Summary and Analysis
The Benjy Section
Page numbers refer to the Vintage International "corrected text" paperback edition of The Sound and the Fury, published by Random House. Scene numbers are supplied for convenient cross-referencing.
P. 3, Scene 1 (1928) Through the fence . . .
As indicated by the heading, this section is set in the present time, April 7, 1928, which is the Saturday before Easter Sunday. (Faulkner was very careful to make the date coincide with the actual date of Easter in that particular year.) Throughout this section, the dating is easy since each scene is identified by the presence of Luster as Benjy's attendant and by Luster's searching for a lost quarter as they wander about the Compson premises.
In the appendix to Malcolm Cowley's The Portable Faulkner and also in the Norton critical edition of the novel, Faulkner wrote that Luster was fourteen years old and that Luster was capable of handling an idiot who was twice his age. Since Benjy is thirty-three on this day, Luster would have had to be sixteen or seventeen. Furthermore, internal evidence in the section indicates that Luster would have to be more than fourteen because in another scene (Scene 7), which occurs in April 1913, Luster is already born and is playing with baby Quentin, Caddy's daughter. We must therefore assume that Faulkner was in error in assigning Luster's age as fourteen. After all, he wrote the appendix approximately sixteen years later without rereading the novel (see Malcolm Cowley, The Faulkner-Cowley File), and the appendix should be viewed, at least partly, as a separate artistic creation because there are several other troublesome inconsistencies between it and the text.
As noted above, the date, April 7, 1928, is also Benjy's thirty-third birthday. All of these facts have a certain symbolic importance. April, as a month, is symbolic of growth and also decay, of life and also death. It is the month in which Christ was crucified, and the Saturday between the Friday of Crucifixion and the Sunday of Resurrection is, by tradition, one of the figuratively darkest days in the history of Christianity. April is also the month when all things begin growing again — the beginning of the cycle of life. Thus, Benjy is placed in the midst of greenness and fertility of April, and his moaning becomes the hopelessness of all the voiceless misery represented by the death of Christ. The flowers that Benjy loves are a contrast to the ugliness of his own appearance. In this month of rebirth, however, Benjy is conscious only of death — many of the things he remembers are associated with funerals and with deaths.
Critics have often characterized Benjy as a Christ figure because he is thirty-three years old, the age of Christ when He was crucified. Benjy has been castrated, which implies that the modern Christ is impotent against all the evil present in the modern world. Benjy also suffers as Christ did, but Benjy's suffering is to no avail. He cannot intervene, as did Christ, because he is, Faulkner says, an idiot. The implication through all these Christ images is that the Christ figure in the modern world is reduced to an impotent, moaning, mindless being who cares only for his own personal comforts.
This section is narrated as though we were seeing all the events through the eyes of a thirty-three-year-old boy-man. Since Benjy is incapable of logical thinking, we have a section that seems terribly confused and illogical. Most of the section simply records sensory impressions that he remembers. When he sees one thing, such as a fence, he is immediately reminded of another episode in which the same object was involved. There is often a jump back in time without any warning to the reader. In one paragraph Benjy might be remembering something that happened only a few years ago, and then suddenly he recalls a similar event that happened some fifteen, twenty, or thirty years ago, and, once in the past, he might either come forward or go further backward in time. Often, but not always, the time change will be indicated by the use of italics.
Since the section is being narrated by a mentally slow man who cannot comment on actions, we must note carefully the images that affect him. For example, when he hears the golfers call for their caddie, the word reminds him of his sister, Caddy, whom Benjy loves more than any other person. The mention of her name causes him to start moaning. Likewise, the golf course at one time belonged to the Compsons. It was generally referred to as "Benjy's pasture." In 1909, Mr. Compson sold this pasture in order to send Quentin to Harvard and to buy more liquor for himself. Thus, in one sense, Benjy misses both his sister, Caddy, and his pasture. Furthermore, in 1910, Benjy was castrated after people thought he was trying to attack some young girls. Consequently, when Benjy sees the golf balls, he is perhaps reminded of his castration.
P. 4, Scene 2 (two days before Christmas, about 1902) Caddy uncaught me . . .
In this paragraph, we shift abruptly into the past, into what we call "the Patterson episode." It is virtually impossible to date this episode with absolute accuracy since there is no definite indication of its chronology. However, from suggestive evidence, we must assume that both Caddy and Benjy are still rather young. It is therefore safest to assume that this passage — and the entire Patterson episode — occurs in December (two days before Christmas) in 1902, or 1903, or 1904. The earlier date is more likely since Caddy would be only eleven years old and would still have her innocence, as suggested by Benjy's reaction to her. The later date (1904) would place her in early puberty and would probably cause a different reaction in Benjy's mind.
A close examination of the shift in time will familiarize the reader with the basic technique, or rationale, by which Faulkner shifts time. When Luster helps Benjy through the fence in 1928, Benjy's mind automatically returns to an earlier scene in which he was involved in the same type of activity. Getting snagged on a nail while he is with Luster reminds him of a time twenty-six years earlier when he was snagged on a nail when he was with Caddy. Time, of course, has no meaning for Benjy, and the past and the present blend into one response for him. Many of the scenes in the past that Benjy remembers are connected with his sister, Caddy, in one way or another. Note also that when there is a sudden shift in time, as in this passage, Faulkner will often (but again, not always) give the reader a hint of a time change by putting part or all of the scene in italics; or if one scene in the past is in italics, he will often shift to roman type for the next scene in the present.
