Benjy Compson


             Benjy is the first narrator in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The reader’s first impression is one of confusion. Benjy is a large thirty-three year old man that has special needs. He is not really aware of his own presence, and is called an idiot by many of the critics. He is unable to think and analyze but, in place of this the reader is able to see the emotion that he projects when certain objects come into view or words are expressed. He has no power over the voice that speaks for him as narrator(Fowler,D.).

  Benjy’s section alternates between time periods that are marked by his caretakers. Caddie, his sister, is his first caretaker. Versh is his caretaker when he is young, TP when he is an adolescent, and finally Luster is Benjy’s caretaker as an adult. This section is the only one that is truly honest. Benjy is not capable of differentiating between past and present or from one moment to the next(Fowler,D.). Through Benjy’s eyes the reader is only able to take parts and pieces and try to put them together(Guetti,J.).

The first section has very little narrative drive(Brooks,C.). Throughout the entire section Benjy’s fixation is trying to reunite with Caddy. He longs to have back the mother-figure that Caddy represents to him(Fowler,D.). The section is not written in a normal fashion. It is written as if it is some sort of a poem or just an expression in words of different moods or emotions. Benji’s section is composed of a lot of grief and despair over his continuous sense of loss for Caddy. The reader is left searching for some way to get out of the dark pit that Benji is in, and to find something that is hopeful, sane, and easier to understand. Benji lives in a world where there is no past or future that is within his comprehension. This makes him appear more like an animal, than a human, that is totally reliable on his senses for survival(Brooks,C.). He is unable to ask questions so his mind becomes a storage area where everything that has a place in the novel can exist without any evaluation(Guetti,J.).

William Faulkner used stream of consciousness narratives with each one moving the reader to a better understanding(Brooks,C.). Benji’s section makes the reader aware that there is much more to the novel and they must think more about what is in front of them. Benji’s narrative point of view sets the tone for the novel, that there is very little stability in the family and that the chaos will persist throughout the novel(Guetti,J.). Nothing that is commonly known applies. Without the ability to perceive a future, Benji will never know what freedom is and will forever remain isolated in his world(Brooks,C.).


 Brooks, Cleanth.William Faulkner; the Yoknapatawpha Country.New Haven/London:Yale University Press,1963.(325-330).Cleanth Brooks is the author of this book, that claims that the novel is presented “through one obsessed consciousness after another”. The author also claims that each character “encounters frustration and entrapment” in their own way and are not able to overcome it. Benjy constantly striving for his world to remain the same with the others never able to really make their mark in the lives they are living. This is organized from Benjy to Dilsey (mindlessness to enlightment). The reader is “enlightened” as the novel proceeds with each narration but, there is never a clear understanding. This author develops and supports this by using textual examples that seem to well support the claims made by the author. This source is useful because it is easy to understand and covers a great deal of material.

 Davis, Thadious M.” Faulkner’s “Negro” in The Sound and the Fury”. The Sound and the Fury. Ed. David Minter. New York/London: WW Norton & Company,1994.393-397.  Thadious Davis, the author of this scholarly article, claims that Faulkner used the presence of a black family in his novel, The Sound and the Fury,as strong individuals that have feelings and emotions while at the same time they kept their place in the society in which they lived. The author develops and supports the thesis by comparing and contrasting the white family of the Compsons and the black family of the Gibsons. Excerpts from the text are illustrated and then analyzed by the author. The evidence is firmly supported. This source is a good one for the reader to get a feel for the times that the novel was set in. This essay is easy to read and understand.

 Fowler, Doreen. “Little Sister Death”: “The Sound and the Fury and Denied Unconscious”. Faulkner & Psychology/Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha. Ed. Donald M. Kartiganer and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994.(5-18). In this scholarly paper by, Fowler and edited by Kartiganer and Abadie, Fowler claims that the main characters revolve around Caddy and how her absence “deems them unconscious”. The author develops this thesis by presenting each character and how each one is affected by their affiliation with Caddy. An example is when Benjy is trying to keep “Caddy in his presence by chasing and catching the Burgess girl” and is no longer a man after they put him out and remove his male organs. In contrast his brothers try to establish themselves apart from her with neither of them able to fully establish themselves as men. The author organizes this article by analyzing each character, explaining symbols affiliated with them, and comparing/contrasting the characters with others in the novel. The evidence analyzed is fully supported by excerpts from the text and professional psychological text. This source is very useful to the project because it offers significant insight into why the characters react the way they do and how everything ties in.

