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The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury

by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury Chapter 2 Summary

  • OK, this section is narrated by Quentin – that’s Quentin the boy, for those of you who were wondering.
  • We’re back in 1910 (about eighteen years before the section narrated by Benjy).
  • Quentin’s a student at Harvard, which means that his section is narrated in the Massachusetts. Cambridge, to be precise.
  • Just in case you think you’re in for a smooth ride now that Quentin’s taken the steering wheel, though, we feel obliged to warn you: Quentin’s cracking up.
  • Hmm…the Compsons aren’t so lucky, you say? Well, yes. That’s one way of putting it.
  • What does this mean for us right now?
  • Quentin’s section isn’t quite as crazily disjointed as Benjy’s.
  • Then again, he might just be more chaotic of a narrator then Benjy. Bet you didn’t think that was possible, huh? Think again.
  • Quentin remembers lots of things, but they’re not neatly divided into separate (and repeating) episodes like Benjy’s memories were.
  • But we’re getting beyond ourselves.
  • Here’s the important point: Quentin has lots of memories and no real way to organize them.
  • Case in point: on June 2, 1910, Quentin finds himself "in time again."
  • Translation: he just woke up.
  • He hears his watch clicking away the seconds and remembers when his father first handed him the watch.
  • As his father said, the watch is a present that will hopefully allow him to forget time every now and then.
  • What? We’re not exactly sure what this means, either, but it seems to work for Quentin.
  • Quentin thinks about how people don’t usually think about the ways watches tick off time.
  • As you can probably tell, Quentin spends a lot of time thinking. (Hey, that’s why he’s at Harvard, right?)
  • Thinking about time leads Quentin to muse about St. Francis, who, as Quentin observes, never had a sister.
  • In case we didn’t mention it, Caddy is Quentin’s sister, too. Don’t worry, we’ll hear more about that later. Lots and lots more.
  • Quentin hears his roommate, Shreve, getting up.
  • He rolls over, deciding to forget about time.
  • As soon as he decides this, however, thinking about the time becomes like an itch he can’t scratch. It’s all he can think about.
  • All of a sudden, a memory intrudes upon his thinking (or not thinking) about time:
  • A girl runs out, smelling of roses. His mother and father have announced a wedding….
  • Hmm…sisters and weddings. Any guesses who he might be thinking about now?
  • Quentin remembers telling his father that he’s committed incest.
  • !!!!
  • Faulkner sure doesn’t pull his punches, huh?
  • Shreve barges in on Quentin, reminding him that he’s late for chapel.
  • Quentin promises to get up soon, and Shreve leaves.
  • Left alone, Quentin remembers the time that Shreve defended him in a fight (Quentin got really angry when someone talked smack about some girls).
  • Watching out the window, Quentin sees Spoade pass by.
  • Spoade’s a campus legend: he’s always late to everything, but he’s always well-respected.
  • The campus chimes sound off the hour.
  • Quentin listens to the sound of the bells fading away into the air.
  • He thinks again about incest. Of course, if you commit incest, you’re probably going to hell.
  • As Quentin figure, though, that wouldn’t be so bad. At least he’d be alone with Caddy.
  • Thinking about Caddy makes Quentin think about Dalton Ames.
  • He repeats his name several times. We’re beginning to think that Quentin’s a bit fixated on the guy.
  • He’s not fixated on him in a creepy way – he’d just sort of like to kill him.
  • That’s reasonable, right?
  • Quentin gets up and walks over to his dresser, where his watch is.
  • He breaks the glass of the watch, then he twists off its hands.
  • Noticing red smears on the glass, Quentin realizes that he’s cut his finger.
  • That seems a little backwards, doesn’t it? We’re betting that Quentin doesn’t quite have it all together this morning.
  • After all, who breaks their grandfather’s watch?
  • Quentin packs a suitcase with a change of clothes.
  • He writes two letters: one to his father and one to Shreve.
  • As he walks out the door, Quentin suddenly remembers the girl running again.
  • We’re suspecting that the girl is Caddy, as you’ve probably figured out.
  • She’s in a veil, and her dress flows as she runs.
