Quentin Compson is a very conflicted character in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. This confliction has such a bearing on Quentin’s life that he eventually commits suicide in hopes of escaping reality. In order for the reader to understand Quentin they must first understand the ideas that govern his life, or his psychological reasoning. There are three main issues the June 2, 1910 section that clearly represent Quentin’s principles.

Preoccupation with Time:

Quentin uses time to revisit his memories. As the June 2, 1910 section begins, one of the first things that Quentin hears is the ticking of his Grandfather’s watch. This sound makes Quentin think of the time when his father gave him the watch and said that it can be his way of forgetting time. However, forgetting time does not apply to Quentin. Time is one of the most important things in Quentin’s world. Quentin also goes into a jeweler’s shop and he notices all the different clocks ticking. Quentin then asks if the clocks are correct and when the jeweler is about to tell him the time, Quentin stops him from saying so. Quentin feels torn by all the different clocks because they all have contradicting times- neither one is the same. For Quentin, clocks are one of the things that governs his life and time must always be precise. All the clocks with different times confuse Quentin because he regards time as the thing that is always accurate. In addition, time is the one thing that Quentin can control. Quentin cannot control Caddy’s promiscuity or Benjy’s sickness, but he can control how he manages his time. When Quentin puts his watch in Shreve’s (the roomate) desk, that signifies the freeing of order from time.  Without Quentin’s watch all his control and order is lost so life becomes irrelevant.

Southern Code:

The Southern Code of manners and of chivalry was something that was in contrast with the modern, fast paced world. For Quentin, southern society was disappearing and the only way to recapture it was to adhere to southern traditions. Quentin’s southern code is based on manners, chivalry, and innocence. One of the tragedies that Quentin experiences is the loss of Caddy’s innocence. The loss of Caddy’s virginity is strongly against Quentin’s code of ethics- he thinks it is immoral to lose innocence before marriage. Quentin wants to go back to a time when Caddy was still innocent. In addition, Quentin relies on thought rather than action. For example, Quentin fantasizes about fighting Dalton Ames because he is the man who Quentin blames for Caddy’s promiscuity. In reality Quentin could never fight Ames because that would be dishonoring his code of chivalry- southern gentlemen do not fight.

Obsession with Caddy:

Caddy serves as the object of obsession with her brothers including Quentin. In addition to Quentin being obsessed with Caddy he is also jealous of her. For example, Quentin recalls a time when Spoade, a Harvard senior, mocked his virginity. This conflict causes Quentin to think about how Caddy is not a virgin anymore. Perhaps Quentin supposes that if he, like Caddy, was not a virgin then he would not have been taunted by Spoade. There are also incestual undertones to Quentin’s obsession with Caddy. Quentin remembers a time when he told Mr. Compson a lie that he was the father of Caddy’s baby. Here, Quentin wishes that anyone except Ames was the father of Caddy’s child even if that means that the child could have been a product of incest. In particular, Quentin feels a tremendous grief when he finds out that Caddy’s innocence is gone. Caddy’s promiscuity not only disrupts Quentin’s southern code, but it also disrupts the formerly great prestige of the Compson family. Therefore, Quentin recalls a time when he suggests to Caddy that they need to commit suicide. Quentin thinks that the only way for Caddy’s virginity to be redeemed is if they both die together.

Published on May 5, 2009 at 2:27 am  Leave a Comment  

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