The Novel’s Treatment of Gender

Why does Caddy not have a Section?

In an interview done by the Graduate Course in American Fiction at the University of Virginia on February 15, 1957 with William Faulkner, one of the students posed the question: “is there any particular reason why you didn’t have a section with- [Caddy] giving her views or impressions of what went on?” Faulkner reliped that, “because Caddy was still to me too beautiful and too moving to reduce her to telling what was going on, that it would be more passionate to see her through somebody else’s eyes, I thought.” 

 William Faulkner felt that seeing Caddy through the eyes of her three brothers and then himself at the end would paint a better picture of her, but was he correct. As the reader goes through the story they are presented with a girl, Caddy, that seems to stray away from the time periods typical female role. Caddy is a promiscuous young woman that although is very independent and strong willed, does not put stock in the traditional female characteristics. Despite that fact, the reader is able to see that Caddy is a very loving and affectionate person; these traits are evident throughout the entire section that is narrated through Benjy. For Caddy is to Benjy his true mother figure. So, while we read of Caddy’s misdoings and improper behavior we just can’t help but love her and feel compassionately about her situations.

Another interview question from the University of Virginia class was, “To me she is a very sympathetic character, perhapes the most sympathtic white woman in the book, and yet we get pictures of her only through someone else’s comments and most of these comments are quite [?] and wouldn’t lead you to admire her on the surface, and yet I do. Did you mean for us to have this feeling for Caddy, and if so, how did you go about reducing her to the negative picture we get of her?” Faulkner responded, “To me she was the beautiful one, she was my heart’s darling. That’s what I wrote about and I used the tools which seemed to me the proper tools to try to tell, try to draw the picture of Caddy.”

The Roles of Southern Women, Black and White

The traditional Southern white women were expected to be models of personal beauty, chastity, and social grace until it came time for them to provide children to inherit the family legacy. The southern white woman is responsible for maintaining southern order. She establishes “the ‘do’ and the ‘don’t’ of behavior” (Smith 132) in her children and believes. The ground for these beliefs was a faith in God and the profound concern for preserving the family reputation. At the same time, the southern white woman sits atop the pedestal that her husband and his ancestors built for her (Smith 141). She meekly sits there, a symbol of southern society used to benefit men’s ideals, feeling empty and powerless against everything going on around her. In Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”, the reader can identify how Mrs. Compson saw her role as a cruel punishment leading to negligence and disregard which contributed to the family’s downfall. Mrs. Compson is lost in a self-absorbed haze of hypochondria and self-pity, which lead to her being absent as a mother figure to her children and having no sense of their needs. The children’s care and nurturing are left mostly to Dilsey, the family’s black housekeeper (Weinstein 434).

The typical black woman in the South is a cook, housekeeper, nursemaid, or all three wrapped up in one for at least one white family. Therefore, she is the double matriarch of the South, raising her own family and the families of her white employers. The southern black woman’s duties extend far beyond rearing children, as she also serves as a family counselor, confidant, and nurse for the entire white family (Smith 129) and her own if time permits. In short, the southern black woman is the cornerstone of the southern, domestic life. In the fourth narrative of Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” the comparison between Mrs. Compson and Dilsey shows how Mrs.Compson lacks as a mother and how Dilsey’s actions show how a mother should act. 

Important Quotes

Quote 1: “Father and Quentin can’t hurt you,” April Seventh, 1928, Pg.11

Quote 2:“Because if it were just to hell; if that were all of it. Finished. If things just finished themselves. Nobody else there but her and me. If we could just have done something so dreadful that they would have fled hell except us. I have committed incest I said Father it was I” June Second, 1910, pg. 79

Quote 3: “Father and I protect women from one another from themselves our women” June Second, 1910, pg. 96

Quote 4: “no but theyre all bitches” June Second, 1910, pg. 160

Quote 5: “the dungeon was Mother herself she and Father upward into weak light holding hands and us lost somewhere below even them without a ray of light.” June Second, 1910, pg. 173

Quote 6: “Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say” April Sixth, 1928, pg. 180

Quote 7: “I never promise a woman anything nor let her know what I’m going to give her. That’s the only way to manage them. Always keep them guessing. If you cant think of any other way to surprise them, give them a bust in the jaw.” April Sixth, 1928, pg. 193

Quote 8:“She had been a big woman once but now her skeleton rose, draped loosely in unpadded skin that tightened again upon a paunch almost dropsical, as though muscle and tissue had been courage or fortitude which the days or the years had consumed until only the indomitable skeleton was left rising like a ruin or a landmark above the somnolent and impervious guts” April Eighth, 1928, pg. 265-56

The Annotated Bibliography

Birns, Margaret. “Demeter as the Letter D: Naming women in The Sound and the Fury and as I Lay Dying.” Woman’s Studies 22(1993): 533-541. Print. In this article Margaret dissusses what is in a name. She begans by analyzing Caddy’s name and its connection to the Compson Children’s Grandmother, Damuddy. The nick name Damuddy and Caddy’s nick names are linked. Birns states, “the word ‘muddy’ not only supplies the core imagery for Caddy, but also links her phonetically with Damuddy, connecting her little girl’s muddiness with a larger, earthy mother principle.” Birns goes on to say that, “the word ‘muddy’ is used in the south as a diminutive or shorten version of Damuddy, and caddy, with her muddy drawers, is a smaller version of Damuddy herself.” I found this article to be helpful in expressing that although Caddy is often displayed in a sense that is less flattering for a female; she is an embodiment for what the female is, she is the ultimate female.

