The Sound and the Fury: The Author and His Times
William Faulkner once said that The Sound and the Fury began with a picture in his mind. Four children, a girl and three boys, are playing in a stream near their house. They have been told to stay outdoors, although they don't know why. In fact, their grandmother, who has been very sick, has died, and the grownups are holding a funeral. The girl, more adventurous than her brothers, climbs a tree to catch a better view of what's going on in the house. Watching her from below, the boys notice that she has gotten her underpants muddy.
Why was that image--which appears in Benjy's section of The Sound and the Fury-so vivid to Faulkner? Perhaps it reminded him of an important incident in his own life. Like Candace Compson ("Caddy" for short), Faulkner had three brothers. And like the Compson children, Faulkner called his own grandmother "Damuddy." She was his mother's mother and died when he was small.
The Sound and the Fury is not the story of Faulkner's life. But it contains many places and people Faulkner knew. Jefferson, where the Compsons live, is much like Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Like the Compsons, the Falkners (an ancestor had dropped the "u" from the original family name, but William Faulkner put it back) were one of the oldest and most distinguished families in town. Faulkner's mother, like Mrs. Compson, came from a family that was not quite as distinguished, and she never forgot it. But Faulkner's father, like Mr. Compson, was a hard-drinking, bitter man, who couldn't live up to his family's past.
Family, place, and past. These things were most important to William Faulkner. After he was five years old, he and his parents lived only a few blocks away from his grandfather's home, The Big Place. Faulkner's grandfather was a successful lawyer and businessman. Townspeople called him the "Young Colonel" even though he had never served in the army. Faulkner's great-grandfather--like the...