In this article we apply two methods of literary analysis: typological and combination of psychologism and psychoanalytical to one of the characters of the novel “The Sound and the Fury” by W. Faulkner. According to Russian literary scholar A. B. Yesin psychological description of literary personality in literary work may fall in to three types: direct, indirect and mixed. By direct type includes interior monologue, stream of consciousness and dreams. Indirect type consists of behavior, actions and background, external details and outward appearance. Esin and Andreev also apply the term common for Russian literary criticism known as “Psychologism”. By this term they mean the whole process of psychological representation of literary character based on external details, internal emotional condition that creates the holistic image of literary personality.
In general, psychological representation of literary personality will be analyzed further focusing on the categories as background, external details and outward appearance, behavior and actions, speech
Background information about the characters of the novel is given by the author in the introduction and the appendix of the novel. The novel was published in 1929 together with its introduction where the author reflects the reasons of writing the book. In two decades the author added appendix because literary critics as well as readers were confused about the author’s message and ideas. Following Chaucer’s method of writing in “Canterbury Tales” (description of literary characters is given in the Prologue) Faulkner gave vivid description of each character as a key to the novel itself.
External details and outward appearance work for the description of the inner world. They motivate internal state of heroes, help to form the mood, influence the way of thinking.
Behavior of characters can be seen in their actions, attitudes to themselves and to others. It is of great importance whether they are worth society’s approval or not. Usually, the character is described as contradictory to suit society’s demands and this creates a unique image. Behavior of a person might depend on his past, on the society’s morals if he or she values them, on his psychological development and temperament. Psychological state of a person certainly reflects on his behavior.
From this aspect we will analyze the causes of character’s certain behavior.
Speech is the main indicator of character’s psychological state and condition. Speech in the literary works is expressed with the help of dialogues, monologues and narration. Yet not in all works we can psychoanalyze the character’s speech. Psychologically analyzable speech should be deep emotional, should express character’s feelings, worries, agonies, fears, at least it should secretly lead readers to discover hidden states of character’s mind. Writers use literary elements and technics — flashbacks and flash forwards, interior monologue, stream of consciousness, deconstruction to increase spiritual and psychological effect of a work. By analyzing the speech of characters we will be able to know the nationality, social status, whether they are literate or not, and the most important their psychological condition.
“The Sound and the Fury” consists of four parts each told by different narrators. The three main parts are written by three Compson brothers — by 33 years-old, mentally ill, loony little brother Benjy, by the elder brother Quentin, the student of Harvard who committed suicide in the aftermath of his sister’s behavior and by the second aggressive and skeptical brother Jason. And the last part is written by Faulkner himself through the Compsons’ negro servant Dilsey. The whole novel is dedicated to the girl with muddy drawers who became the object of obsession for her brothers till the end of the novel. We will apply all the above mentioned categories to analyze one of the main character — narrators — Benjy.
If we consider the novel as one big puzzle each narrator completes it by adding his or her story. Without one we cannot understand the whole concept. Even the main protagonist — Caddy isn’t one of the four narrators she is the central figure of the whole novel. The first narrator is 33-year-old, insane son of Compsons’ who writes his chaotic remembrances mostly happening around his adoring sister — Caddy.
The image of insane is not a new phenomenon in literature. W. Shakespeare and Ch. Dickens, for example, used such characters to express their own views, ideas, truth of life and etc.
Perhaps being an idiot is the only way to survive in this world. Perhaps thus Faulkner has chosen the idiot as the first narrator. Insane people do not deceive anyone; they do not need other’s support. The only thing they seek is the pure, real love and care. They can feel, they can distinguish good and bad.
Faulkner asserts that it was all in Benjy’s part what he wanted to say. He even didn’t plan it to be printed. He added three other sections to clarify, to make Benjy’s story more comprehensible. If we put all four sections by order it will appear as one system. By each narrator it will become clear and clear the concept of the novel idealizing the focal character, Candace. Here Benjy’s part appears as “Fog”. Disordered, disorganized thoughts of Benjy prevent the novel from comprehending. It is simply difficult to digest. We need some explanation to understand it wholly. There will come Quentin’s part as “Mist”. It gives some hint yet sometimes leading to uncertainties. Jason’s narration will bring “Sunrise” sharply putting everything in its place. Fourth part comes as “Daylight” to the whole novel. Dilsey is the only person who tries to save the family from destruction and in this part she becomes the main character and the reader will see the circumstance from the eyes of Dilsey.
At the beginning of the novel he is Maury. Then his name is changed to Benjamin. It is said by Caddy that this name is taken from Bible. Critics like Evelyn Scott and Carven Collins consider Faulkner to express Benjy in a Christ figure as he is also in his 33 as Jesus [2, 3].
Benjy always liked to play in the pasture. Even after it was sold he stood near the fence and watched the golfers calling “caddie” misinterpreting like his sister’s name “Caddy”.
Firelight was the favourite thing of him as he watched it always with great interest. It would give calmness and bring other associations with the family.
There is not much information about outward appearances of characters but Benjy has a special quality to differentiate people by the symbolic odor. He isn’t given the ability of speaking or thinking. Instead synesthesia is given as a sensory perception. He can smell the death, sickness, water, tree, rain. For example, he can feel the death and begins crying. Every time when Caddy embraces him he feels the smell of trees. In one of his memories he remembers the time when Caddy falls down and makes her drawers mud. When she comes to lift Benjy the smell of tree becomes the smell of tree in the rain. This little story carries the whole concept of the novel. Muddy drawers symbolize the loss of virginity and that’s why the smell is changed. Smell of trees disappears at all in the wedding of Caddy. He can’t smell them anymore. In Quentin’s section he also mentions Benjy’s ability of smelling bad.
A Tree is a symbol of family’s honour and pride. As Benjy smells the odour of tree in Caddy when she hasn’t yet committed adultery and doesn’t smell trees when she marries is the evidence of it. When Caddy with her muddy drawers climbs up the pear tree to see Damuddy’s funeral she is even warned by Versh not to break the tree — the family’s pride, otherwise, she would be punished. She tells she doesn’t care of it. Later at the novel also not Caddy but rather than she, others are more concerned about her immorality.
Caddy is like a mother for Benjy. When she is near he feels safety and care.
Benjy always moans when he feels something bad is going to happen. He moans when Quentin, Roskus and Damuddy dies. He moans when Caddie is going to go with her boyfriend. He bellows when he remembers Caddy. But nobody pays attention to it.
Benjy chases after the girls mistakenly thinking one of them Caddy. He is considered to be wild and uncontrolled and after this incident he is castrated.
Benjy’s behavior changes toward Caddy when she loses her virginity, even without knowing it. He doesn’t want her near pulling at her dress.
As the part is narrated by an idiot it is full of grammatical, spelling and syntactic mistakes. He narrates what he hears. The thoughts go back and forth moving from one event to another yet, all pieces are connected. When one event is being spoken something reminds him the other event and he immediately moves to retell this event and so on. He doesn’t comprehend the time and that’s why it is not clear what is when. It is somehow clear when the writing changes from roman type to italic. Repetitions are used to express the emotional state of Benjy. He repeats the thoughts mostly associated with Caddy. Benjy writes mostly about the events which he would like stay in his memory. They are his most adorable remembrances about his caring sister and his childhood.
- Faulkner, William “The Sound and the Fury”, USA: Norton, 1994. p 45.
- Scott, Evelyn. “On William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.” New York: Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, Inc., 1929. p29.
- Collins, Carvel. “Christian and Freudian Structures.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 18 (1957): 115–19. Rpt. in Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Sound and the Fury: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Michael H Cowan. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc. p74.