Faulkner, William. “Class Conference at the University of Virginia.” The Sound and the Fury: Backgrounds. Ed 2. David Minter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994. Print. pg 234-36. This is a short interview done by a student at the University of Virginia on February 15, 1957, with William Faulkner. In this interview Faulkner explains that the book is written about Caddy. Faulkner explores his dilemma of successfully telling Caddy story through other characters. Faulkner states, “Caddy was still to me too beautiful and too moving to reduce her to telling what was going on, that it would be more passionate to see her through somebody else’s eyes, I thought”.  In the interview Faulkner reveals that the last section was actually written through him, “and I tried myself- the forth section- to tell what was happening”; what is kind a odd is that the last section seems to be written in Dilsey’s point of view. That raises the question of, does Faulkner relate beset to Dilsey’s character and did he use himself as a model for the character.

 Faulkner, William. “Appendix: Compson.” The Sound and the Fury: Backgrounds. Ed David Minter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994. pg203-15. Print. While I did not read this part of William Faulkner’s “Compson Appendix” completely, I did skip around and read the section on Caddy as well as Quentin. I felt that when it came to gender issues within The Sound and the Fury Caddy and Quentin were the two characters that I wanted to explore. In this section Faulkner writes about Quentin’s “love” for his sister, “who loved not the idea of the incest which he would not commit, but some presbyterian concept of its eternal punishment”. The significance of this passage to the gender topic at hand is that as Quentin battles to save his sister and be her lover he loses little pieces of his masculinity. For example, when Quentin confronts the men in Caddy’s life, the men have a dominating masculine feel over Quentin; which often leaves him seeming meek and feminine. The section William Faulkner writes on Caddy’s character is of course longer than the other character descriptions. Falkner uses the section to discuss Caddy’s losing of her virginity and the effect it had on her brother. Faulkner also talks about her lovers and her child; and then he goes into a story. William Falkner creates for Caddy’s section, and only her section, a story. He talks about her disappearance and someone spotting her, I believe in a magazine article. The story itself is of little significance to the topic I’m researcher; but the fact that Caddy’s section has this something extra just emphasizes the idea that The Sound and the Fury is, more a less, written about Caddy.

Grant, Patricia M. “This guerrilla warfare of everyday life: The politics of clothing inFaulkner’s fiction.” Mississippi Quarterly 49.3 (summer96 1996): 409.Humanities International Complete. EBSCO. Barbara and Mike Bass Library/Community Resource Center, Elyria, Oh. 9April 2009 http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=9701132149&site=ehost-live. In this article by Patricia Gantt, she discusses three of William Falkner’s novels; The Sound and the Fury, Sanctuary, and The Wild Palms. She spends little of her time discussing her opinion on the The Sound and the Fury, but what she does have to say is very informative. Grant believes that Falkner’s female characters, while not given a voice in this novel, express themselves through their clothing. Grant states, “The language of their clothes speaks subtly but undeniably of his female characters’ struggle for autonomy, as novel after novel shows us woman wearing their protest on their back.” In The Sound and the Fury, Quentin, Caddy’s daughter, often antagonizes Jason by her choice in clothes; “she…deliberately wear[s] items [of clothing] she knows will infuriate him”. The article takes a different approach to female characters; while most critics believe Falkner’s writings to be anti-feminist, Grant believes “his portrayals of females are not—as they are often considered—negative and weak”.

King, Richard. “The Southern Family Romance.” The Sound and the Fury . Edited. DavidMinter. New York: W.W.Norton&Company,Inc, 1994. Print.In this article it discusses southern family romance. The Southern family romance was the South’s dream. The Southern family romance was never expressed in any consistent theoretical or literary way. It constituted the values, attitudes, and beliefs that white Southerners expressed in their attitudes toward the region itself, the family, the relationship between the races and sexes, and between the elite and the masses. A plantation was generally the strong family institution. It was structured like a family. It was not uncommon for a rural Southern county to be dominated by a very few families and its populace, both black and white, to bear a small number of surnames and certain striking physical resemblances. Moreover, intermarriage among close kin was not at all uncommon and had a certain economic rational among upper-class whites. This article relates to the sound and the fury and the relationship between the Compson’s and the help on their plantation. In the Sound and the Fury readers are able to see how the compson children respond to the help on the plantation and how differently they respond to their own parents.