P. 5, Scene 3 (about 1902) "It's too cold out there."
The mention of the cold weather just before Christmas carries Benjy's memory back to an earlier scene the same day. Faulkner's technique often shifts the time sequence back and forth without regard for chronological order. To read the passage in chronological order, one would read this section first. These passages are characterized by Benjy's reaction to sensual impressions, such as the coldness of the iron gate or the rattling of the leaves. His world is based upon things that he can immediately sense or that give him pleasure.
The entire Patterson episode (Scenes 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, and 46) has the least thematic importance in the novel. It functions mainly to contribute to the complete picture of the Compson world. For example, note how Uncle Maury ingratiates himself with his sister (Mrs. Compson); note also that every one of his actions has some type of selfish motivation — either he drinks Mr. Compson's liquor or borrows money from Mrs. Compson, or he uses the Compson children as his go-betweens or as his pimps. This act alone indicates the total lack of any moral values on the part of the Bascomb family. Note also that Mrs. Compson is more concerned about Benjy's being a judgment on her than she is about Benjy's welfare.
P. 6, Scene 4 (1928) What are you moaning about . . .
At the end of the above passage, circa 1902, Benjy's memories of his sister, Caddy, cause him to start moaning in the present (1928), and Luster, his attendant, cannot understand this sudden moaning because naturally he cannot know what is transpiring in Benjy's mind. Consistently, Benjy's moaning is the result of his remembering Caddy. In this short passage, Faulkner introduces the idea of pacifying Benjy with a flower (or weed), a contrasting image to his sterility.
P. 7, Scene 5 (about 1902) "What is it."
This section is an obvious continuation of Scene 3, interrupted only by Luster's complaining about Benjy's moaning.
With this scene, it now becomes clear why Benjy was moaning in the earlier section. He instinctively knew that it was about time for Caddy to come home from school, and he wanted to be at the gate when she came. Actually, we should see this scene as representative of the many times when Benjy went to the gate to meet Caddy, an action that carries significant import later, when Benjy remembers going to the gate to meet Caddy and being accused of attacking some young girls.
This scene also gives us additional insight into Mrs. Compson's character. Her whining is always a result of some minor event that she thinks happened simply to upset her. Mrs. Compson's selfishness is seen in her concern that Benjy might get sick when she is going to have a house full of company. Her concern is not so much with Benjy's possible sickness as it is with the thought that it would inconvenience her.
P. 9, Scene 6 (1928) Cant you shut up . . .
Again, Benjy's memory of Caddy causes him to start moaning, and the moaning annoys Luster. We should be aware that the two, Luster and Benjy, are moving about the environs of the Compson estate and certain objects evoke early memories for Benjy.
P. 9, Scene 7 (April 1913) "Git in, now, and set still . . ."
The exact time of this section is difficult to determine. Most critics assign it to sometime (a week or so) after the death of Mr. Compson. (For example, see Stuart and Backus, "Each in its Ordered Place," American Literature 1958, pp. 453-54.) Evidence drawn from other parts of the novel indicates that the scene must take place at least a year after Mr. Compson's death, probably on the first anniversary of his death. We know that Mr. Compson died less than two years after his son Quentin committed suicide in 1910, making Mr. Compson's death occur in the spring of 1912. We also know that Jason did not start to work in the hardware store until after his father's death and after Mrs. Compson used a thousand dollars of her inheritance to invest in Jason's job. Since this scene presents Jason as already working at the hardware store, it is unlikely that the scene occurs only a week or so after the funeral. And since Mrs. Compson is carrying fresh flowers, we may assume that the scene is in the springtime. Furthermore, Miss Quentin, as a young girl, is down at Dilsey's house playing with baby Luster, who was born about 1912 and would have to be about a year old, again suggesting that the scene should be set in 1913. It is difficult to assign it a later date (such as Spring 1914) because Roskus is still alive and it is suggested that he did not live long after the death of Mr. Compson.
The reader should now become aware of a developing pattern. The things that Benjy remembers are correlated with the day's activities in 1928. These scenes in the earlier part of the section are evoked as a result of Luster's taking Benjy to the same place where an earlier event was initiated. For example, in the preceding scene in 1928, Luster carries Benjy by the carriage house, and Benjy remembers another event that involved the carriage house — that is, the trip to the graveyard. Therefore, all the scenes in the first part of the section occur as a result of Benjy and Luster's actions outside the house, in 1928. In contrast, the scenes that Benjy remembers about his name being changed from Maury to Benjy occur in the last part of the section because Luster carries Benjy into the house, and events inside the house evoke these other memories.
P. 12, Scene 8 (1928) Cry baby, Luster said.
P. 12, Scene 9 (1902) "Keep your hands in your pockets."
P. 13, Scene 10 (sometime later) Mr Patterson was chopping . . .
The barn that Benjy sees in Scene 8 (1928) carries his memory back to a continuation of the earlier scene, when he and Caddy are delivering a letter to Mrs. Patterson. This event then causes Benjy to correlate that time with another time, when he tried to deliver a letter by himself. The time of this event has to be in the spring, some months later, because by now Mr. Patterson has intercepted a letter, and the affair must come to an end. Benjy's reactions here are also important. He was doing fine with his task until he looked at Mrs. Patterson's eyes and saw hostility and fear in them. Then he became frightened and could not move. Had Mrs. Patterson not been so hostile and frightened, Benjy would not have become so rigid and frightened. The results of this event will be narrated later on inside the house (Scene 46).
P. 14, Scene 11 (1928) "They aint nothing . . ."
As Luster leads Benjy down to the branch, or stream, Faulkner is preparing us for the most signicant jump back in time in the entire section, the one that occurs by the branch. This long section in the present time gives us the rationale for Luster and Benjy's journey. In the Jason section (Section III), we learn that Jason maliciously burned two tickets Friday night rather than give them to Luster, who is now searching for his lost quarter so that he can attend the minstrel show. The show itself becomes a dominant motif in the present since Miss Quentin will later become involved with some of the show people. Important also is the fact that Benjy's age is finally stated, and that the golfers calling for their caddie reminds him of his sister, Caddy.
