Dilsey Gibson


Congratulations! You’ve made it to the final section! And, luckily for you, it’s pretty short and easy to read—think of it as your reward for slaving through Benjy’s nonsense, Quentin’s morbidity, and Jason’s martyr complex (if you don’t feel like reading it right now, though, it’s okay, there’s a good outline of events here that’ll do for now). Finally, a third person narrative that uses proper punctuation and somewhat normal spellings! Rejoice! No more stream of conscious narratives! No more symbolism! No more depth and meaning! Yes!

Well, sort of. Don’t get up on the roof and start praising the Lord just yet. Despite its appearances, the final section of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury does have a little meat on its bones. This article is going to go through and pick out a few of the key points in the fourth section, and provide you with some helpful articles and essays that you can follow up on, if you’re interested. Keep going—you’re almost there!

Here’s the first thing to consider about the fourth section: although it’s not told from a first-person point of view, the final section of the novel clearly revolves around Dilsey, the Compson’s main servant. She emerges from the previous biases of Jason and Benjy and Quentin as a strong, hard-working woman who is very much the glue that’s holding the family together, despite her position in the household. So why put Dilsey in the back of the novel? Why not let us hear her voice, instead of an impartial narrator? Olga Vickery suggests that it might be that “to use Dilsey as a point of view character would be to destroy her efficacy as the ethical norm” (280). Interesting, right?

The second thing to think about is all of the biblical references in the fourth section. True, they are rife throughout the entire story, but of all the characters in The Sound and the Fury, Dilsey is without question the one that holds religion most sacred. Smith even goes so far as to compare her to the Jesus to Jason’s devil—and there is also the point that Dilsey’s long march up the stairs to help Mrs. Compson draws faint parallels with Jesus’ long walk to the site of his crucifixion. Pay attention to details in this section.

The third and final thing to pay attention to in this section is probably the most obvious and most written about, of all the scenes in the final section: the Easter mass. Oh, Lord. Caddy up in the tree may have been the focal point of the novel for Faulkner, but believe you me this scene is dynamite, too. Reverend Shegog’s speech is one charged with both history and intellect that belie his social status, and it is so powerful that Dilsey has a near paradigm shift. She gives up on saving the Compsons. She realizes how much of her life has gone to waste trying to pull them together, and how many years of her own life and the lives of her children have been spent in fruitless efforts. And, as the appendix tells us, she moves away and leaves the Compson family behind her.

The fourth section is shorter than the others, clearer than the others, and easier to understand than the others—and, well, then you’re done. It’s the end of the book. Now all that’s left to do is to take these four sections and somehow string them together!

Annotated Bibliography

Monica Raible

ENGL 256 TR 11:00


Annotated Bibliography

Brooks, Cleanth. “Man, Time, and Etermity.” The Sound and the Fury (a Norton Critical Edition). Ed. David Minter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994. 289-297. In this article, Brooks explores the way that time is used and portrayed throughout The Sound and the Fury, and the different meanings that it holds for each character. He talks about each section, and the significance of the first three being streams of consciousness and the fourth being a narrative, and how each is important to plot and motion of the novel. A very interesting article, although it is interspersed with strange *** markings, whose significance I need to ask about.

Castille, Philip Dubuisso. “Dilsey’s Easter conversion in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.” Studies in the Novel Winter Vol. 24 Issue 4 (1992): 423-433. This article is a rather lengthy exploration into the fourth section of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and in particular Dilsey’s visit to church that Easter morning. It discusses Faulkner’s personal fascination with religion, and how this is portrayed in the book through the reverend’s empowering and clearly educated sermon. It spends a good amount of pages on a book called The Golden Bough, by James Frazer, which Faulkner was apparently fascinated with. The article does spend time on the Compsons as well, particularly on the subject of how religion bears importance and affects the different characters in the story. It seems handy, although the article seems to center around Frazer’s book more than Faulkner’s, at times.

Folks, Jeffery J. “Crowd and Self: William Faulkner’s Sources of Agency in The Sound and the Fury.” Southern Literary Journal Vol. 34 Issue 2 (2002): 30-44. Folks’ article spends time over the whole novel, although it focuses largely on Quentin and Jason IV, and provides a long discourse over the influences that might have led Faulkner to create his characters as he did, and what symbolic intents he might have had in doing so. The article also heavily references a book written by Elias Canetti, entitled Crowds and Power, a work of philosophical anthropology that was no doubt key to the writing of this article. Despite its length, the article is full on good insights and will be a great help to readers of The Sound and the Fury.

Kartiganer, Donald M. “[The Meaning of Form in] The Sound and the Fury.” The Sound and the Fury (a Norton Critical Edition). Ed. David Minter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994. 324-342. This article is divided into five sections. The first discusses the similarities and differences between The Sound and the Fury and another novel of Faulkner’s, As I Lay Dying. The second focuses on Benjy’s section of the novel s and how it portrays the other characters, while the third revolves around Quentin and the forth about Jason. The fifth, accordingly, discusses the final section of the book, and ends with a conclusion that The Sound and the Fury was very much an experiment in literary technique, and that its success comes from the boldness of this experiment.

Oklopčić, Biljana. “The Symbolism of Water in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.” Neohelicon. Vol. 35 Issue 1 (2008): 247-255. As the title suggests, the article discusses the symbolism of water in the novel. According to Oklopčić, water is representative of purity, female sexuality, a resistance/subversion dynamic, and control and manipulation. The article seems to revolve around Caddy and Dilsey and the way in which water is used to symbolize various things for them, but other characters are also mentioned. The article is good for the general idea, but taken word for word, it seems to over-analyze.

Potts, Donna L. “Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.” Explicator Vol. 52 Issue 4 (1994): 236- 237. This article takes a paragraph description from The Sound and the Fury, one which describes the church that Dilsey attends on Easter Sunday, and considers the way that it is described so like a painting. From this idea, Potts then compares it to folk art, and goes on to briefly explain the nature and history of folk art. From this parallel she discusses the way in which the black characters, with their unity and perseverance, sharply contrast the unstable Compson family, and how this is similar to the contrast of folk art and classical art. Although interesting, the idea does not seem very well supported or relevant to the story.

Smith, Christine. “Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.” Explicator Vol. 66 Issue 2 (2008) 100- 101. A short but insightful exploration into Dilsey’s character as she is portrayed in The Sound and the Fury, the article covers her character throughout all four sections of the book, as well as the two word regarding her in the appendix that Faulkner later added to the novel. Also discussed is Faulkner’s familiarity with the Bible and how this is shown through Dilsey, a book called Go Down, Moses, and the Nobel Prize that Faulkner won in 1950. It is, overall, a good general article on the character of Dilsey.

Vickery, Olga W. “The Sound and the Fury: A Study in Perspective.” The Sound and the Fury (a Norton Critical Edition). Ed. David Minter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994. 278-289. This article mainly discusses, as the title suggests, the perspectives in The Sound and the Fury. It takes the time to discuss the structure of the novel and the way that the four sections are intertwined (or rather, are not), and the patterns and symbolism that are created by structuring the novel so. Vickery also compares and contrasts the four sections, and gives each one an individual analysis, beginning with Benjy and ending with Dilsey. It is a fascinating exposition of writing mechanics, but also helps in understanding the novel.

Published on May 5, 2009 at 5:29 am  Leave a Comment  

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