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Andrew’s Formal Blog Post on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: October 18, 2010

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“…you can send Ben to the Navy I says or to the cavalry anyway, they use geldings in the cavalry. Then when she sent Quentin home for me to feed too I says I guess that’s right too, instead of me having to go way up north for a job they sent the job down here to me and then Mother begun to cry and I says it’s not that I have any objection to having it here; if it’s any satisfaction to you I’ll quit work and nurse it myself and let you and Dilsey keep the flour barrel full, or Ben. Rent him out to a sideshow; there must be folks somewhere that would pay a dime to see him, then she cried more and kept saying my poor afflicted baby and I says yes he’ll be quite a help to you when he gets his growth not being more than one and a half times as high as me now…”

In this passage from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Benjamin is described in three distinct ways: as an animal, as a freak show and as a baby. Jason’s anger towards Benjamin is focused both on Ben being an “other,” as well as Ben’s inability to make money to support his ventures.  Interestingly, Jason’s description of Ben focuses more on the physical body rather than trying to describe Ben’s cognitive impairment.

Jason first suggests similarities between Ben and a horse, showing that he thinks of Ben as a big, dumb animal. Describing Ben as a “gelding,” confirms Ben’s castration, which was suggested in a previous section, as well as takes away Benjamin’s masculinity.  Taking away Ben’s sex puts him on at a disadvantage in Jason’s eyes because he is no longer a man.  It adds to the dehumanization, portraying him to be closer to animal than a human.

Jason also suggests that Ben could be put to work as a “sideshow,” showing that he would not mind Ben as much if he could at least bring home money or “keep the flour barrel full”.  Portraying Ben as a carnival act not only suggests he is an “other,” who is physically impaired from Jason’s point of view, but also suggests that Ben is stigmatized by the rest of society as well.

The third description comes at the hand of Mrs. Compson, who calls Benjamin her “poor afflicted baby.” Mrs. Compson still sees Benjamin as a baby because he has not developed past that age like with the rest of her children. The “poor afflicted” description draws similarities to Dicken’s Tiny Tim, in that we are supposed to find it endearing, but this is not the case because throughout the story it does not stick, as everyone can see that Ben is a grown man. This latter view is shared by Jason, who calls Benjamin “Ben,” rather than the infantilized version “Benjy.”

Although Jason’s descriptions of Ben focus on physical impairment, what he really means to describe is Benjamin’s mental impairment. Jason is forced to lump Ben into an “other,” dehumanized group, shared by animals and carnival acts, because he is unable to grapple with the fact that his brother looks like an adult, but is mentally impaired.

“…you can send Ben to the Navy I says or to the cavalry anyway, they use geldings in the cavalry. Then when she sent Quentin home for me to feed too I says I guess that’s right too, instead of me having to go way up north for a job they sent the job down here to me and then Mother begun to cry and I says it’s not that I have any objection to having it here; if it’s any satisfaction to you I’ll quit work and nurse it myself and let you and Dilsey keep the flour barrel full, or Ben. Rent him out to a sideshow; there must be folks somewhere that would pay a dime to see him, then she cried more and kept saying my poor afflicted baby and I says yes he’ll be quite a help to you when he gets his growth not being more than one and a half times as high as me now…”

Written by aallingh

October 18th, 2010 at 11:08 am

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