Quentin MacLachan Compson III


“There was a red smear on the dial. When I saw it my thumb began to smart.” —Quentin MacLachan Compson III

The eldest of the Compson children, Quentin is the most intelligent by conventional standards. However what he has in intellect and articulation he lacks in life experience, and the ability to take action. He is enthralled by time and all concepts of it. The only thing he obsesses over more is his sister, Caddy, who is the central focus of his section, and indeed of the entire novel.

There are many interpretations of Quentin’s incestuous feelings for Caddy. Some, like John T. Irving, view him as a reflection of Freudian principals. Irwin examines how Quentin’s suicide is meant to redeem himself from failing as brother avenger and brother seducer to Caddy. The brother seducer is the dark self, the ego shadowed by the unconscious; and the brother avenger is the bright self, the ego controlled by the superego. Because Caddy losses her virginity before marriage, Quentin feels there has been a reversal of masculine and feminine roles. His obsession is displacement of his feelings about being unable to loss his own virginity. Irwin also suggests that the confrontation between Caddy and Quentin in the stream, for Quentin, is a connection between sexual desire and death: “the brother seducer with a phallic knife at his sister’s throat/ the brother avenger with a castrating knife at the brother seducer’s throat.”

Others, like Steve Carter, feels that Quentin is better described through Jungian concepts. He argues that while some Freudian concepts are present in “The Sound and the Fury,” it has led to a misreading and misinterpretation of the central characters of Caddy and Quentin. A better way of interpreting them is through Jungian concepts, particularly “anima-animus.” The anima is the personification of a man’s collective unconscious and is met with in his dreams, or if he projects it onto a real woman. This is what Quentin has done with Caddy. He is overly obsessed with her, yet has no real incestuous desire for her (though he thinks so). He doesn’t love her body, but an a idea of family honor. He gathers unconscious “primordial images” and his feelings about women in the general abstract and projects them onto Caddy. Though she is not as obsessive as her brother, Caddy finds her “animus” in Quentin. He represents to her a concept of Compson tradition and laws. They’re “neuroses” make them strive to express psychological qualities they are lacking, to make themselves whole.




Published on April 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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