For decades, readers have been mystified and haunted by The Sound and the Fury 's cast of deeply troubled characters—darling and daring Caddy, innocent Benjy, tyrannical Jason and tortured Quentin. See why William Faulkner's fourth novel is considered his first work of true genius.
About the Book
It's the book Faulkner said began without a plot. Learn more about the Comptons, a family whose wounds time could not heal.
Start Discussing The Sound and the Fury
Use these thought-provoking questions to facilitate your own reading and to hear what others have to say about the book. Why does the narrative voice continually change? Is The Sound and the Fury a Southern Shakespearean tragedy?
Your Exclusive Bookmark and Character Guide
While the Compsons cling to the past, the Gibsons look towards a better tomorrow. Print Your Quick Guide Bookmark and get character descriptions for all three Faulkner books at a glance!
Faulkner's characters don't play by the rules—and neither should you! If you want to know how to navigate the shifts in time and keep the story straight, try these quick tips.
Did You Get That?
The characters in the novel have very distinctive ways of telling their stories. But what are they saying? Take this quiz to see if you can match the speaker with the statement.
"It's the book I feel tenderest towards. I couldn't leave it alone, and I never could tell it right, though I tried hard and would like to try again, though I'd probably fail again." - William Faulkner
As personal as entries written in a diary,The Sound and the Fury tells the unfortunate story of a family whose wounds time could not heal. Told in shifting perspectives that span two decades, the four sections of the novel give the reader a taste of life in the Compson household. Just like any family who's shared meals around a dinner table, the characters are consumed by the same memories and losses—innocence, freedom, life and love.
Although The Sound and the Fury was only Faulkner's fourth novel, by 1929 the 32-year-old had already given up trying to please publishers and reviewers and seemed content to write for himself. Faulkner was not alone in this notion. In the years following World War 1, members of what Gertrude Stein referred to as "The Lost Generation"—Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and E. E. Cummings, to name a few—began to experiment with new methods of storytelling. Traditional aspects of the novel such as plot and character development became the background to new narrative forms that illustrated the fluidity of time and memory, and conveyed the reality of a character's state of mind. The result was the "modern" novel and some of our most cherished American stories, including The Sound and the Fury.
"Faulkner had made a startling breakthrough," writes biographer Jay Parini. "This was something new in American fiction, something strange, complex and disruptive, a work that attempts to articulate grief and loss while acknowledging, at every turn, the impossibility of recovery, the limits of articulation, as well as the pleasures afforded by repetition and incomplete reconstruction: the pleasures of the text itself.
"The initial scene of the novel represents a version of the funeral of Faulkner's own maternal grandmother, Lelia Swift Butler. Faulkner had been struck by the way the children were sent outside the house because they were not old enough to understand the seriousness of the event at hand. In the novel, Faulkner for the first time put aside all considerations of 'story' and allowed the text to absorb and embody whatever aspects of consciousness were caught in its web. The entire novel was written at stunning speed, rising up from some deep reservoir of the imagination.
"The novel 'began as a short story,' Faulkner later recalled, 'a story without plot, of some children being sent away from the house during the grandmother's funeral. They were too young to be told what was going on and they saw things only incidentally to the childish games they were playing.'" At the center of their childhood games, an image of a daring little girl named Caddy emerged that gripped Faulkner's heart and inspired his imagination. She became the focal point of the novel; she was the sun in the Compson brothers' universe and each section, Faulkner said, was his attempt to capture her. But ultimately, she eluded him, and Faulkner dubbed The Sound and the Fury his most splendid failure.
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Printed from Oprah.com on Saturday, March 8, 2014
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