Jason Lycurgus Compson IV

1928-moneyJason Lycurgus Compson IV is the third of four children born to his parents Jason and Caroline Compson. Only Benjamin is younger than he. Jason is a prominent figure throughout The Sound and the Fury and he is the narrator of the novel’s third section. The majority of his appearance in The Sound and the Fury is as an adult. Following the death of his father and older brother Quentin, Jason assumes the role of headship in the family. In reality his mother Caroline is actually the leader of the family, but her lack of activity requires Jason to provide for the family which in addition to his mother, includes his younger brother Benjamin, who is mentally impaired, the black housekeeper Dilsey and her grandson Luster, as well as Quentin the daughter of Candace who now lives with Jason and his mother. Jason feels slighted by the preferential treatment his older siblings received. He believes his brother Quentin and sister Candace were the recipients of privilege because of their undeniably Compson-like behavior; he grows to be a bitter man that constantly justifies his vengeful feelings toward the rest of the family.

Jason’s troubles start very young. Even as a child his jealousies were apparent. He envies Quentin and “Caddy” for their ability to understand more than he did and because they were often given charge over him, likewise he resents, and perhaps even envies, his younger brother Benjamin because of the constant attention he requires due to his disabilities. These jealousies follow Jason into his adult life. His brother Quentin was sent to Harvard with money from the sale of the Compson pasture. His sister had her wedding paid for by this same money, while he received nothing. Although he was offered a high job position at the bank of the man Candace married, this opportunity quickly dissolved when Candace gave birth to a child that was not her husband’s. This child is his niece Quentin who was brought to live in the family home in order to protect her from the wayward lifestyle of her mother.

Jason views himself as martyr and a prisoner in his own household. The presence of his niece, who displays some of Caddy’s same unruly behavior, serves as a constant reminder of his painful past. He treats “Miss Quentin” aggressively, directing his hatred for Candace at her offspring. Although Jason possesses a job as a clerk in a farm supply store, much of his money is obtained by such acts of entitlement as stealing the child support money sent to Quentin by her wealthy mother. Obviously a wicked action against Candace and Quentin, it is also a defiance of his mother’s instruction as well. His mother had decreed that Quentin would not receive “the wages of sin” and has since burned all of the money received from Candace, that is, if Jason does not secretly intercept it first.

At the climax of the novel Jason is robbed by Quentin of the four thousand dollars of child support money he had horded in his closet, he did not trust banks, and an additional twenty eight hundred dollars of his own on Easter day. A true example of poetic justice, for Jason could not catch the thief, nor could he ask for a police investigation because the majority of the money he had stolen. Jason despises all things Compson, even his mother who praises him for being Bascomb-like is subject to his vindictive resentments. He believes himself to be the only sane member of his family and his worst fear among all things–is to be considered crazy like the rest of the Compsons. In one particular section of The Sound and the Fury Jason expresses his fear of being considered “crazy” like his siblings in the form of an internal dialogue typical of William Faulkner’s works:

And there I was without any hat, looking like I was crazy too. Like a man would naturally think, one of them is crazy and another one drowned himself and the other one was turned into the street by her husband, what’s the reason the rest of them are not crazy too. All the time I could see them watching me like a hawk,   waiting for a chance to say Well I’m not surprised I expected it all the time the whole family’s crazy. (146)

It is here that the roots of his bitterness are formed. He is desperate to escape the Compson trap and to avoid the inevitable insanity, but he knows that these traits are within him already; and it is this awareness of the Compson trademark printed on his own soul that drives him insane and ever closer to his Compson destiny.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury an Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 1994.

For a guide to more resources see the Annotated Bibliography of Works Pertaining to the Compsons

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Published on April 20, 2009 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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