P. 17, Scene 12 (1898) . . . and Roskus came . . .
P. 17, Scene 13 (1898) She was wet.
In dating these two parts, we should again be aware of the time shift. Scene 12 consists of only two and one-half lines and occurs about an hour or so later than does Scene 13. The arrival at the branch then evokes scenes associated with this branch back in 1898, which are the easiest to date because the children talk about their ages. Also, throughout the Benjy section, this branch episode conforms most accurately to a chronological order.
The scenes at the branch present symbolically most of the themes and ideas of the novel in miniature. These scenes show symbolically the fate and characteristics of the characters in later life. First, Caddy's actions here are extremely significant. That she falls down and gets her drawers muddy symbolically suggests her later sexual promiscuity. Her utter disregard for her own appearance and her willingness to remove her clothes in front of the blacks are correlated with her later acts that defy accepted social behavior. Second, Quentin is seen as the rather quiet and taciturn person who is more concerned with Caddy's actions than he is with his own. Even this early in life, he tries to prevent Caddy from soiling herself. When Quentin slaps her and she falls down again, we could suggest that, symbolically, Quentin is partially responsible for Caddy's sin.
Aspects of Jason's character are suggested here also. He is seen playing by himself down the creek. His isolation foreshadows his later rejection of all the family ties and his total disregard for any family feelings. Finally, when Benjy sees that Caddy has a muddy behind, he begins to cry. Later in the novel when Caddy has actually been promiscuous, Benjy is able to sense her immorality and cries about it. Basically, then, the adult characteristics of all the Compson children are suggested here in miniature — Caddy's muddy behind, Quentin's intense concern over Caddy's behavior, Jason's rejection and disregard for the family, and Benjy's ability to intuitively sense deviations from the norm.
P. 19, Scene 14 (1928) What is the matter . . .
Often Benjy's thoughts of the past are only temporarily interrupted by Luster's comments in 1928. This scene is a good example, for Benjy is thinking about the branch scene and Caddy's comforting him when Luster interrupts to ask why he is moaning. As soon as Luster is quiet again, Benjy's thoughts return to the branch scene, set in 1898.
Luster's remarks about Benjy's thinking the pasture is still his comes from the fact that once the pasture did belong to the Compsons, but Mr. Compson had to sell it to pay for Quentin's year at Harvard. This is our first knowledge of this fact, another one of the many facts that have to be held in abeyance until a later point in the novel when they will become clearer.
P. 19, Scene 15 (1898, same as Scene 12) Roskus came and said . . .
Note that the beginning words of this scene are almost identical to the entire Scene 12; it now fits into its proper chronological order. This scene further illustrates certain characteristics in miniature that will become dominant motifs later on. First, Caddy and Quentin are both concerned over whether Jason is going to tell on them. Apparently, Jason is different from the other children even at this early age, and he is not in their confidence. Quentin is more concerned over Jason's telling than is Caddy in spite of the fact that it is Caddy who is at fault. Again, this suggests Quentin's over-sensitive concern for Caddy's welfare. Quentin even goes so far as to try to bribe Jason not to tell. Caddy's later disregard for what her family thinks of her actions is foreshadowed here in her disgust at Jason and her pretended unconcern over whether or not he will tell. A further confusion is that Benjy is called "Maury," and during the first reading of the novel this creates a certain difficulty since we are not aware of his name change until later in the novel.
P. 20, Scene 16 (1928) See you all . . .
P. 20, Scene 17 (1898) "If we go slow . . ."
Again, Benjy's thoughts, set in the past, are temporarily interrupted by Luster's comments; afterward, Benjy's thoughts immediately return to the earlier scene, a scene in which one small characteristic of Jason is shown — Jason is characterized as a boy who always walks with his hands in his pockets. Symbolically, this gesture suggests Jason's later mania for money, his various attempts to accumulate and hide sums of money, and his unnatural secretiveness.
P. 20, Scene 18 (April 1910) The cows came jumping . . .
T. P. and Benjy are drunk at Caddy's wedding, and T. P., who has never seen or tasted champagne, thinks that they are drinking "sassprilluh" (sarsaparilla). This, of course, is absurd because even though it is not spelled out, an aristocratic family such as the Compsons would never serve such a cheap beverage that has no alcoholic content. T. P. and Benjy are obviously drunk in scenes 18, 37, and 39, and since "sassprilluh" has the same color as champagne, the mistake is comic and fits in with the comic actions that Benjy describes.
This scene obviously takes place at the end of Caddy's wedding, which we discover in Quentin's section to have occurred on April 25, 1910. Some critics do not like to assign the first line of this section, but the imagery of the section is that of distorted, bizarre images as seen through the drunken eyes of Benjy. Thus, since the cows are seen performing erratic actions, the first line of the section blends with the imagery of the entire section. Furthermore, the entire scene is evoked because in the preceding scene, Benjy observed Roskus milking and is reminded of another scene in the barn involving the cows. The manner in which Faulkner presents the images through the mind of a drunken Benjy is a masterful, impressionistic rendition. As an author, Faulkner never intrudes and tells us that Benjy is drunk — he allows the bizarre imagery to speak for itself.
Note, too, that this is the first view of the wedding and includes an episode that takes place at the very end of the day. There will be several other scenes (four, to be exact) from the wedding day episode because it is the last time that Benjy will ever be near Caddy, except for one short, secret visit she made after the birth of her daughter.
