William Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury is an out of focus novel that at best would cause confusion if the necessary presence of mind and deliberation is absent. The book covers the narrations of Quentin Compson and his siblings albeit at different times regarding the number of years between each narrative. Different scholars have come up with different assertions about the motifs, the characters and the plot of the narratives engraved in this gripping novel. The narration completed by Quentin tells the struggle that an individual goes through as he deals with the promiscuous acts of his sister as well as the ensuing occurrences that end up with the death of Quentin in a river through suicide. Through reviewing critiques of the novel, one is able to conjure several reasons as to why Quentin would decide to take his own life in the manner that he did in stark contrast to the reactions of his father and his other siblings. One is also able to comprehend why Quentin would choose to take responsibility and atone for mistakes that he did not commit.
According to the arguments made in Joel Williamson, Quentin’s origin from the south plays an integral role in determining his nature and characters as a person. His reaction to his sister’s promiscuous actions manifests through great torment and frustration for him. He is deeply disturbed by such loose morals displayed by his flesh and blood. Williamson’s line of thought about the environment and location plays an integral role in defining an individual and his or her character choice. In Quentin’s case, the south dictates how he handles nonconformity to his moral beliefs and standards that he so dearly cherishes. Caddy represents a blatant disregard for the acceptable moral norms in society and Quentin is unable to properly deal with such deviance hence choosing death as his only solution. Notably, he resorts to violence first before choosing suicide as narrated in the novel in the form of the fights he had with both Dalton Ames and Gerald Bland. He finally commits suicide by drowning in a river as a symbolic and subconscious attempt at washing away of what he sees as a “dirty” sin.
Jean-Paul Sartre’s literary piece covers a different aspect in the form of a sense of time in William Faulkner’s novel. The novel repeatedly mentions the clock and the time as a direct allusion to the loss of the sense of time felt by Quentin. Sartre argues that Quentin is surrounded by the clock as an ironic juxtaposition to his mental anguish which knows no boundaries. The novel bridges the gap between reality and vision that Quentin experiences in his life. He is seemingly living in a world that transcends time thus he faces continuous torment which capitulates in his suicide. Based on the arguments presented by Sartre, it is rational to conclude that Quentin took his life as a means of escaping the constant torment that transcends the limits of time and distance caused primarily by the actions of Caddy and her male friends. The novel gives off the aura of stuck in a vicious circle of torment with the not forthcoming outlet. Quentin tries reaching out by taking the blame for Caddy’s misgivings but he is met with rejection by Caddy and dismissal by his unperturbed father.
In this paper, John Hagopian points out that Quentin does not suffer from nihilism which is a belief in the meaninglessness of value. Instead, Quentin highly prioritizes morals ingrained in him by the Southern code that acted as the foundation for his upbringing. His indifference to a nihilist is the reason for his suicide despite the fact that he did not commit any vile crime. His only mistake or flaw depending on your view is that he took his sister’s actions seriously enough to contemplate and commit suicide. Quentin believed in a sense of right and wrong as values that drive human actions thus he could easily sort out his feelings towards certain acts. Unlike him, his parents and other significant individuals do not share the same sentimental views. His father’s view of virginity is a summary of what this particular group of nihilists thinks about religion.
In hindsight, Quentin’s actions affirm that society is an ever-changing entity that will always drag innocent victims down under. Quentin did not actually commit any adulterous actions but he ended up dying a shameful death for his sentimentalism towards the values ingrained in him by the south. Bafflingly, out of the total number of family members barring Benjy, he is the only one disturbed by caddy’s action. The family patriarch, Compson, seems unfazed much like his wife regarding Caddy’s pregnancy. Quentin is the only one who seems concerned and he ends up feeling ostracized in his own thoughts which ultimately play a deciding role in his decision to take his own life. Consequently, the environment and societal frameworks are very important in the upbringing an individual regardless of the time in history that such events take place as evidenced by the applicability of this novel despite the considerable time difference.