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I just (finally) finished reading The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. After a slow start, I couldn’t put the book down. Yet, I wasn’t totally enraptured by the story either. I have come to realize that it is harder for me to get into a story if there are no characters or story line that I can relate to, and in this novel, I can’t relate to being a crumbling, rich aristocratic Southern family on its descent. 

Sure, you can say that as a Cuban-American, I should be able to relate to a family that goes from relative prosperity to having nothing and having to start over. But my families’ diaspora has different themes. Rather than corruption of Southern values, my family has stayed strong to the values they brought over from Cuba. They were all hard workers, honest, and “proper.’ They all swallowed their pride and worked any job until they got on their feet.  

The Compsons, on the other hand, are promiscuous (Caddy, Caddy’s daughter Quintin, Jason, and Uncle Muary—all have affairs), lying thieves (Jason), alcoholics (Jason Compson, Sr.), and self-involved, hypochondriacs (Caroline). 

I have no time to go into a full discussion of this story. There are many things I would love to explore. The multiple points-of-view present a fascinating narrative in that the same basic story is told three times, but it is a completely different story each time. Faulkner shows how language falls short of conveying a “True” meaning. Caddy’s voice is explored in a great essay I have in this Norton edition. The essay is “Hearing Caddy’s Voice” by Minrose C. Gwin. Gwin explores the mystery of Caddy, and tries to listen to what Caddy “says.” Of course, what Caddy says is given to us through male perspectives as Gwin points out: 

…we…are aware that Eric Sundquist is right in saying, ‘There is probably no major character in literature about whom we know so little in proportion to the amount of attention she receives… 

[…] 

What we seek in seeking Caddy Compson is not only the lnguage and force and mystery of woman within Faulkner’s text and consciousness. This is also an inquiry into the nature of female subjectivity to what language can and cannot say (407) .

I would love to explore the language used about Caddy, and I would love to look at the language we get Caddy using. Also, if consciousness is within language, what can we say about Caddy’s language? 

The quick remark I want to make about this story has to do with time. After just reading On Waiting, I saw moments of enduring time throughout the novel. I would love to further explore time endured “waiting” by Benjy as compared to Quintin.

Recalling the Schwietzer’s thesis about waiting, and I’m mixing paraphrase with quote here, please forgive my academic sloppiness, “time is supposed to serve as a door or hallway which we pass through unaware, but in waiting, the door jams. Time must be endured rather than traversed; felt rather than thought. 

Benjy can’t endure time. Benjy has no conception of time; consequently he moves through time always unaware, and for him, a memory of a past event is him experiencing the past event again. Benjy does not, like the waiter, vacillate between consciousness and forgetfulness; he does is unable to feel time protract and contract. In waiting the waiter is both: restless and not in action; relaxed and also in action; he notices the time on his watch and forgets that time. Benjy has none of this. He just is… always, just, in abstract time that does not stop for him because he never feels, or rather, endures time. For Benjy, time does not matter. 

Quintin, on the other hand, is consumed with time. It engulfs him and enslaves him as he endures it throughout the entire day he narrates. His chapter starts off with the very idea of time:

and then I was in time again, hearing the watch (48). 

[later, Quintin narrates the moment his grandfather’s watch was given to him]:

 

I give it[the watch] to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all you breath trying to conquer it (Ibid.). 

Quentin then turns the clock upside down so that he can forget the time, but he spends the next couple of paragraphs talking about time, how he can guess the time, and then he moves trough time thinking of his father, his sister, and the past. Quentin, ends up enduring time rather than “forgetting it now and then” because he has no way of ever coming back into time after he breaks his watch. WIthout time, without being able to tell time, Quentin has a harder time forgetting it because he constantly wonders what time it is. And rather than conquer time, by making it a mechanical instrument for his use, he has to endure time. As Shwietzer points out, the waiter glances at his watch in order to make time relative–objective–something of use, but without a clock, time objectifies Quentin instead and makes him endure. 

Quentin then breaks the clock, which leaves him enduring time the rest of the day. The ticking the clock in his pocket is making constantly haunts him. Quentin has taken himself out of the movement of life and time and this is manifested at the end of the chapter when Quentin kills himself. Quentin does not want to be put back into time (this is why he does not ask for the correct time in the clock shop); rather, he wants to no longer  “…be the martyred slave of time” as Baudelaire would say. Although, rather than be drunk as Baudelaire suggest to escape “ the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth” Quentin will end his life and feel nothing any longer—not even time. 

As Shwietzer points out, “The waiter’s agitation is the agitation of wanting to be put back into life that waiting has taken the waiter out of…” (paraphrase). For Quentin, though, this waiting he endures, somewhat due from bot having a watch to make time mechanical again, will be the last time he has to endure time. 

But this is where this fragment ends. I’m sure someone out there has written on time (waiting) in this novel, so this is another fragment I will have to return to soon. 

 

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