't have needed a coat when Quentin died in June. Once again, Benjy is able to smell death.

Page 42: "I had it..." (1928)

Luster's comments about the quarter interrupt Benjy's thoughts.

Page 42: "Do you think..." (1898)

The children talk about buzzards, funerals, and the fireflies. They decide to get closer to the house to find out whether a party (as Caddy maintains) or a funeral is going on.

Page 43: "When we looked..." (1910)

Peering into the house makes Benjy think of the way he and T. P. looked in the windows to see if Caddy's wedding had started. T. P. brings them a bottle of "sassprilluh."

Page 44: "A snake crawled..." (1898)

On these next few pages, there are several rapid alterations between scenes at the time of Damuddy's death and Caddy's wedding.

Page 44: "You ain't got..." (1910)

T. P. and Benjy begin drinking.

Page 44: "We stopped under..." (1898) The children look at the windows of the house; the party or funeral hasn't started yet.

Page 45: "They getting ready..." (1910) The wedding is almost ready to begin, and already T. P. is tipsy. He asks Benjy to peer in the window and see if the ceremony has started.

Page 45: "'They haven't started...'" (1898)

This line should probably be in italics, since it represents a time change. Perhaps an error was made in preparing the first edition of The Sound and the Fury. -

Now the children, rather than T. P. and Benjy, are looking in the window and waiting for something to begin. Caddy asks Versh for a boost into the tree so she can get a better look. The children see Caddy's muddy drawers. This is the image that Faulkner said inspired him to write the novel.

Page 46: "I saw them." (1910)

The wedding has begun, and through the window Benjy sees Caddy with flowers in her hair and a long veil. By now he and T. P. have been drinking for some time. T. P. is laughing drunkenly, and Benjy begins to cry. Then Quentin kicks T. P. and Caddy comes in her wedding dress to comfort Benjy. Benjy feels she no longer smells like trees.

NOTE: Caddy smells like trees to Benjy when she is being the loving little mother of Benjy's childhood. In the scenes that follow, her withdrawal from Benjy as she becomes sexually mature is connected with his feeling that she no longer smells like trees.

Page 48: "Benjy, Caddy said..." (1905 or 1906) Caddy is growing up. Jason teases her for wearing what he calls a prissy dress and mentions that she is fourteen. Benjy is upset by something about Caddy, and she can't figure out what it is. Finally she realizes that he doesn't like her to wear perfume. She washes it off and gives the bottle to Dilsey for a present. Then Benjy feels she smells like trees again.

Page 51: "'Come on, now.'" (1908)

Benjy is now thirteen. Dilsey says that he is big enough for his own bedroom. Uncle Maury's room will be given to him.

Page 51: "Uncle Maury was..." (19__)

There is no indication in the text that the time has changed, but in this scene you are back at the ending of Uncle Maury's affair with Mrs. Patterson. (See page 14 in the novel for Mr. Patterson's interception of Uncle Maury's letter to his wife.) Mr. Patterson has given Uncle Maury a black eye, and Uncle Maury threatens to shoot him.

Page 53: "'You a big...'" (1908)

Again there is no indication of a time change, but here you are back in 1908 when Benjy is being put to sleep in Uncle Maury's room. He is frantic because he is not allowed to sleep with Caddy any longer. Caddy lies down with him so that he can go to sleep. She still smells like trees to him.

Page 53: "We looked up..." (1898)

Caddy is in the tree, watching the funeral. Dilsey discovers the children and brings them back into the house.

Page 55: "Where you want..." (1928)

The scene shifts back to the present for a moment.

Page 55: "The kitchen was..." (some time between 1906 and 1909)

On a moonlit night, Benjy slips away from T. P. and goes outside.

Page 56: "Luster came back." (1928)

Luster tries to steer Benjy away from the swing where Caddy's daughter Quentin is lounging with a boy.

Page 56: "It was dark..." (19__)

Benjy looks out at the swing and begins to cry.

Page 56: "Come away from..." (1928)

Luster is still trying to get Benjy away from the swing. While heading toward it in 1928, Benjy thinks about an episode that occurred on the swing about twenty years earlier.