  • If you imagine one of those slow-motion scenes at the end of a romance movie, it’s probably pretty close to Quentin’s daydream. Insert cheesy music here.
  • Shreve walks in, interrupting Quentin’s thoughts.
  • He quizzes Quentin about missing chapel, but Quentin mutters an excuse and leaves.
  • He sets off to find Deacon – maybe he’s at the train station?
  • Deacon is an old black man who seems to do odd jobs for college boys.
  • As he walks, Quentin thinks about forgetting time again.
  • Passing a jewelry store with lots of clocks in the window, he pauses, then walks in.
  • He asks the man at the counter if any of the clocks are right.
  • The man says no, it’s actually…
  • Quentin shuts him up before the man can finish telling him the time.
  • He just wanted to know if any of the clocks were right.
  • The man looks at him strangely. Maybe this kid has been drinking?
  • Quentin realizes that he can’t hear the clicking of his own watch over all these other clocks. It’s a comforting thought.
  • Quentin walks to a hardware store, where he buys a pair of flatirons (weights). He wraps them up so that they look like a pair of shoes.
  • A streetcar passes, and Quentin gets on.
  • He sits beside a black man and starts thinking about race relations in the North.
  • As he reflects, he thought when he first came up north that he was supposed to miss black people – but only once he got here did he realize that he actually did miss Dilsey and Roskus and the rest of his family.
  • Quentin remembers passing an old black man on a mule. The man looked like an eternal, unchanging symbol of black people everywhere.
  • Stereotypes, anyone?
  • Thinking about black people everywhere leads Quentin to think about…all black people. Race is a HUGE issue for this book, in case we haven’t mentioned it. Check out our analysis of race in the novel in "Themes."
  • Quentin starts thinking about home, and then he remembers talking to Caddy about Benjy’s name change.
  • Caddy and Quentin think that Benjy "smells" all the things that he knows – but can he smell his new name? They’re not sure.
  • Quentin gets off the railcar and stares over a bridge at the water below.
  • He watches his shadow in the water, wishing that he could find a way to drown his shadow.
  • He remembers Dilsey saying that Benjy could smell when Damuddy died.
  • As Quentin gazes out over the water, a classmate of his, Gerald Bland, pulls a punt out into the current.
  • A punt, by the way, is a racing boat.
  • Gerald’s dressed pretty spiffily in a suit and a straw hat – just like the boaters in England.
  • Gerald’s a pretty boy.
  • His mother takes very, very good care of him. In fact, when he rows, she drives along beside him in a car.
  • Quentin knows that Gerald’s mother likes Quentin – if only because he’s from the South. She appreciates Spoade, too, because he’s the coolest guy on campus.
  • She can’t stand Shreve.
  • Why? Well, for one thing, his face looks like a pumpkin. For another, he’s Canadian.
  • Gasp.
  • Watching the boat disappear, Quentin suddenly remembers asking Dalton Ames if he had a sister.
  • Dalton says no. All women are "bitches."
  • Well. Who wouldn’t love the guy? Seriously.
  • Quentin remembers the army-like khaki shirts that Dalton always wore.
  • His memories shift, and suddenly he’s thinking about Herbert.
  • Herbert’s another guy who’s promised to be "like a big brother" to Quentin and Jason.
  • Judging from Quentin’s memories, he doesn’t think too highly of this offer.
  • The wedding invitation, announcing Candace’s marriage to Mr. Sydney Herbert, flashes through Quentin’s mind.
  • Caddy got married at the end of April – about two months ago.
  • Quentin remembers Herbert talking about the car he gave Caddy.
  • Herbert seems like a bit of a jerk.
  • Sorry, we just couldn’t think of a nicer way to say that.
  • Quentin remembers his mother obsessing over Herbert – apparently Herbert’s promised to get Jason a job at the bank where he works.
  • Quentin thinks about how the Compsons sold Benjy’s pasture to pay for his tuition at Harvard.
  • As Quentin thinks again about Herbert’s oily compliments to his mother, he wants to confess again that he’s committed incest.
  • Quentin’s thoughts start to fragment here – he jumps between different memories (Herbert and incest) rather erratically.