 Guetti, James. “The Sound & the Fury” and “The Bear”. William Faulkner/edited, with an introduction by Harold Bloom.Ed. Harold Bloom. New York/ Philadelphia, 1986.(56-64). In this modern critical view by, James Guetti he critically analyzes why he feels that Faulkner uses little structure to organize his novels and how Faulkner literally sets himself up for failure. This critic does not feel that Faulkner is a failure, but instead he feels that his way of writing is an effective way to present that a human lives in their “hell” that will hopefully change in time or another life to resemble a “heaven”. This is supported by the author with textual inserts from several of Faulkner’s novels with the author’s analysis. It is organized by illustrating that the novel begins in disarray with Benji and ends with Dilsey’s very firm beliefs. The claims are well supported. This source is a good one to give the reader more insight into Faulkner himself.

 Kartiganer, Donald M. “The Meaning of Form in The Sound and the Fury”.The Sound and the Fury. Ed. David Minter. New York/London: WW Norton & Company, 1994.324-343.This essay analysis by Donald Kartiganer is based on the themes that are prevalent in The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. The analysis implies that each of these novels utilize the same basic characters but, change from the Compson family that disintegrates with reliance on black servants in The Sound and the Fury, to the Bundren family that is able to endure and cope on their own in, As I Lay Dying. There is a heavy significance on The Sound and the Fury on how the novel grows versus As I Lay Dying which is more functional with a literary form that has more structure. This source is organized in a compare-contrast mode utilizing both novels and text with analysis. The author’s analysis and other critic’s comments are used to validate this source with all claims fully supported and explained. This source offers the reader another point of view of Faulkner’s novels and allows them to have more thoughts on the similarities and differences of the different forms of writing Faulkner uses.

 Matthews, John T. “Faulkner’s Narrative Frames”. Faulkner and the Craft of Fiction: Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha. Ed. Doreen Fowler and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson/London: University Press of Mississippi, 1989. (75, 109-116,201). John T. Matthews scholarly essay explains “narrative framing” and how Faulkner uses this concept and does not use it when he writes. The author also analyzes how characters and material from one novel is used in another novel. Claims that the writer uses to support his thesis include textual material and an analysis, with an analysis also on symbolism in the novels. The evidence is supported well and by clear explanation. The overall usefulness of this source is to understand how an author can use or not use narrative frames to make a novel and how the use of other literary elements like symbolism add meat to the novel.

 Minter, David. “Faulkner, Childhood, and the Making of The Sound and the Fury”.The Sound and the Fury.Ed. David Minter. New York/London: WW Norton & Company, 1994.343-358. The author, David Minter, claims that Faulkner’s personal problems and experiences led Faulkner to write his most personal novel The Sound and the Fury. The author develops and supports this thesis by beginning with Faulkner almost giving up his writing career to writing for himself and creating a story around a girl that he himself would never have. The author uses evidence and examples from Faulkner’s life. The evidence well supports this author’s thesis. It is a good source for the reader to have a better understanding of the heart that Faulkner puts into his novels especially The Sound and the Fury.

 Watkins, Floyd C. “What Stand did Faulkner Take?”. Faulkner and the Southern Reniassance/Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha. Ed. Doreen Fowler and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1982. This scholarly essay by Floyd C. Watkins analyzes Faulkner’s reason for using the setting in northern Mississippi, and other critic’s views on Faulkner. The author forms the conclusion that Faulkner is his own best critic. It is organized with excerpts from many of his novels and thoughts from critics besides the author. The author concludes with clear thoughts of the “great themes of Faulkner’s fiction which are privacy, individualism, and love”. These themes have much more meaning in the simpleness of a southern community and its culture. The evidence and examples are a collection of textual inserts, the author’s analysis, other critics, and Faulkner himself. This evidence is well supported but, at the end of the essay Faulkner remains a mystery. This source is very useful to give the reader more insight into the themes of his novels in an easy to read format.

  Additional Links of Interest for Benjy:

 Truchan-Tataryn, Maria. “Textual Abuse: Faulkner’s Benjy.” Journal of Medical Humanities 26.2-3(2005), 159-172.

 Read, Rupert J. “Literature as Philosophy of Psychopathology: William Faulkner as Wittgenstein.” Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology 10.2(2003), 115-124.


Published on May 4, 2009 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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