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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
TEST 1_____ 1. The title of The Sound and the Fury comes from Macbeth's speech after -
B. his wife's death
C. the appearance of the three witches
B. hard work
B. missed his sister
C. wishes he could play golf
B. hardware store
II. buys bullets for his gun
III. walks by the river
A. I and II only
III. Caddy's slipper
A. I and III only
B. The South vs. the North
C. The past vs. the present
12. Is The Sound and the Fury about the breakup of a Southern family, or could it take place anywhere? -
13. What makes Benjy bellow? What function does his bellowing serve in the novel? -
14. What is Dilsey's role in The Sound and the Fury? -
15. Is the message of this novel that life is "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing"? -
TEST 2_____ 1. William Faulkner's grandfather was -
B. a major slaveholder
C. a writer
B. broaden their appeal to whites
C. go slow
B. Caroline Compson and her daughter
C. Dilsey Gibson and her daughter
B. "Five o'clock"
C. "Eight o'clock"
C. interior monologue
B. Jason threatens to send him away
C. Luster drives around the square the wrong way
C. the Fourth of July
B. their grandmother's death
C. the changing of Benjy's name
B. sold the house
C. got married
12. What caused the decline of the Compson family? -
13. In the Appendix, Faulkner calls Jason "the first sane Compson since before Culloden." Do you agree? -
14. What was Faulkner's attitude toward black people? Use the characters in this novel to illustrate. -
15. Describe Faulkner's attitude toward the past and the present, as seen in The Sound and the Fury. -
Benjy functions as a camera eye, recording what he sees and hears. His section contains simple sentences and a basic vocabulary. He focuses on the distant past, the events of the Compson children's childhood. He is limited by his lack of understanding and by the fact that he was left out of some events.
Quentin's section contains many sentence fragments and a more complicated and abstract vocabulary. He switches between past and present more often than Benjy. He focuses on the events of 1909-1910- Caddy's loss of virginity, her marriage, and the forces leading up to his own suicide. He is limited by his obsession with Caddy's sexuality and by his extreme emotional agitation.
Jason's section is written in everyday speech, although it is slangy, whiny, and a little vulgar. He concentrates on the present, although he also narrates the events of Quentin's and Mr. Compson's deaths. Jason's limitation is his personality. He is mean and dishonest, and sees everything through the lens of how he is taken advantage of (although he usually brings it on himself).
If you think Benjy is the most reliable narrator, you could point to the accuracy of his descriptions as you learn more about events later in the novel. You could say that he is the only Compson brother without an ax to grind. If you think Jason is more accurate, you could point to the comprehensibility of his section. Jason is living in the real world and speaking its language, unlike his brothers. If you think that none of the brothers is thoroughly reliable, you could point to all of their limitations and say that the only way of finding out the truth is to weigh them against each other. (It is almost impossible to make the case that Quentin is the most reliable narrator.)
12. To answer this question, review the sections The Characters and Themes in this guide. Examine the characters of Jason and Caroline Compson and each of their relationships with their children. Look for specific examples to illustrate your points (for example, Mrs. Compson's complaint to Jason that Caddy was always selfish, when we have seen otherwise). Mr. Compson is detached and cynical, while Mrs. Compson is extremely self-centered. Neither gives the children much love or understanding. Caddy makes up for it to some extent, but as she grows up she stops being a mother to her younger brothers, and that adds to their hurt. The children respond to the lack of love in different ways. Caddy becomes promiscuous, Quentin kills himself, and Jason is unhappy and self-defeating.
If you believe that the Compson's story is universal, you would point to the psychological accuracy of these portraits. If you believe that this is a particularly Southern story, you would point to the Appendix, where Faulkner links this story to Southern history.
13. To answer this question, review the The Characters section. Look back, too, at the discussion of Benjy's section in The Story and reread the section in the novel. Try to locate a few representative episodes when Benjy bellows- for example, when the golfers yell "Caddie," when Caddy wears perfume, when Caddy's daughter Quentin runs away, and when Luster drives the wrong way. In all of these cases, Benjy is noticing that things are different and wrong. Some of the other characters, especially Dilsey and her family, say that Benjy can smell death. Benjy's bellowing shows that something is wrong: he has lost something, someone is mistreating him, or something bad is about to happen. His bellowing brings to the novel the feeling of the loss of the past that is one of its most important themes.
14. To answer this question, review the section The Characters and the discussion of Dilsey's section in The Story. Dilsey cooks the meals, cleans the house, raises the children, and keeps Jason and his niece Quentin from killing each other. Her comments (as well as those of Roskus, her husband, and their children), give us a perspective warmer and wiser than that of the Compsons. Dilsey's instinctive kindness toward the Compson children contrasts with the self-centered whining of their mother. And her true Christianity puts Mrs. Compson's false piety to shame. Although Dilsey is not a Compson, she embodies more of the family's original values than do any of the children. And she will endure after the Compson family has disappeared.
15. To answer this question, review the Themes section. Certainly there is evidence in this novel that life is meaningless. Everything seems to be running down, even the clock in the Compson family home. Everything good in the novel dies- Caddy's warmth, Quentin's idealism, even Benjy's sense of being cared for. Caddy apparently becomes the mistress of a Nazi general; Quentin kills himself; Caddy's daughter grows up to be mean and selfish. The final image, of Benjy bellowing, is a horrifying last view of the Compsons. Now the family is in the hands of Jason, who will fire Dilsey, put Benjy away, and turn over the family home to a real estate developer. If you want to argue that life in the novel has meaning, you would have to focus on Dilsey and her family, and the Christian values they embody.