  • It’s almost like the memories are too much for him to bear all at once.
  • Quentin thinks that "again" is the saddest word he’s ever heard. It’s sadder even than "was."
  • Huh?
  • Well, it’s probably pretty complicated. At least, we’re guessing that Faulkner’s working in some heavy meditations on time here.
  • "Was" and "again" are both ways to mark time, right? But what exactly is happening again?
  • Honestly, we’re not really sure yet. And Quentin’s definitely not giving us any clues.
  • Quentin remembers his mother yelling at his father – apparently, Mrs. Compson and Quentin both thought that Caddy should be watched.
  • Father agrees that Caddy’s probably up to something, but he refuses to spy on her. Quentin protests that he wasn’t spying.
  • Father and Quentin talk about the nature of women.
  • As you’ve probably noticed, Quentin likes to have these philosophical conversations.
  • OK, back to the present:
  • Arriving at the station, Quentin sees Deacon.
  • Deacon’s dressed up like an officer at a parade.
  • Deacon is something of an institution at Harvard.
  • He greets Southern boys as they get off the train, acting like he’s a black servant.
  • Once the boys are completely dependent on him, his relationship with them changes.
  • He’s no longer subservient – in fact, even his accent starts to fade.
  • He’s both ridiculous and indispensable, a fact which Quentin recognizes.
  • He’s called Deacon because a rumor once suggested that Deacon came from a divinity school.
  • Deacon himself was pretty pleased about this, so the name stuck.
  • Quentin promises Deacon a present if he’ll deliver a letter to Shreve tomorrow.
  • Suddenly, looking into Deacon’s slightly absurd face, Quentin sees the wise, sad eyes of Roskus.
  • The moment passes – Deacon agrees to deliver the letter.
  • Quentin walks back to campus, thinking about his childhood.
  • In his room, Shreve greets him.
  • Apparently, Gerald’s mother has sent Quentin an invitation for a party.
  • Shreve’s glad that he’s not invited.
  • Quentin starts thinking about the costs of being a gentleman.
  • All of a sudden, his mother’s voice intrudes upon his thoughts.
  • She’s a pretty annoying woman, to be honest.
  • As she says over and over (and over), everyone ignores her. No one pays her the respect she deserves.
  • Only Jason resembles her family, the Bascombs.
  • Boy, we can’t wait to meet Jason.
  • Also, she feels like God cursed her by giving her Benjy,
  • Wow. She’s a real winner.
  • Quentin sees another car coming, and he boards it.
  • It must be noon, he thinks. You can always feel noon.
  • OK, we can’t feel noon, we confess. But at least Quentin can.
  • As the car drives, Quentin thinks about Gerald and his mother.
  • Gerald’s not just a pretty boy – he’s a ladies’ man, too.
  • His mother does everything she can to promote Gerald’s womanizing.
  • Speaking of womanizing…Quentin thinks about Herbert.
  • Quentin remembers his last conversation with Caddy: she asks him to take care of Benjy and Father.
  • OK, back to Gerald.
  • Dizzy yet? We told you that Quentin was as bad as Benjy.
  • Gerald’s mom tried twice to get Quentin a new roommate.
  • Apparently, Shreve wasn’t good enough for a southern boy.
  • Luckily, Shreve and Quentin found out about her schemes in time to stop them.
  • Quentin decides to beg out of her invitation for tonight.
  • OK, back with Herbert:
  • Herbert mentions to Quentin that he once thought Quentin was Caddy’s lover, not her brother. He’s all she ever talks about.
  • Herbert keeps trying to push a cigar on Quentin. Disgusted, Quentin refuses.
  • Herbert’s a bit smarmy. He insists that he wants to be Quentin’s brother. After all, he went to Harvard, too.
  • Quentin points out that Herbert was kicked out of Harvard for cheating.
  • That stops conversation for awhile.
  • Herbert threatens Quentin in an attempt to get Quentin to keep quiet.
  • Caddy comes in, and Herbert suddenly appears nice and smiley again.
  • Back in the present day, Quentin starts walking down a shady road away from campus.
