Character Analysis Mr. Compson


Part of the force of Mr. Compson's narration and character is that it functions as a contrast to that of Quentin, his son. If Mr. Compson's narration had been handled by some other person completely separated from Quentin, part of the force of the narration would be lost because Quentin must be seen in relation to the family influences and the background as represented by his father. It is therefore important that Quentinshould know more about the entire Sutpen myth than does his father. Basically it is as a result of his father's attitude toward the entire Sutpen story that Quentin chooses this story to tell when asked what the South is like. Whereas the old general had performed all the acts of grandeur and heroism linked with the old South, Mr. Compson is left as the son who lives in that world of transition between the old and new South. He assumes his role of the detached and ironic commentator on the mores of the South and the value of life in general.

Mr. Compson's view of the South and of the lives of those who were responsible for the destiny of the South is filled with pessimism and cynicism. It is as though he resents the nobility of the past and uses his resentment to ridicule all of life. Almost all of his comments are filled with cynicism, determinism, and fatalism.

Thus for Mr. Compson, the story of Sutpen is the story of a strong man who failed. It is a story he tells to illustrate that all of humanity is weak and pathetic. If such a man as Sutpen could not achieve his goals in life, then weaker men are rather useless and pathetic. Consequently, Quentin must investigate the story to see if his father's view of life is justified.