Quentin's Passion and Desire in The Sound and the Fury
As Quentin Compson travels through the countryside with his college friends, the reality of the situation becomes terribly confused by memories and past feelings. After a little girl follows him for miles around town, his own sexuality reaches the forefront of his consciousness and transforms itself into disjointed memories of his sister Caddy. Quentin's constant obsession in William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, surrounds a defining sexual act with his sister. Though the physical act never appears in plain language, Quentin's apparent lapse into an inner monologue demonstrates his overwhelming fixation with Caddy as well as a textured representation of their relationship. Sexual language pervades his inner consciousness - scents, sounds and colors represent his passion and desire. Elements of nature, when associated with his sister, become erotic; the tiers of description, no matter how seemingly mundane, tend to be steeped in sexuality.
Quentin's lapse into past events with Caddy begins in the midst of typical conversation with his friends as they drive through town. His attention to reality is shattered by an unconscious slip into thoughts of his sister. As the eyes of the little girl snap Quentin into a reverie of sexual exploration, his words wander haphazardly, even before the image of his sister, prone on the banks of the river, comes to mind. "If I tried to hard to stop it I'd be crying and I thought about how I'd thought about I could not be a virgin, with so many of them walking along in the shadows and whispering with their soft girlvoices lingering in the shadowy places and the words coming out and perfume and eyes you could feel but not seeŠ" (93). Although this roaming sentence refers to "girlvoices" - the womanly wiles that haunt Quentin - his words move into a new realm of conscience that solely focus on his sister.
Faulkner uses a system of italics to show Quentin's innermost revelations; as he shifts from thoughts of virginity to more personal memories, the language changes from an encompassing statement about women to a singular elucidation of his sister. The first piece of italic language punctuates a piece of dialogue and immediately implies a question of virginity. "ever do that Have you ever done that In the gray darkness a little light her hands locked about" (93) is the repetition of Caddy's question to Quentin on whether or not he had ever had sex. Faulkner continuously inserts the image of Caddy sitting on the ground next to her brother with her hands locked around her knees. Strangely, the image brings a sense of chastity to a sexually charged situation, as if she is locking her knees together to insist against any improper movements towards the contrary. The next piece of language, again interrupting a friendly dialogue between friends, has "her face looking at the sky the smell of honeysuckle upon her...