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The Character Of Benjy In The Sound And The Fury

1588 words - 6 pages

The Character of Benjy in The Sound and the Fury

In the short monologue from William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, the title character likens life to a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.” Benjy, a thirty-three year old idiot, begins to relate William Faulkner’s unfortunate tale of the Compson family in The Sound and the Fury. Just as it is a story told by an imbecile, it is one characterized by “sound” and “fury.” Benjy’s meaningless utterances and reliance on his auditory senses, the perpetual ticking of clocks, Quentin’s mysterious bantering, the insignificant accompaniment. Jason’s lust for power and control, the inescapable nemesis of time, Miss Quentin’s rebellious attitude. The Compson family in its entirety is that “poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” Their lives are so full of worries, confusion, sound, and fury that life becomes short and unimportant, signifying nothing. However, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is not limited to any one point of view, even to that of Benjy. By delivering his novel from four entirely different perspectives, Faulkner is able to create an intricately woven plot that centers on the only Compson daughter, Caddy, and allows one to crawl inside the minds of his deeply disturbed characters. April seventh, nineteen-hundred-and-twenty-eight…or is it? Benjamin, formerly Maury, presents a disjointed account of his life between his early childhood just around the turn of the century and up until 1910, mainly focusing on his relationship with his sister, Candace. His sense of time is nonexistent: he confuses the past with the present. He is literal: he has no knowledge of connotation. His descriptions are that of a small child and represent the world as it might seem to a person who has been cut off from all things civilized. One of Benjy’s most vivid memories is drunkenness: “…I ran into the box. But when I tried to climb onto it it jumped away and hit me on the back of the head and my throat made a sound” (Faulkner 40). His interpretations, in general, are simplistic and this is clearly reflected in the way he describes his experience with alcohol. The loss of control that is associated with inebriation is new to Benjy, and he doesn’t understand that his judgement is impaired and the champagne he consumed has altered his perception of the world. Instead, he only understands that the ground is moving beneath him—he believes what he sees. “I couldn’t see it, but my hands saw it, and I could hear it getting night, and my hands saw the slipper but I couldn’t see myself, but my hands could see the slipper, and I squatted there, hearing it getting dark” (Faulkner 72). Benjy relies heavily on his senses, especially sight, smell, and touch. He associates sight with the knowledge that an object is present, which is how “sees” with his hands, he knows the slipper is there, but he can’t physically see it. Because of this, Benjy appreciates beauty and color and light, which is...

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