Mr. Jason Lycurgus Compson III

bottle-web1Jason Lycurgus Compson III is a direct descendant of the first Jason Lycurgus Compson, who acquired the rural piece of Mississippi land that would come to be the central region of the town of Jefferson. The town of Jefferson is the place of the Compson residence and the central setting for the story. Mr. Jason, as he is sometimes referred to, is a lawyer by trade and the eldest of the Compsons featured in The Sound and the Fury. He is the father of four children upon whom the novel is focused. The oldest of which is Quentin, followed by Candace, Jason IV, and Benjamin. Mr. Jason is married to Caroline of the Bascomb family. Although Mr. Jason is the head of the Compson household presently, his obsession with his heritage adds to this the role of a symbolic bridge between his ancestry and his children.

Historically the Compsons think of themselves as descendants of noble blood. Mr. Jason upholds this belief to the fullest. He holds the Compson family, especially their history, in great esteem, an estimation that is unreservedly self applied. That is, Mr. Jason views himself as an inheritor responsible for passing on all of the philosophies and traditions of his lineage. An idealistic man, Mr. Jason is so absorbed in his utopian belief of Compson privilege that he fails to see the reasons for, or even notice, his family’s current decay. Ironically his cherished ideals are painfully pessimistic, even morbid.  Mr. Jason is a man inclined to the bottle, and it is not unconceivable to connect his alcoholic addiction to his dismal view of life. However it must be said that he does not appear to be bitter. In fact the contrary is true. His cynical nature causes him to make light of life; much to the frustration of his wife Caroline and his third child, Jason IV.

The Compson family relationships depicted in The Sound and the Fury can only be described as grossly dysfunctional. Mr. Jason himself is indeed interested in the wellbeing of his children; he even sells a significant portion of the Compson property in order to send his oldest son to Harvard for a year and to give his daughter Candace a proper wedding. Despite this, his brand of parental care is non-traditional and deficient at best. For although he grants to his children the very depths of his insight, expounds to them what he perceives are the secret mysteries of time and space, and lectures them on the vain pursuits of the striving human race–his language remains devoid of any real concrete ethical direction. As a result, his children suffer from severe emotional complexes.  In one particular example in The Sound and the Fury Mr. Jason makes a cruel joke concerning his wife’s brother, Uncle Maury. When his oldest son Quentin, still a child at the time, overhears his father jesting cruelly about the idea of Maury being shot, the surprised Quentin starts to ask questions inquisitively. To this Mr. Jason responds by quoting the Latin phrase, “Et ego in arcadia” to the bewildered child (28).

Mr. Jason continues to play a central role in the influence of his children even after they are grown. The effect that this influence has on his family is variable. In many ways it is destructive, but in some ways it is positive. Quentin remains firmly attached to, if not lost in, the philosophies of his father and seems to apply the ancient Compson axioms with a new extreme that exceeds even his father. Mr. Jason is man of intellect, but for this he is scorned by Jason IV who attributes the dysfunction and alcoholism of his father to his preoccupation with scholarly studies. Despite these criticisms Mr. Jason is a consistent individual in the Compson family. He values his family immensely and treats them honorably. While he may not be considered the ultimate in fatherhood, his attentiveness as a parent still surpasses that of his constantly depressed spouse. In many ways he is a bonding agent for the Compson family. Mr. Jason is a tolerant man with few convictions. This lack of moral discernment may contribute to his family’s impairments, but also leads him to be remarkably passive. Lack of judgmental behavior could even be said to be a virtue of a sort that makes him more forgiving.

As the novel shifts to the perspectives of the adult children, especially after Mr. Jason has died, the closeness of the family is less and less evident, clearly some of the other tragic events in the novel are responsible for this as well, and more and more fractured. The ambiguity of Mr. Jason’s position of headship in the Compson family undoubtedly contributes to the problems they experience and his own academic distractions and addictions certainly do nothing good for his family, but the progression of the plot in William Faulkner’s novel gives evidence that the Compson family rapidly declined following Mr. Jason Compson’s passing, suggesting that as unconventional as Mr. Jason lycurgus Compson III––the confidence of the family rested upon him.

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

Published on April 20, 2009 at 6:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

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