Quentin's violence in this scene should later remind the reader of his troubled sensitivity, his excessive concern over the fate of Caddy, and his opposition to the wedding. At present, however, there is no way for the reader, on first reading, to account for Quentin's violence.
P. 22, Scene 19 (1898) At the top of the hill . . .
Benjy's memory of being carried up the hill by Versh in Scene 18 reminds him of the time when Versh carried him up the hill after the children played in the branch. In this scene, note that Benjy is still being called Maury, which again would tend to confuse the reader on the first reading.
Jason's persistent habit of keeping his hands in his pockets causes him to fall down. This characteristic, as noted in Scene 17, becomes more dominant as the novel progresses. Likewise, his telling on Caddy and Quentin suggests a certain offensive aspect of his nature.
Benjy's ability to sense death is depicted; he instinctively knows that someone is going to die. At every death in the novel, Benjy has certain knowledge of it and moans.
Dilsey's character is further developed in this section. She will ultimately emerge as the one, strong, admirable character in the novel. She is the only person in the Compson household who can accomplish things without creating more disorder than originally prevailed. Hers is a great faith and reliance upon the goodness of the "Lawd" and a quiet love and acceptance of all the Lord's creatures. Her love extends even to Benjy, as she is able to sense what is wrong with him and to minister to his needs without upsetting him. This ability is in direct contrast to Mrs. Compson, who causes Benjy to start moaning and bellowing every time she comes near him.
P. 28, Scene 20 (1912) There was a fire in it . . .
In dating this scene as occurring on the day that Mr. Compson died, in 1912 (Stuart and Backus date this scene as Quentin's death in 1910), we have the small clue that T. P. is squatting before the fire. In June (the month of Quentin's death), there would be no fire. However, in April in Mississippi (the month of Mr. Compson's death), there is often a cold spell and a fire is needed in the early morning. In fact, Faulkner has used this idea of Easter being cold in all four sections of the novel, giving us the key for dating this section.
This scene and the next several scenes are the most complicated and confused in the entire section. They all deal with the subject of death evoked in Benjy's mind by the remembrance of Damuddy's death in 1898. Thus we have Quentin's, Mr. Compson's, and Roskus' deaths juxtaposed with one another, with little indication of which death is the subject of the scene. These scenes are also illustrations of instances when Faulkner did not use italics to indicate a change in the scene. His failure to do so implies something about the abstract nature of death in Benjy's mind. The concept of death involves comprehension of abstract principles, and Benjy is incapable of such reasoning. Therefore, Faulkner juxtaposes scenes of death one upon another without indicating which death is being remembered in order to replicate the impossibility of Benjy's distinguishing between one death and another.
P. 28, Scene 21 (1910) Dilsey was singing in the kitchen . . .
Some critics do not indicate this scene as a separate entity; however, a close examination of the text shows that in Scene 20 (above), Dilsey, T. P., and Benjy are in Dilsey's cabin, where Dilsey is singing; this scene, in turn, evokes Scene 21, in the Compson kitchen, where Dilsey is singing. Also, in Scene 20, T. P. and Benjy go to the branch; in Scene 21, they go down to the barn. In southern idiom, one goes down to the barn only from the big house. The scene must be set in 1910 because Roskus has rheumatism in only one hand. By 1912, he is incapacitated in both hands. Although there is no typographical indication of a change in time, we do have two different scenes juxtaposed.
P. 29, Scene 22 (1910) Taint no luck . . .
This scene is easy to date since Benjy's age is referred to as fifteen. Thus, chronologically, this scene occurs before Scene 21; that is, Scene 22 takes place the night of Quentin's death and Scene 21 occurs the following morning. Scene 22 is evoked by Benjy's remembering Roskus' complaint about no luck on the Compson place, an indication that the blacks believe the Compson family to be a doomed family.
The two signs refer to the birth of a mentally incapacitated child and to Quentin's suicide. Throughout these scenes, we should be aware of how Benjy can sense death in the family even though, as in this case, Quentin's suicide occurred at Harvard.
P. 30, Scene 23 (1912) Take him and Quentin . . .
This scene is linked to the day of Mr. Compson's death because of the presence of Luster and little Miss Quentin; in addition, note that Roskus is now physically incapacitated.
P. 30, Scene 24 (1912) Dilsey was singing.
Again, there is no indication of a change in time, but this short scene begins in the Compson house and ends with T. P.'s taking Benjy to Dilsey's cabin to play with Quentin and Luster. It is related to Scenes 20 and 23 in chronological time and related to Scene 21 thematically by Dilsey's singing; it is related to all these scenes by the unifying subject of death.
P. 31, Scene 25 (1912) "That's three, thank the Lawd."
Again, without warning, Benjy's mind jumps to another scene: in Scene 24, Dilsey was in the big house; now, she is in her own house, undressing Benjy. The scene is set in 1912 since Roskus refers to Mr. Compson's death as fulfilling the prophecy he made two years ago. This scene is also the first time that we hear that Caddy's name is not to be spoken. It is later that we find out that Mrs. Compson has ordered that Caddy's name is never to be mentioned since Caddy has disgraced the family. Benjy's intuitive qualities are further emphasized as he apparently is able to intuit not only death, but also impending death.
P. 32, Scene 26 (1912) You cant go yet . . .
Because of the presence of little Miss Quentin, this scene occurs when Mr. Compson's body is being carried away in the hearse — either on the day of his death or a few days later, at the funeral.
P. 32, Scene 27 (1928) Come on, Luster said . . .
For the first time since Scene 16, Luster's comments interrupt Benjy's memories. During all the intervening scenes, Benjy has apparently been playing in the branch, or stream.
