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Katherine Sullivan’s Formal Post on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: June Second, 1910

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In this story, the lives of two brothers are shaped by one unstoppable force: time.  When analyzed with the first section of The Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928) the second section brings many underlying themes to the clear vision of the reader. The Sound and the Fury: June Second, 1910 is narrated by Benjy’s older brother, Quentin.  A thorough analysis of the two brothers (and their accompanying texts) will reveal that they are surprisingly similar in their perceptions of the world and their obsessions.

June Second, 1910 opens with Quentin in his bed at Harvard, keenly listening to the ticking of the watch his father gave him, trying to divine the exact time without looking at the watch’s face.  This anxious obsession with time serves as a defining characteristic of Quentin throughout the section in which he narrates.  The reader experiences his world through the acute, measured passage of time as he frequently reassures himself that it is “quarter past,” “half past,” or “quarter ‘til,” even when he is unsure of the numerical hour itself.  Through this section, we learn that Quentin’s obsession with time has always been part of how he perceives the world, even counting the seconds and minutes in school until the bell would ring.  In my interpretation of the second section, Quentin’s obsession with time shows his intense desire to control some significant force in his life to oppose his father’s demanding decisions and his restrictive familial obligations.

Like Quentin, Benjy is also obsessed with the passage of time, not necessarily in the exact, scientific manner of his brother, but in much more relative terms.  When compared to the second section, Benjy’s narration is punctuated with instances of fascination with the passage of time, not his brother’s controlling, anxious approach.  Benjy perceives the world as a series of objects being either present or absent. In my interpretation, this is how he measures time. This can be seen in how Benjy remembers eating soup in the kitchen, as a repetitive series of the bottom of the bowl either being visible or not. In this scene, he does not focus on the conversation around him, or the actions of the other characters, he only focuses on time ticking away by the absence or presence of objects.  This event is not unique in Benjy’s section, as he perceives many situations in this way.

In this intertextual reading of the first and second sections of The Sound and the Fury, it can be seen that both brothers measure the events and memories in their lives by the passage of time, be it free-form and visually-based in the case of Benjy, or regulated and numerical in the case of Quentin.

Written by Katherine Sullivan

October 15th, 2010 at 9:56 am

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