Candace Compson

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            “To me she was the beautiful one, she was my heart’s darling. That’s what I wrote the book about and I used the tools which seemed to me the proper tools to try to tell, try to draw the picture of Caddy.” ~ William Faulkner

Caddy is the most important, and most elusive character of the Sound and the Fury, however she isn’t a literary representation in any conventional sense. She is the central part of each section, narrated by her individual brothers, then by Faulkner himself. Yet Caddy has no 1st person narrative voice and the reader and the comes to know her through the varying perceptions throughout the novel. “Caddy is an extraordinary composite of personifications, symbols, attributes, associations, comparisons, and connections (Bloom 2).”

Caddy has a unique combination of dialogue and silence, of presence, and absence. Gwin C Monrose theorizes that as readers we are like Benjy, trying to say Caddy, but are unable; and that Faulkner’s feelings of frustration and failure stem from trying to portray a female character through a male perception. Faulkner himself admits to writing about Caddy as the sister he never had, and the daughter he lost as infant. When asked about why she wrote of her the way he did, and why she doesn’t have her own narrative section, he says:

         “That’s a good question, the explanation of that whole book is in that. It began with the picture of the little girl’s muddy drawers, climbing that tree to look in the parlor window with her brothers that didn’t have the courage to climb the tree waiting to see what she saw. And I tried to tell it with one brother, that wasn’t enough. I tried with another brother, that wasn’t enough. I tried with the third brother, because Caddy was still to me too beautiful and too moving to reduce her to telling what was going on, and that it would be more passionate to see her through somebody else’s eyes…to me she was the beautiful one, she was my heart’s darling. That’s what I wrote the book about and I used the tools which seemed to me the proper tools to try to tell, try to draw the picture of Caddy.”

Many critics, such as Gwin Monrose and Catherine Baum, fully praise the status of Caddy as a heroine. Baum suggests that the order of the four sections of the novel are a chronology of Caddy’s life: childhood, adolescence, womanhood. Both observe her compassionate maternal qualities, which are fully present in Benjy’s section of the novel. “Within Benjy’s narrative, Caddy speaks and acts maternally; she goes from a child to a mother, one he needs, reaffirming the maternal space connecting them (Monrose 408).” For Benjy, Caddy is the loving mother he never had, and when she is gone, represents loss itself.

Caddy’s compassion and selflessness are also obvious in Quentin section of narration. They have a very close relationship, each confiding in the other. Dalton Ames observes that Caddy speaks of Quentin as much as Quentin speaks of her, and says he would be jealous if they weren’t brother and sister. For Quentin, Caddy is obsession itself, and struggles with his view of her in incestuous context. Caddy however, doesn’t share the incestuous thoughts that Quentin has of her. In his post WWII appendix, Faulkner writes of Caddy’s love for her doomed brother Quentin:

 “Doomed and knew it; accepted the doom without either seeking or fleeing from it. Loved her brother despite him…she love him in spite of but because of the fact that he himself was incapable of love.”

Jason’s view of Caddy is one of disgust and whoredom, and is best summed up by the opening line of his narrative section, “once a bitch always a bitch, what I say.” Jason view of Caddy starkly contrasts Benjy and Quentin’s, which Douglas Hill Jr. feels “strengthens for the reader the view of Caddy in the previous narratives.” Jason cruelly mocks Caddy, and refuses to let her see her daughter, threatening to take her away or to send Benjy to an asylum in Jackson. Sally Page says that Caddy’s “exasperation with Jason makes her like, as Jason says, ‘a toy that’s wound up too tight and about to burst all to pieces.’ As Jason puts it, Caddy has nothing at stake, and her realization that she has lost everything breaks her.”

Baum also explores how Caddy’s admirable qualities: courage, curiosity, independence, and self-reliance which make her “beautiful and moving;” and how her eventual loss of these qualities is the true tragedy of the novel. Her complete selflessness ultimately leads to her downfall because of how everyone takes advantage of her. Baum traces the change in Caddy’s character through the relationships with all the men in her life: Benjy, Charlie, Dalton, Quentin, Herbert, Jason, and the Nazi general. By the end of the story Caddy has lost everything she loved, and her once great ability to love. “The wasteful loss of Caddy’s great capacity for compassion and sacrifice makes her fate the most unbearable and tragic doom in ‘The Sound and the Fury (Baum).”

 

Published on April 20, 2009 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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