P. 32, Scene 28 (1898) Frony and T. P. were playing . . .
Wanting to play with the golf ball in 1928 reminds Benjy of the time in 1898 when he had some lightning bugs that belonged to T. P. Actually, however, the scene is connected thematically by the subject of death. The reference to moaning in this scene refers to an old black custom of gathering at the house of a dead person and ritualistically moaning over the body of the deceased. A funeral in a black community in Mississippi is treated as an important social event with friends and relatives coming from miles around and bringing all sorts of food. It is, in actuality, a traditional funeral wake with certain modifications. Frony thinks that the same custom will be practiced in the Compson household, and she wants to go watch the official moaning.
P. 33, Scene 29 (Roskus' death) They moaned at Dilsey's house.
P. 33, Scene 30 (1898) "Oh." Caddy said . . .
P. 33, Scene 31 (Roskus' death) Dilsey moaned . . .
Scenes 29 and 31 take place at the death of Roskus, Dilsey's husband; however, we are not able to date these scenes except to say that Roskus' death occurred sometime after Mr. Compson's death, in 1912. From the time of Quentin's death in 1910 to the death of Mr. Compson in 1912, we saw that Roskus' rheumatism became increasingly worse; therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that Roskus died shortly after Mr. Compson. However, this assumption causes a problem. In Scene 31, Luster is referred to as being old enough to look after "them," presumably Benjy and Quentin, which would make Roskus' death several years after that of Mr. Compson. The difference can be resolved only by suggesting that Faulkner erred in Scene 31 because all other indications suggest that Scene 29 and 31 are the same scene and are linked by Dilsey's moaning and the dog's howling.
Scene 30 is a continuation of Scene 28, and all of them are connected to the idea of moaning at funerals.
P. 33, Scene 32 (1898) "I like to know . . ."
P. 33, Scene 33 (1912) The bones rounded out of the ditch . . .
P. 34, Scene 34 (1912) Then they all stopped and it was dark . . .
The memory of the buzzards in 1898 evokes in Benjy's mind a time (Scene 33) when he saw the bones of Nancy, a domestic animal, on the night of Mr. Compson's death. The scene must be Mr. Compson's death since T. P. forgot to get a coat for Benjy. Quentin's death in June would not have warranted such a statement about a coat.
Chronologically, the single sentence of Scene 33 should be the last sentence of Scene 34. Examining this seemingly capricious reversal, we then see how precisely Faulkner orders his material since the mention of the buzzards leads to another scene involving buzzards and only then does Benjy's mind imagistically recreate the first part of the scene. Again, note that Faulkner does not use italics to warn us of a sudden shift in time. Instead, the memory of the bones of Nancy are blended into another memory of bones, which leads to a memory of moaning, an incident when Benjy was led out of the house and passed the bones in the ditch. This is also the last scene connected with Mr. Compson's death, and, ironically, it is the one that occurs first in time. The chronological order of the scenes connected with Mr. Compson's death should read as follows: Scenes 34, 33, 23, 25, 24, 20, and 26.
P. 35, Scene 35(1928) I had it when . . .
P. 35, Scene 36 (1898) "Do you think the buzzards . . ."
From the scene of the buzzard in 1912, Benjy's mind returns to the mention of buzzards connected with a scene in 1898, with only a brief interruption (Scene 35) from Luster in 1928. This scene concludes the scenes connected with death; now, to understand Faulkner's technique, the reader should examine how skillfully Faulkner has interwoven the memory of buzzards and moaning and death occurring in numerous scenes; he has brought them and the time sequences into one general picture of death and destruction and decay — a picture that presents the horror of the decadent Compson household. Note also Versh's comment that Jason is going to be a rich man because he has his hands in his pockets all of the time. These little comments later enlarge into motifs that suggest the characteristics of Jason as an adult.
P. 37, Scene 37 (1910) When we looked around . . .
P. 37, Scene 38 (1898) A snake crawled out . . .
P. 37, Scene 39 (1910) You aint got to start . . .
P. 38, Scene 40 (1898) We stopped under the tree . . .
Beginning with Scene 37, Benjy's mind will juxtapose the "sassprilluh" drinking on the night of Caddy's wedding in 1910 with another episode connected with Damuddy's death in 1898. The central connecting image is that of peeping through the window to see either the funeral or the wedding. This image causes Benjy to combine the two scenes in his memory.
P. 38, Scene 41 (1910) They getting ready to start . . .
P. 38, Scene 42 (1898) "They haven't started because the band . . ."
Scene 41 begins in italics and refers to the "sassprilluh" drinking on the night of Caddy's wedding. Here in this scene, there is considerable indication that Faulkner or the printers made an error since one can contend that the entire scene should be completely in italics and return only to roman type with Scene 42. Note that there is absolutely no indication of the time change in the scene, and the reader must scrutinize closely in order to detect the time change. A clue lies in Benjy's remembering that they have not started the wedding and immediately his mind jumps back in time to when they had not started the funeral. Thus the short Scene 41 should probably be italicized and the time change to Scene 42 should be indicated by a return to ordinary print.
P. 39, Scene 43 (1910) I saw them.
P. 40, Scene 44 (1905 — around Christmas) Benjy, Caddy said, Benjy.
Scene 43 returns to images of the wedding and Benjy's loss of his sister, Caddy. Throughout the section, Benjy correlates Caddy with the smell of trees. Significally, when Caddy uses perfume or when she has been sexually promiscuous, Benjy senses these deviations and reacts to them through sense impressions by noting that she doesn't smell like trees. He can sense various deviations from the norm, but he can do nothing but howl or bellow about any situation. His howling here, in Scenes 43 and 44, is over the loss of Caddy and anticipates his howling when the ordered pattern is broken at the end of the novel.
