Quentin's Struggle In The Sound And The Fury

1158 words - 5 pages

Quentin's Struggle in The Sound and the Fury

 

    Too much happens...Man performs, engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear. 

That's how he finds that he can bear anything.         William Faulkner (Fitzhenry  12)

In Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, we are given a character known as Quentin, one who helps us more fully understand the words of the author when delivering his Nobel Prize acceptance speech "The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself" (The Faulkner Reader  3).  Quentin engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear, as the opening quote by Faulkner suggests is the fate of all humans, but he does not discover he can bear anything.  Instead, Quentin's heart is so in conflict with itself, a condition Faulkner argues many overlook in his speech excerpt above, that he commits suicide.

 

There are three kinds of struggles in life.  There is man versus the universe, man versus man, and man versus himself.  Quentin's conflict is with himself.  In fact, despite his imagining otherwise, Quentin is completely locked within himself, unable to cope with external reality.  Internal reality is the only reality which he entertains.  Like Hamlet, he tries to live up to the internalized idealized image of nature and himself that he imagines should be external reality.  As noted in Thompson and Vickery (224) "Psychologically unbalanced by his own inner and outer conflicts, Quentin is represented as being partly responsible not only for what has happened to himself but also for what has happened to some other members of his family.  He has permitted his warped and warping ego to invert exactly those basic and primitive positive values symbolized by that which Ben instinctively and intuitively cherished."

 

Quentin's narrative is one long dress-rehearsal to his suicide, literally.  We see him write the necessary letters, lay out his suits, stacks his books, and pack his clothes.  Quentin is not concerned with the external realities, only those in his internal imagination.  He has fictionalized and fantasize external reality to the point where reality to him is internal only.  Quentin cannot bear real time so he wishes to lose time, which will culminate in his suicide.  We see the absurdity which the human condition involves, which Quentin cannot endure, when his father gives him his grandfather's watch:

 

I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it's rather excrutiating-ly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father's.  I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.  Because no battle is ever won he said.  They are not even fought.  The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair,...

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