Summary and Analysis
Jason's Section - Friday, April 6, 1928
Jason's section takes place on Good Friday, the day Christ was crucified. The tempo of this section seems exceptionally rapid after the slow pondering of the Quentin section. In terms of chronological time, this section would precede Benjy's section, which takes place on Saturday. Jason is approximately thirty-five years old, and Miss Quentin is almost eighteen.
In the earlier glimpses we had of Jason, we saw that even as a child, Jason was not trusted by his brothers and Caddy. He was always alone, and he delighted in doing wicked things. In his own narration, we see an almost satanic force at work. He delights in tormenting other people. Whether it is his mother, Caddy, Luster, Dilsey, Quentin, or Earl's black assistant, Jason takes a perverse delight in annoying other people. He functions as a person who thinks he is always right.
Jason justifies his actions toward Caddy, by saying that she cheated him out of the bank position that Herbert Head promised him. He fails to realize that it was only because of Caddy that he was even promised the position in the first place.
Jason's success in life derives from his refusal to acknowledge any allegiance to any person. If Benjy can be viewed as a Christ figure, then Jason would definitely be a Satan figure. And as such, it is quite appropriate that Jason is the person most responsible for Benjy's castration and, finally, the one responsible for sending Benjy to the insane asylum.
Ironically, Jason and Benjy possess one quality in common: they both evaluate any action only as it affects them personally. Neither has any concern for the feelings of others. Jason never shows any concern over the fact that Caddy committed an immoral act or that she has suffered for her actions; instead, he is bitter: by committing this act, she destroyed his chances of getting a position at a bank. Personally we feel that if Jason had worked in a bank, he would have been a shrewd man to deal with and might have found some way to profit for himself on the side. His perversity is as strong as his self-esteem. In one of his scenes with Luster, he burns some tickets — tickets that were given to him so they wouldn't go to waste. Jason clearly reveals his love for perversity here. His dealings with other people show the utter contempt he has for all humanity. He never speaks or utters a kind word throughout his entire section. He treats his employer and his mother with the same contempt that he treats the black servants and his customers.
Significantly, Jason is the only child who gains the love of his mother. This is a commentary on both Mrs. Compson and Jason. Jason is the only one of her children who doesn't need her love, who does not want it and does not return it. He uses his mother in order to gain her power of attorney, and then he proceeds to cheat her out of large sums of money. In addition, during the past seventeen years, Caddy has sent him almost forty thousand dollars, money meant for Miss Quentin's expenses, but money that Jason has kept for himself. Sadly, Mrs. Compson's love is rewarded by being cheated out of her money and ultimately being called "an old fool" by Jason.
Jason lives completely in the present. He never gives the past a thought and feels no allegiance to his illustrious forebears, as does Quentin. He feels, perversely, that if there had been any people of great worth in his past, he and the whole present Compson clan would be down at Jackson chasing butterflies with the rest of the insane people in the state asylum. Jason completely denies the past; he functions only in the present.
The reader should note how swiftly the Jason section moves. Whereas Quentin's mind was complicated and terribly involved in the intricacies of life, the Jason section is relatively easy to understand. The only intricacies in which Jason is involved are those of cheating. And whereas Quentin's section moved slowly and deliberately, Jason's section is filled with fast-moving actions — the swift carriage, the chase, the rushing home with the false check.
Perhaps a note of clarification is needed about Jason's methods of cheating. Immediately after Mr. Compson's death, Jason came to his mother and told her that he would like to deposit his monthly wages in her name, but to do so he would need her power of attorney — that is, the power to sign her name to any legal document. Mrs. Compson, in her simplicity, thought that Jason was being very noble in giving her his check every month. As soon as he got the power of attorney, however, he talked his mother into burning "Caddy's checks." Little did she know that Jason would substitute a forged, or false, check in place of the one that Caddy sent and watch his mother burn it. He then deposited Caddy's check and let his mother think that it was his wages. He kept his wages and used them to keep his mistress in Memphis and to play the market. If he had not obtained his mother's power of attorney, he could never have used Caddy's money.
Furthermore, Mrs. Compson gave Jason a thousand dollars to buy a part share in Earl's hardware store, but Jason drew that money out without his mother's knowledge. Therefore, when Caddy's check is late getting to Jason, he has to tell his mother that his salary or share at the store has been held up because of some financial affair involving the store. His duplicity is complicated but easy to accomplish because Mrs. Compson's eyesight is bad and she never examines the checks closely; also, Jason always stands by her until she burns them. This is why Jason always tells Caddy to send any extra money that she wants Miss Quentin to have to her mother (because then Jason can cash the checks). But when a money order arrives one day, made out to Quentin, Jason has to get Quentin's signature on it before he can use it. Thus, in one sense, the money that Quentin steals from Jason's room rightfully belongs to her.