Martin, Robert A. “The words of the sound and the fury.” Southern Literary Journal      (Fall991999): 46.  Humanities International Complete. EBSCO. Barbara andMike Bass Library/Community Resource Center, Elyria, Oh. 9April 2009<http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=2689284&site   =ehost-live>. In this article by Robert Martin, he discusses the importance of words and the way Faulkner uses the words to express who his characters are and what they are like. This article is important to the topic of gender in Faulkner’s novel because it shines light on individual characters and their personalities. For example, by having a better understanding of Quentin, the oldest Compson son, one could argue that it is he who often takes on a more feminine role. Although Martin does not talk about the subject of Quentin being any less of a man than the next, he does bring up examples that can support the question of Quentin’s masculinity. Such examples address Quentin’s inability to except the world for what it is; instead he is questioning himself and the order of the world. The intense thought is often associated with woman and not men. Although in real life both man and woman question the world and what it is. The complication of Quentin’s section can be a symbol for a woman’s mind, what a woman is thinking and feeling is often stereotyped with the idea that they are hard to understand, just like Quentin’s section. This idea is not discussed in Martin’s paper. I merely used some of his ideas to build and support some of my own.

Straub, Marilyn, and Abe Ravitz.. The female stereotypical characters in Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’ (William Faulkner). , . Gender Studies Database. EBSCO. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 29 Apr. 2009 .
In this article by Straub, she thinks Faulkner characterizes four women who are stereotypes of the roles women occupied in the South, products of the era and unique to Southern society. This study examines the background of William Faulkner and his women and the nature of his characterization of each and relates the information to the period in which the novel is set. In the Sound and the Fury, the four characters explored are Mrs. Compson, as a faded southern matron, Caddy and her daughter, Quentin, as products of the new mores within the society, and Dilsey, the loyal, empathetic, ‘Mammy’ character. The stereotypes and their fate is shown as directly related to the defeated region in which they live.

Visser, Irene. “Faulkner’s the Sound and the Fury.” Explicator 52.3 (Spring94 1994):  171. Humanities International Complete. EBSCO. Barbara and   Mike Bass Library/Community Resource Center, Elyria, Oh. 9April 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx direct=true&db=hlh&AN=9406297762&site=ehost-live>. Irene Visser is able to capture the meaning of the two primary female characters, Caddy and Dilsey in her article. Visser says it all in her last sentence of her article, “she embodies…the roles of unloved daughter, of social outcast, and of deprived and grieving mother; the themes of corrupted innocence and sensuality, of oppressed and exploited womanhood and of defeated strength”. She addresses the necessity of Caddy’s character to the story and goes into the fact that Caddy does not have her own section of the book. While Caddy the insight to Caddy is only delivered through the male characters of the story, her “presence is suggestively and effectively evoked by various symbolic scenes and images, such as the …slipper…and the fire”. Without Caddy there would be not story.

Wagner, Linda W., and Harold Bloom.. “Linda W. Wagner on Caddy Compson’sImportance to Benjy.” Bloom’s Major Novelists: William Faulkner (Jan. 2000): 42-43. Literary Reference Center . EBSCO. Barbara and Mike Bass Library/Community Resource Center, Elyria, Oh. 9April 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=lfh&AN=16319263&site=lrc-live&gt;. In this article by Linda Wagner she discusses the importance and dependence of Benjy on Caddy. Wagner states, “Faulkner structurally has shaped the Benjy section of The Sound and the Fury so that Caddy’s presence or absence does create or diminish Benjy’s life.” By exploreing and understanding the impact of Caddy on Benjy, one can begin to understand that his section is about Caddy. Although Wagner does not talk about the lack of a section for Caddy, her article offers insight into Caddy’s importance and presentence within Benjy’s section.  Wagner wrote, “[Caddy] knows what [Benjy] means, wants, and feels. Others in the family do not”; this demonstrates how dependent Benjy is on Caddy. If the reader takes a look at the Benjy section they would see that without Caddy, Benjy would have nothing to tell us.

 

Photos:

"The Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928)" at New York Theater Workshop features, in foreground, Susie Sokol and Vin Knight. It is based on the opening section of Faulkner’s novel.

"The Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928)" at New York Theater Workshop features, in foreground, Susie Sokol and Vin Knight. It is based on the opening section of Faulkner’s novel.

 

 

 

"The Soundtrack Album William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury." A Jerry Wald Production in CinemaScope. Music by Alex North. Conducted by Lionel Newman. 1 sound disc: analog, 33 1/3 rpm, mono.: 12 in. 1959.

"The Soundtrack Album William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury." A Jerry Wald Production in CinemaScope. Music by Alex North. Conducted by Lionel Newman. 1 sound disc: analog, 33 1/3 rpm, mono.: 12 in. 1959.

 

 

FIRST EDITION in rare first-issue dust jacket of Faulkner's first great work, one of the most original and influential novels in American literature. In scarce state of preservation with no color restoration and without any of the usual fading to the spine of the dust jacket.

FIRST EDITION in rare first-issue dust jacket of Faulkner's first great work, one of the most original and influential novels in American literature. In scarce state of preservation with no color restoration and without any of the usual fading to the spine of the dust jacket.

 

Yoknapatawpha

Yoknapatawpha

Published on March 24, 2009 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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