Page 56: "It was two..." (19__)

Benjy sees Caddy and her boyfriend Charlie on the swing. She gets off and comes to talk to him. Charlie is nasty to Benjy and asks Caddy to send Benjy away, but, instead, Caddy and Benjy run away from Charlie. Caddy washes her mouth out with soap. After she has done so, she smells like trees again to Benjy.

NOTE: Benjy is upset when Caddy spends time with boys. And apparently he has the power to make Caddy feel guilty about her sexuality. Thus she washes off the perfume and washes her mouth out with soap after she's kissed Charlie. Apparently she's able to purify herself to Benjy's satisfaction, because she smells again like trees to him. After she loses her virginity, she will never again smell like trees to Benjy.

Page 58: "I kept a..." (1928)

Benjy approaches Caddy's daughter Quentin and a man on the swing. This reminds you of the time he found Caddy and Charlie on the swing. But things have changed. While Charlie wanted Benjy to go away, Quentin's friend is really cruel to him. And while Benjy was upset to find Caddy kissing Charlie, he doesn't care what Quentin does. At the same time, Quentin has no feeling for Benjy.

You won't understand the significance of this scene until Jason's section of the novel. But the man in the red tie belongs to the show that Luster wants to see. This is Saturday afternoon. Late that night, Quentin will run away with him. From Luster's conversation with the man in the red tie, you learn that Quentin frequently climbs down the tree next to her window to go out with various men. (You may wonder whether it is the same tree her mother, Caddy, climbed thirty years before.) Looking on the ground for his lost quarter, Luster finds a condom under a bush. He gives it to Benjy to play with. The man in the red tie is upset.

NOTE: CADDY AND QUENTIN IN THE SWING
This episode underlines the difference between Caddy and her daughter. Caddy felt guilty when Benjy found her and Charlie kissing in the swing, but Quentin doesn't care. All she wants to do is to tell her grandmother that Benjy has been "spying" on her. Caddy was just kissing a boy, but Quentin has apparently had sex with lots of men. The fact that they use prophylactics suggests that they are not boys who get carried away by passion. On the other hand, Quentin is unlikely to get pregnant the way her mother did.

Benjy walks to the fence, with Luster trailing him. They see some girls with schoolbags coming home from school.

Page 62: "You cant do..." (1910)

Benjy is again waiting at the gate for Caddy to come home from school. But T. P. reminds him that Caddy has married and left home. Remember that on pages 5-6 Versh told Caddy (in about 1902) that nobody could keep Benjy away from the gate when she was due home.

Watching the schoolgirls walking by the gate, Benjy wants to talk to them-possibly to tell them how much he misses Caddy. "I tried to say," he puts it, which suggests that he can only make noises, not form words. The girls are frightened and cross to the other side of the street.

Page 63: "How did he..." (1910)

Sometime (either the same day or several weeks later), Benjy has gotten past the gate. In response to his father's questions, Jason denies that he left it open. Jason suggests that Mr. Compson send Benjy to Jackson- which you will learn later is the state mental asylum- but Mr. Compson won't listen.

Page 63: "It was open..." (1910)

Someone left the gate open. It may very well have been Jason, although he denies it. Jason may have done it deliberately, to force Mr. Compson to send Benjy away.

The girls walking by the Compson house see Benjy. One of them explains that he isn't dangerous. Then Benjy opens the gate and catches one of the girls. (The Compsons eventually have Benjy castrated, apparently fearing that his actions stemmed from sexual inclinations.)

Page 64: "Here, loony, Luster..." (1928)

The thought of Caddy, or of being castrated, makes Benjy bellow. On the golf course, Luster tries to sell the ball he found. The white golfer won't buy it but takes it away- just as Benjy's testicles were taken away from him. Luster tells Benjy that when his mother dies, Jason will put him in the asylum in Jackson.

NOTE: When Benjy was a child, he was generally treated kindly. Caddy and Dilsey were good to him, and so were Mr. Compson and Versh. Although T. P. got him drunk at Caddy's wedding, he was also a sympathetic caretaker.

As he has grown older, Benjy has lost everyone who treated him well except Dilsey. The contrast between Versh or T. P. and Luster echoes the contrast between Caddy and Quentin. Versh or T. P. or Caddy might sometimes be annoyed by the responsibility of caring for Benjy, but they saw him as a fellow human being who had feelings. Quentin and Luster did not. There may be some suggestion that the younger generation, either black or white, is shallow and lacking in humanity.