The memory of Caddy's wedding in Scene 43 carries Benjy's memory back in Scene 44 to the first time when he sensed that he was losing Caddy — to the first time when she did not smell like trees because she was using perfume. The scene would be around Christmas 1905 since Caddy is referred to as being fourteen, and she gives Benjy some tinsel stars to play with. At this age, Caddy is still a virgin. Faulkner has symbolically depicted this fact by Caddy's ability to go into the bathroom and wash away her deviation (that is, the odor of her perfume). In later scenes, particularly when Caddy loses her virginity, Benjy will sense the change and will try to force Caddy into the bathroom again to wash. Each of these washing scenes is connected to the branch scene in 1898, when Caddy gets her drawers muddy, and also to the scene in the Quentin section when Caddy goes to the branch and lies in the water up to her hips just after she has lost her virginity.
P. 43, Scene 45 (1908) "Come on, now."
P. 43, Scene 46 (Spring 1903) Uncle Maury was sick.
P. 44, Scene 47 (1908) "You a big boy."
Scene 45 (only one short paragraph) and Scene 46 give no indication that there is a shift in time. Scene 45 is dated as 1908 because Benjy's age is referred to. His memory of Uncle Maury causes him to remember an earlier episode concerning Uncle Maury. Scene 46 is the concluding scene to the Patterson episode (see Scenes 2, 3, 5, 9, and 10). Stuart and Backus date Scene 46 as 1908, but if Mr. Patterson discovered the letter from Uncle Maury in 1903 (see Scene 10), then the fight between Uncle Maury and Mr. Patterson would have been shortly afterwards. However, if Backus and Stuart's assumption is correct, then Scene 10 and Scene 46, both occurring in 1908, would indicate that Uncle Maury and Mrs. Patterson have been carrying on their affair for over five years, which is highly unlikely given the nature of such a small town as Jefferson. Therefore, it is best to assume that Scenes 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, and 46 make one unit and occur in 1902-03.
The connecting link between Scenes 45, 46, and 47 is that of Benjy's being put to bed in Uncle Maury's room at various times and of Caddy smelling like trees. Notice also that Faulkner gives no indication of a time change between Scenes 46 and 47.
P. 45, Scene 48 (1898) We looked up into the tree . . .
P. 46, Scene 49 (1928) Where you want to go now, . . .
Benjy's memory of Caddy smelling like trees in Scene 47 recalls an earlier scene — in 1898, when Caddy was up in a tree to see if the funeral had started.
P. 46, Scene 50 (about 1908-09) The kitchen was dark.
P. 46, Scene 51 (1928) Luster came back.
P. 46, Scene 52 (about 1908-09) It was dark under the trees.
P. 46, Scene 53 (1928) Come away from there . . .
P. 47, Scene 54 (about 1908-09) It was two now, . . .
Some critics place the scene between Caddy and Charlie as early as 1906; however, clues in the Quentin section suggest that Caddy's first encounter with Charlie occurred when Quentin was a senior in high school, making the year about 1908 or 1909.
These scenes also show Faulkner's technique of allowing memories of the past to affect present actions. As Benjy remembers the event (in the past) with Caddy at the swing, he is (in the present) heading toward the swing. In the past, he saw Caddy kissing Charlie at the swing and began to bellow. As she did in the perfume episode, Caddy makes everything all right by washing away her "sin." By this act, we are to assume that she is still a virgin because as soon as she finishes washing, she again smells like trees.
P. 48, Scene 55 (1928) I kept a telling you . . .
While remembering the episode of Caddy and Charlie at the swing, Benjy has been walking toward the swing, where Miss Quentin and her boyfriend are repeating the same actions as those of Caddy and Charlie. The two scenes here offer themselves for comparison. In both scenes, Benjy finds a couple who are kissing. Caddy's Charlie was openly hostile to Benjy, but Miss Quentin's friend is quietly vicious. And whereas Benjy was upset to find Caddy kissing a man, he apparently doesn't care what Miss Quentin does. In the scene with Caddy, he follows her to the kitchen, where she washes her mouth. In contrast, Miss Quentin goes to the kitchen by herself to complain about Benjy.
This scene also foreshadows future events about which we now know nothing. We meet the man with the red tie whom Jason saw and followed the preceding day (in the Jason section) and whom Miss Quentin runs off with. We also learn that Miss Quentin climbs out the window every night to meet various men. One of her men left his box of prophylactics there and Luster gives it to Benjy to play with.
P. 51, Scene 56 (May 1910) You can't do no good . . .
P. 51, Scene 57 (another time in May 1910) I could hear them . . .
P. 52, Scene 58 (May 1910: nighttime) How did he get out, . . .
P. 52, Scene 59 (May 1910: continuance of Scene 57) It was open when I . . .
Some critics combine Scenes 56 and 57 into one scene, but a close reading suggests that they are separate scenes since it is raining in Scene 56 and apparently it is not raining in Scene 57.
These four scenes are connected with the gate and certain events concerning the gate. Benjy's desire to go to the gate is prompted by the fact that he always stood there and waited for Caddy to come home from school (see Scenes 3 and 5). Despite the fact that Caddy no longer lives at home, Benjy keeps going to the gate hoping that she will come back to him. When several little girls pass by, Benjy is further reminded of Caddy and tries to say something to the girls. Since he can't talk, his attempts only frighten the girls. Consequently, on one occasion, he finds that the gate is open and he chases the girls, trying to tell them how much he misses Caddy. He thinks that he is falling down the hill, but actually the father of one of the girls is close by and hits Benjy over the head with a huge stick. The ultimate result of Jason and Mr. Compson's talk in Scene 58, which occurs chronologically sometime after Scene 59, is the decision to have Benjy castrated. They apparently thought that Benjy might have had some sexual urges that caused him to chase the little girls. In actuality, however, Benjy was only wanting to tell them how much he misses his sister, Caddy.
