The Sound and the Fury Summary
As one of the more complicated pieces of American literature, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury focuses on the Compson family in Jefferson, Mississippi. The title is a reference to the chaos suffered in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as the Compson will come to encounter similar chaos of their own. Each of the first three chapters focuses on a different brother at a different point in time: first, Benjy, in April 1928; second, Quentin, in June 1910; and third, Jason, again in April 1928. The fourth chapter is from a narrator’s point of view, but focuses on Dilsey, a slave of the Compson family.
While the story jumps back and forth in time and relies on different points of view, a close reading can provide a linear narrative. The Compson family was once a proud, aristocratic name in the town; in recent generations, though, the family has undergone a steady decline. While the focus of the story is on the boys, much of the plot revolves around their sister, Caddy. She largely raises her brothers when their mother is incapacitated; as she matures and behaves more promiscuously, becoming an unwed mother, it utterly devastates her brothers. Caddy struggles to survive in a harsh, judgmental town; Quentin, heartbroken over the actions of her sister, commits suicide.
The family shuns Caddy but takes in her child, Miss Quentin. After the death of the Compson father, the oldest brother, Jason, steals the money Caddy sends for her daughter. Ultimately, Miss Quentin suffers a similar fate as her mother. She is largely unhappy and begins acting out, first with promiscuity and later with criminal activities. She steals a large sum of money from Jason and runs away with a much older man, and the rest of the Compson family does little to intervene.