Dilsey calls Luster and Benjy to the house. Knowing that the sight of fire calms Benjy down, she opens the firedoor in the stove.

Page 67: "What you want..." (1900)

The fire in the stove in 1928 evokes an image in Benjy's mind of a fire in his mother's room in 1900. She was telling him that he had a new name.

Page 68: "'Aint you shamed...'" (1928)

Dilsey scolds Luster for teasing Benjy, and Luster talks back to her. He has no respect for his grandmother. His only concern now is obtaining a quarter so he can attend the show. Dilsey serves a birthday cake to Benjy and Luster. Benjy cries when Luster blows out the candles.

Page 69: "I could hear..." (probably 1900)

This scene is not dated. It is probably 1900, because it contains rain and a fire, like the other scenes from 1900.

Page 69: "I ate some..." (1928)

Benjy eats a piece of cake while Luster has two. Luster closes the door on the stove, making the fire disappear, and Benjy cries. Dilsey tells him to leave Benjy alone.

Page 70: "That's right, Dilsey..." (1900)

Dilsey asks Caddy why Maury's name has been changed to Benjamin. As far as she can see, changing a name doesn't accomplish anything. Dilsey's simple, dignified faith- she knows her name, who she is, and that she'll be called on judgment day- contrasts with that of the Compsons.

Page 71: "The long wire..." (1928)

Contrary to Dilsey's orders, Luster closes the firedoor again. Reaching out for the vanished fire, Benjy burns his hand. His bellowing rouses Mrs. Compson, who complains that Dilsey has let Benjy make noise in order to disturb her. Luster takes Benjy into the library and builds him a fire. But Benjy focuses instead on a dark place on the wall, and he tightly clutches a slipper. We'll soon learn that a mirror used to hang on that wall and that the slipper belonged to Caddy.

Page 74: "Your name is..." (1900)

Caddy informs Maury that his name has been changed to Benjy. She tries to carry him.

Page 74: "Caddy said. 'Let...'" (1898) The image of Caddy's carrying him makes Benjy think of another time she tried to do so, at the time of their grandmother's death.

Page 75: "Versh set me..." (1900)

The children are in their mother's room. Benjy can see both the fire in the fireplace and its reflection in the mirror. He imagines his mother's sickness sitting on the cloth on her forehead.

Page 76: "Mother's sick, Father..." (1898)

The image of Mrs. Compson's being sick links Benjy's thoughts of his grandmother's death in 1898 with his name change in 1900. Mrs. Compson's response to any stress is to be "sick." In this scene, Jason appears with his hands in his pockets once again.

Page 76: "We could hear..." (1900)

Mrs. Compson yells at Caddy for carrying Benjy, and accuses her and Mr. Compson of spoiling him. She calls Caddy "Candace" and Benjy "Benjamin," insisting that nicknames are only for common people. Mrs. Compson insists that Caddy take away the cushion Benjy is playing with happily. Later, Mr. Compson comes in, and Benjy feels he smells like rain. Caddy and Jason are fighting because Jason has cut up all the dolls Caddy made for Benjy. Jason, even as a little boy, is bent on destroying everyone else's happiness. But Caddy promises to make more dolls.

Page 79: "Jason came in." (1928)

Jason comes home in a bad mood. He tells Luster to keep Benjy quiet. He has a nasty word for his mother too.

Page 80: "You can look..." (1900)

Caddy had given Benjy everything that makes him happy: a fire, a mirror, and a cushion. Jason can be heard crying far away.

Page 80: "Dilsey said, 'You...'" (1928)

Dilsey calls Jason and his niece Quentin to supper.

Page 80: "We could hear..." (1900)

Quentin is complaining about the rain, as Caddy did earlier. He has been fighting.

Page 81: "Quentin said, 'Didn't...'" (1928)

Luster asks Jason for a quarter. Later, when you read Jason's section, you'll find out that Jason burned two tickets to the show rather than give one of them to Luster. So it's pathetic that Luster asks Jason for money now. Caddy's daughter Quentin comes down to supper heavily made up. Jason warns her to stay away from the show people, but you know she's preparing to run off with one of them.