Faulkner began The Sound and the Fury with Benjy's section for three logical reasons: (1) Benjy is an idiot, and the passage from which the novel takes its title calls life "a tale / Told by an idiot." (2) To begin the book, Faulkner needed a Compson who was still alive and on the scene in Jefferson in 1928. That left only Benjy, Mrs. Compson, and Jason. Since Jason and Mrs. Compson were both too limited in their perspective, Benjy was the only choice. (3) Benjy mainly thinks about the past, so that his narration is the chronological beginning of the story.
If you think Faulkner made a mistake in putting the Benjy section first, you would point out how difficult it is to make sense of. You would have to show that he should have opened with another section- Jason's or the narrator's- because they are easier to understand.
If you think Faulkner was right in structuring the novel as he did, you would point to the limitations in Jason's point of view. You might also say that the emotional vividness of Benjy's section draws the reader in, as Jason's section would not.
12. To answer this question, review the discussions in the Themes and The Characters sections. You could argue that the decline of the Compson family was caused either by internal psychological problems of the characters or by larger sociological forces. If you want to make the former case, you would closely examine the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Compson. What kind of people were they? How did they relate to their children? You would probably claim that the Compsons were unable to love their children and that the children's problems-Caddy's promiscuity, Quentin's suicide, and Jason's self-defeating nastiness- were all caused by the lack of parental love. If you want to point to larger causes for the problems, you might look to Dilsey and Roskus for explanations. Throughout the novel, Roskus seems to say that the Compson family is cursed.
For a less supernatural explanation, you could turn to Faulkner's Appendix. There he shows that the family decline started with the grandfather who was a Civil War general. All the male Compsons seemed to be affected by grandiose ideals. The original Compson who came to America had been a follower of Bonnie Prince Charlie, a doomed king. Perhaps the decline of the Compson family could be linked prophetically to the original purchase of land from an Indian chief called "Doom."
13. To answer this question, review the discussion of Jason in The Characters and the section on the Appendix in The Story. You will have to describe Jason's character. Do you think he is sane? If so, you would point to his sharp eye for the foibles of the people around him, his sense of humor, and his ability to support what is left of the Compson family. Or you could argue that Faulkner is using the word "sane" in a deprecating or sarcastic way. Jason's values are those of the people around him- and that's awful. If you don't believe that Jason is really sane, you would talk about the way he still acts out his childhood conflicts- his resentments at his brothers and sister, and, in particular, his feeling that Caddy's divorce deprived him of the opportunity to work in Herbert's bank. Jason acts in a self-defeating way. He begins his dealings with both the sheriff and the show people by fighting with them instead of stating his business. Finally, Jason can only have experiences that are based on money. The only relationship he can have with a woman is with a whore.
So one question to decide is whether Jason is sane (and what Faulkner means by that). The other question to answer is about the past Compsons. The Appendix suggests that all the Compsons had bigger dreams than they could carry out. This is true of the original Quentin, and it's even true of the first Jason Compson, who bought the land the family now lives on. And it's true of the grandfather, Jason, the Civil War general who started selling off the land. So there is some question about how truly sane any of the Compson ancestors were. The world of the past may have offered scope for their craziness. The same is not true for Jason Compson IV in 1928.
14. To answer this question, look at The Author and His Times section of this guide as well as the discussion of Dilsey in The Characters and The Story. In life, Faulkner's attitude toward black people was ambivalent. Growing up in a segregated society, Faulkner knew blacks mainly as servants. He admired their strength in suffering and their ability to endure. At the same time, he didn't see black people as the equal of whites. He helped young black people in Oxford, where he lived, to go North for education, but he would not support the civil rights movement. He thought blacks were not ready for full equality and warned civil rights leaders to move slowly.
This attitude is reflected in his portrayal of blacks in The Sound and the Fury. Dilsey holds the family together. She is kind, perceptive, and an instinctive Christian. Dilsey embodies the best values of the Compson family, and she will be there after the family is gone.
The fate of Dilsey's family contrasts in some ways with the Compsons. She continues to have good relationships with her children, but her daughter, Frony, is more concerned about public appearances than Dilsey is. And her grandson, Luster, is lazy and mean. The black family may be in decline too.
15. To answer this question, review the section on Themes. The way the characters in The Sound and the Fury shift back and forth between the past and the present indicates this is an important theme. One way to compare the past and the present in the novel is to look at Benjy vs. Jason. Benjy is the voice of the past- of the way the family used to be when they were together, listening to the rain in front of the fireplace. Jason is the voice of the present-mean, avaricious, nasty. With Jason, the family will die out.
Except for Dilsey, most of the characters in The Sound and the Fury seem to be caught in the past. For Benjy and Quentin, the past is more important than the present. That is partly true of Jason also, because his attitude toward things is so much shaped by his childhood feelings. But Jason is the only member of the Compson family who really knows how to live in and cope with the present.
In general, Faulkner portrays the past more vividly than the present. The past is full of important events. It is also the source of positive family memories and warmth. The present, by contrast, is barren and without values, a reflection, perhaps, of the author's own feelings.
TERM PAPER IDEAS AND OTHER TOPICS FOR WRITING
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