P. 53, Scene 60 (1928) Here, loony, Luster said.
Benjy's memories of Caddy and the possible memory of his castration cause him to start moaning. Faulkner's sense of bawdy humor is apparent in this scene as he has Benjy remembering his castration, Luster trying to sell the golf ball, and the golfer sadistically taking the ball from Luster by force — just as Benjy's testicles were taken from him without sufficient motivation. Then, when the golfer calls for his "caddie," Benjy's sense of frustration mounts until his bellowing finally exasperates Luster.
P. 56, Scene 61(1900) What you want to get her . . .
At the end of Scene 60, Luster and Benjy are in the kitchen, where the open fire reminds Benjy of another episode connected with fire in 1900. Whereas the earlier scenes in the Benjy section have almost all taken place outside the house, the scenes from now to the end of this section will occur mostly inside the house. In other words, during the first part of the section, Benjy and Luster wander around the grounds and pass such things as the gate, the branch, the barn, and Dilsey's house. All these places trigger memories of earlier scenes connected with these places; now, however, Benjy is inside the house and the events that he will remember are sparked by such things in the house as the burning fire in the kitchen stove or the mirror in the library.
P. 56, Scene 62 (1928) "Aint you shamed . . ."
P. 57, Scene 63 (1900) I could hear the clock, . . .
We can only assume that Scene 63 is set in 1900 because it presents the same imagery of rain and fire as do the other scenes of this particular time. All these scenes of 1900 are connected in one way or another with the changing of Benjy's name from Maury to Benjamin.
P. 57, Scene 64 (1928) I ate some cake.
P. 58, Scene 65 (1900) That's right, Dilsey said.
After a brief scene in the kitchen focusing on Benjy's 1928 birthday cake, his mind returns to the kitchen scene in 1900, when his name had just been changed. In this scene, we see that one of Dilsey's major characteristics is her simple but strong faith in the rightness of things. Her complete assurance that her own name is written in the Book attests to her strong faith. Even though she can't read, she believes that when her name is read, all she has to do is say "Ise here."
P. 58, Scene 66 (1928) The long wire came . . .
This scene aptly illustrates the selfish, whining neuroticism of Mrs. Compson. She is concerned only about her own comfort and thinks that everything is deliberately done to upset her. Even though she complains about the cake that Dilsey brings for Benjy's birthday, she will not lift a hand to do anything for Benjy under any circumstances. Whenever she tries to correct Benjy, she only makes him cry more. She has absolutely no understanding of his needs and would not take the trouble to soothe and comfort him — even if she knew how.
P. 61, Scene 67 (1900) Your name is Benjy, . . .
P. 61, Scene 68 (1898) . . . Caddy said. "Let me . . ."
P. 61, Scene 69 (1900) Versh set me down . . .
In Scene 66, Luster took Benjy out of the kitchen and into the library, where Benjy now remembers earlier scenes that took place in the library. In Scene 67 (1900), Benjy is being told about his name change; chronologically, then, this is one of the earliest of this set of scenes. Notice how Caddy's wanting to carry Benjy (in 1900) immediately evokes a scene two years earlier when Caddy also carried him. Scene 69 can be dated only by images; that is, the images of fire, the mirror, and the sickness are all connected with 1900, and, therefore, we assume this scene occurs in 1900. But more important, the scene further illustrates Mrs. Compson's self-centered concern for herself, thus filling out the picture of her as a selfish and neurotic woman.
P. 62, Scene 70 (1898) Mother's sick, father said.
P. 62, Scene 71 (1900) We could hear the roof.
P. 64, Scene 72 (1900) Father took me up.
Mrs. Compson's sickness in Scene 69 carries Benjy's mind back to 1898 (Scene 70), when Damuddy died and all the children were told not to disturb Mrs. Compson. Then in Scene 71, Benjy returns to the scene he was just remembering, when Caddy carried him to Mrs. Compson for an explanation of his new name.
Between Scenes 71 and 72, there are no italics or any other graphic indications denoting a scene change, but the scene obviously changes. Both of these scenes concern the same subject at the same time, but Scene 72 obviously takes place later in the evening, after Mr. Compson is at home.
These two scenes again reveal Mrs. Compson's total inability to deal with Benjy. She has no understanding of her own child's needs. Instead, it is Caddy who must look after him. In other words, Caddy functions in Mrs. Compson's place as a mother for Benjy. It is also interesting to note that Mrs. Compson's mother spoiled Jason, whom Mrs. Compson says is the only one of her children who takes after the Bascombs rather than the Compsons. That the Bascombs prefer Jason, the most detestable of the children, illustrates their lack of understanding of the basic qualities of each child. We also realize here that Mrs. Compson is probably right — they prefer Jason because he is most like them. The sadistic pleasure that Jason gets from maliciously destroying Benjy's paper dolls is later reflected in Jason's insistence that Benjy be castrated. Clearly, Caddy's desire to protect Benjy and Jason's attempts to destroy him are characteristics that remain with each character as they grow older.
P. 65, Scene 73 (1928) Jason came in.
P. 66, Scene 74 (1900) You can look at the fire . . .
P. 66, Scene 75 (1928) Dilsey said, "You come, Jason."
P. 66, Scene 76 (1900) We could hear the roof.
P. 66, Scene 77 (1928) Quentin said, "Didn't Dilsey say supper . . ."
P. 67, Scene 78 (1900) I could hear the roof.
These scenes do not represent Benjy's fragmented mind so much as they show how his mind functions in the past, in spite of several interruptions in the present time. The same scene in 1900 keeps recurring in his mind, and, if they were isolated, these scenes would be in chronological order even though there is a time lapse between some of them. For example, when Dilsey calls Miss Quentin (Benjy's niece) to supper in Scene 75, Benjy's mind immediately recalls an episode (Scene 76) connected with his brother Quentin. That is, the name itself sparks the memory of his brother Quentin.