Page 82: "I could hear..." (1900)

Mr. Compson asks Quentin about the fight. It turns out that he hit another boy who had threatened to put a frog in a girl's desk. (Even as a little boy, Quentin is protecting girls from boys, as he will later attempt to do for Caddy.) As Mr. Compson points out, though, it's a little silly. Where would the other boy find a frog in November?

Page 83: "Dilsey said, All..." (1928)

Dilsey calls everyone to supper.

Page 83: "Versh smelled like..." (1900)

Versh enters, wet from and smelling like the rain.

Page 83: "We could hear..." (about 1909)

Caddy comes in, probably from a date. She avoids her parents and Benjy. Benjy, crying, tries to grab her. She cries too. (Quentin also recalls this scene, but in greater detail; page 185).

Page 84: "Versh said, Your..." (1900) Versh tells Benjy a folk tale that proves that changing people's names is bad luck. Like Dilsey, he doesn't think it's a good idea.

Page 84: "We were in..." (about 1909)

Benjy pushes Caddy into the bathroom. He is trying to get her to wash herself clean, as she did after she kissed Charlie in the swing. You can guess that Caddy has lost her virginity. This is clearer in Quentin's recollections.

Page 85: "What are you..." (1928)

Caddy's daughter, Quentin, complaining about Benjy, says that he ought to be sent to Jackson. If you don't like it here, you can get out, Jason tells her. Don't worry, I will, she replies.

NOTE: When you read Jason's section, remember this scene. Quentin is telling the truth. She plans to leave home that night. Although Benjy doesn't understand what is going on, you can see that he observes many interactions that turn out to be important.

Page 85: "Versh said, 'You...'" (1900)

Caddy offers to feed Benjy supper.

Page 86: "Has he got..." (1928)

Page 86: "Steam came off..." (1900)

Page 86: "Now, now, Dilsey..." (1928)

Page 86: "It got down..." (1900)

Page 86: "Yes he will..." (1928)

Page 86: "Roskus said, 'It...'" (1900)

Page 86: "You've been running..." (1928)

Page 86: "Then I don't...'" (1900)

The quickly alternating scenes on Page 86 contrast the warm world of 1900 with the brutal present. In 1900, Caddy fed Benjy while rain pounded on the roof. In the present, her daughter Quentin criticizes his eating habits. She accuses him again of spying on her.

Page 87: "Oh, I wouldn't..." (1928)

Dilsey comforts Quentin and says it's not fair of Jason to blame her for her illegitimate birth.

Page 87: "'She sulling again...'" (1900)

Roskus remarks that Mrs. Compson is sulking in her room. Dilsey shushes him.

Page 87: "Quentin pushed Dilsey..." (1928)

But Quentin is unable to accept Dilsey's love. You'll see her act this way again in Jason's section. Dilsey tries unsuccessfully to arbitrate between Quentin and Jason.

Page 87: "'Mother's sick again...'" (1900)

Page 87: "Goddamn you, Quentin..." (1928)

In these two scenes, Caddy's solicitousness for others is contrasted with her daughter Quentin's meanness.

Page 87: "Caddy gave me..." (1900)

Mr. Compson and the children are together. There's a fire in the fireplace. Caddy gives Benjy a cushion to hold. She smells like trees to him.

Page 88: "She smelled like..." (1928) Benjy clutches the slipper that is all he has left of Caddy. Caddy's daughter gives Luster a quarter so that he can go to the show.

Page 89: "We didn't go..." (1898)

The children are put to bed in a different room because of their grandmother's death.

Page 89: "Quentin, Mother said..." (1928)

Mrs. Compson complains because Dilsey doesn't bring her hot water bottle quickly enough.

Page 90: "Quentin and Versh..." (1900)

Quentin comes in, crying.

Page 90: "I got undressed..." (1928)

Looking at himself as he undresses, Benjy cries as he thinks about his castration. He and Luster see Caddy's daughter climbing down the tree. Its shaking recalls the way the tree shook when Caddy climbed it in 1898 to watch Damuddy's funeral. This is the last anyone in the novel will see of Quentin.

Page 90: "There were two..." (1900)

The last scene in this section returns to Benjy's earliest memory, Damuddy's death. The children are put to bed, and Benjy falls asleep, secure in the love and order around him. This image contrasts violently with our last sight of Benjy at the novel's end.

THE STORY, continued

THE NOVEL


ECC [The Sound and the Fury Contents] [Surf and Study Home Page]

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