Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Three members of the Compson household inspire sympathy. As such, each can be viewed as a protagonist in one form or another.
Caddy - Caddy's goodness and apparent worth as a heroine, is gleaned from the descriptions of her offered by the other two protagonists, as well as the antagonist. Though she has no monologue of her own, she is the organizing center of The Sound and the Fury. She is the dominating figure in Benjy's monologue, as well as the center of Quentin's recollections. She is like a mother to Benjy, and it is clear from his chapter that he received the maximum affection and care from Caddy.
She hates hypocrisy and the false aristocratic pride of the Compson family. As she grows up her love of independence develops into an attitude of irresponsibility and a defiance of convention. This results in her having an illegitimate child and being deserted by her husband. She is anxious about the happiness of her child and is desperate because she is not allowed to see or meet her. She keeps sending money for her daughter's expenses. Caddy is a victim, first of the dysfunctional Compson household. Quentin speculates that had Caddy had a real mother, the tragedies of her life might never have happened. Then she is a victim of her own confusion and desire to be loved. Third she is a victim of Jason, who steals from her, bullies her, abuses her.
Benjy - Benjy is a pure character; he responds to good and evil on the simplest of all levels. He is incapable of evil, and only seems to want the love of his sister and some order in his world. Some critics claim he is the Christ figure of the novel, and Jason is the devil. Benjy is the victim of a lot of cruelty and negligence. Only Caddy and Dilsey seem to care about him.
Jason is callous and cold hearted, a perfect manifestation of evil. He thinks he is a victim of the world, and is bent on revenge. As a child he is a loner, a troublemaker. As an adult, he is cruel and domineering, bent on controlling everyone's life. He cheats his own family out of money and goes to great lengths to lie. He represents the degradation of values in the South and in the Compson family.
There are several turning points in the life of the Compson family, some of which occur in the past but have far-reaching consequences. One is Caddy's pregnancy and subsequent exile from her family. Another is Quentin's suicide. A third is the arrival of baby Quentin. Each has a significant impact on the plot of the novel. However, the central climax of the novel is by far the most dramatic and fulfilling. It is Miss Quentin's escape from the Compson household and Jason's comeuppance.
The novel is a tragedy in most senses, in that it chronicles the total deterioration of the Compson family, once a greatly respected household. The father is dead, the mother is useless. One child took his life, another was exiled, and a third is castrated and retarded. The fourth is an unredeemable villain. However, Quentin's escape can also be viewed as a kind of resurrection. She escapes from the ashes of the family that once claimed her, and rises out of the disorder of the Compson heritage.