In Scene 77, when Luster asks for a quarter to go to the show, we must remember that in the chronology of the entire novel, Jason — on the previous night (Friday night) — burned two free passes because Luster didn't have a nickel to pay for them. Thus, Luster's request for a quarter, in the light of the actions in Jason's section, is pathetic.
In Scene 78, Quentin's fight is left essentially unexplained. He was presumably trying to protect someone, again emphasizing one of his basic characteristics — that is, a concern for the welfare of others even though others don't need it. This same quality is seen in his relationship with Caddy and with the little Italian girl whom he meets in the bakery in the next section.
P. 68, Scene 79 (1928) Dilsey said, all right.
P. 68, Scene 80 (1900) Versh smelled like rain.
Dating these two fragments requires close attention to the text. In Scene 77 (1928), we know that dinner is almost ready. In Scene 79, Dilsey announces dinner. Then, after these two lines, Benjy's mind shifts back to 1900 and to the images of the fire and the roof. Also, there is no indication that Versh is present in 1928; therefore, Scene 80 must be dated as 1900, especially since the same image of Versh coming in out of the rain is picked up again in Scene 85, below.
P. 68, Scene 81 (about 1909) We could hear Caddy . . .
P. 69, Scene 82 (1900) Versh said, Your name Benjamin . . .
P. 69, Scene 83 (about 1909) We were in the hall.
Some of the preceding scenes, those that take place in the library, recall to Benjy's mind another scene in the library — a scene when Caddy came in from a date with someone. Scenes 81 and 83 can be dated in 1909 by using the implication that Caddy is just beginning to experiment with sex and Benjy senses a difference in her. In Scene 81, Caddy avoids Benjy's gaze because she realizes that he instinctively knows that she is no longer a virgin. Previously, when Benjy sensed some deviation, Caddy went to the bathroom and washed off the perfume or went to the kitchen and washed off the kisses with kitchen soap; now she knows that she cannot wash away her sin and tries to avoid Benjy. Benjy, however, senses her sin and begins to cry because of the sin and because the sin separates Caddy from him.
P. 69, Scene 84 (1928) What are you doing to him, . . .
P. 70, Scene 85 (1900) Versh said, "You move back . . ."
In Scene 84, Miss Quentin threatens to leave, which is exactly what she does later that same night, taking several thousand dollars from Jason's room. These events will not become clear until the fourth section of the novel.
In Scene 85, we now begin to realize that even the servants are cognizant of Mrs. Compson's ineptitude and selfishness.
P. 70, Scene 86 (1928) Has he got to keep . . .
P. 70, Scene 87 (1900) Steam came off of Roskus.
P. 70, Scene 88 (1928) Now, now, Dilsey said.
P. 70, Scene 89 (1900) It got down below the mark.
P. 71, Scene 90 (1928) Yes he will, . . .
P. 71, Scene 91 (1900) Roskus said, "It going to rain . . ."
P. 71, Scene 92 (1928) You've been running . . .
P. 71, Scene 93 (1900) "Then I dont know what . . ."
P. 71, Scene 94 (1928) Oh I wouldn't be surprised, . . .
P. 71, Scene 95 (1900) "She sulling again, . . ."
P. 71, Scene 96 (1928) Quentin pushed Dilsey away.
P. 71, Scene 97 (1900) "Mother's sick again."
P. 71, Scene 98 (1928) Goddamn you, Quentin said.
P. 71, Scene 99 (1900) Caddy gave me the cushion, . . .
The above scenes shift in time after only a sentence or two, and each change is indicated by either italics or a return to roman print. Actually, Benjy's mind is anchored back in 1900, and the comments of 1928 are simply intrusions on his memories. All of the scenes are connected by the consumption of a meal. In 1900, Benjy is eating in the kitchen with Caddy feeding him, and in 1928, he is in the dining room and Caddy's daughter (Miss Quentin) is complaining about his eating habits. In the scenes set in 1900, Benjy is radiantly happy because he is eating and he has Caddy with him. These are two things that Benjy likes.
P. 72, Scene 100 (1928) She smelled like trees.
P. 73, Scene 101 (1898) We didn't go to our room.
P. 73, Scene 102 (1928) Quentin, Mother said in the hall.
P. 73, Scene 103 (1898) Quentin and Versh came in.
P. 73, Scene 104 (1928) I got undressed . . .
The power of these final scenes can easily be overlooked as we tend to rush through them. These scenes — the present (1928) and the earliest (1898) in Benjy's memory — are connected by Benjy's being fed. In the scenes of 1928, Benjy's predicament is reflected in his actions as he observes himself naked before the mirror: he is reminded of his castration and begins to cry. Luster's view of Miss Quentin in Scene 104 is also our last view of her.
P. 74, Scene 105 (1898) There were two beds.
Benjy's section ends with the earliest memory, that of the scene in 1898, when he was only three years old. He feels happy because, for him, everything is in its ordered place. The section also ends with Caddy's drawers and behind still muddy, because Dilsey does not have time to bathe her. Therefore, Caddy's future actions of losing her virginity (symbolized by the muddy drawers) is foreshadowed here. We should also note here in the final scene that Caddy seems to be the only child who is concerned about the welfare of Mrs. Compson. Ironically, later, of all the Compsons, it is Mrs. Compson who turns the most vindictively against Caddy.