  • As he walks, he thinks about how he urged Caddy not to marry Herbert: she’s sick, so she can’t marry him.
  • Caddy says she has to – otherwise, Benjy will be sent to Jackson.
  • (Jackson is where the mental institution is.)
  • Quentin thinks about the time he broke his leg. It hurt a lot.
  • Back to Caddy:
  • Quentin asks Caddy if there have been many men for her.
  • She’s distracted. She says there have been too many, then asks him to look after Benjy again.
  • Quentin remembers an earlier conversation he had with his father about virginity: Father says that women are never virgins.
  • As he explains, purity is a negative state – you only know it once you’ve lost it.
  • Quentin thinks again about a hell that would isolate him – alone with Caddy forever.
  • Back in the present:
  • Quentin watches three boys fishing for a big ol’ trout.
  • He sees the trout in the water, but no one has ever been able to outsmart it.
  • The boys argue about how to catch the fish.
  • Quentin asks if there are any factories in town with bells.
  • Bells, you see, ring on the hour.
  • What, you thought we were over this obsession with time? Nope.
  • The boys give up on fishing and decide to go swimming.
  • Quentin remembers how he tried to convince Caddy not to marry Herbert.
  • Desperately, he recounts all the bad things Herbert has done: he’s a drunk and a cheat. He was kicked out of Harvard and Coventry.
  • Caddy insists that she has no other options.
  • OK, we should mention that the past and the present get pretty confusing here. Quentin’s watching the boys walk away, but he’s thinking about Caddy.
  • We’ll stick with his thoughts – they’re more interesting.
  • Quentin tells Caddy that he wants to run away with her and Benjy.
  • She scoffs – there’s no money. Besides that, their father is drinking himself to death.
  • Present-day Quentin walks into a grocery store. No one seems to be inside.
  • Oh, wait – there’s a dirty little girl in the corner.
  • She stares at him silently.
  • Quentin greets her, calling her "sister."
  • Hmm…what’s with all these sisters?
  • The shop owner comes out. Quentin orders two rolls.
  • When he’s done, he points to the little girl. She wants something, too.
  • The shop lady’s suspicious. How’d the little girl get in?
  • Quentin lies, saying the girl came in with him.
  • He orders some bread for the girl.
  • Quentin leaves with the little girl. The shop lady warns him again about sneaky foreigners.
  • They’re sneaky. You shouldn’t trust them.
  • Quentin tries to figure out where the little girl lives, but she apparently doesn’t speak – at least, not to him.
  • She sure stares, though.
  • Quentin asks if she’d like ice cream.
  • She doesn’t say anything, but she follows him to the ice cream store, staring at him.
  • Quentin remembers asking Caddy if she’s seen the doctor.
  • Present day Quentin walks all through the town, trying to ask the little girl where she lives.
  • The little girl doesn’t say anything.
  • This is starting to get pretty predictable, huh?
  • At the end of town, Quentin gives the girl a coin and runs away from her.
  • A true gentleman, right? Well, not exactly…
  • He remembers yelling at Caddy for kissing someone. He slaps her.
  • Present-day Quentin climbs a wall and runs into the little girl again.
  • Guess there’s no getting away from sisters.
  • Speaking of sisters: Quentin remembers fighting with Caddy about another girl, Natalie.
  • He refuses to kiss Natalie – she’s dirty.
  • Present day Quentin tries to get the little girl to tell him where she lives. No luck.
  • He decides to walk down by the river with her.
  • Back in the past:
  • Quentin and Natalie are sitting in a barn. They’re "dancing sitting down" – whatever that means.
  • We’ll leave that to your imagination.
  • Suddenly, Caddy’s watching them through the barn door.
  • Quentin chases Natalie off, calling her a "cowface."
  • He can get nasty when he wants to.
  • After Natalie runs away, Quentin jumps up and down in hog poo.
  • He runs up to Caddy, announcing what he’s done.
  • She declares that she doesn’t care what he does.
  • Furious, Quentin runs up to her and smears hog dung all over her.
  • He’s going to make her care about what he does.
  • Present-day Quentin realizes that he’s run into the boys who were fishing before.
  • They’re swimming now, and they’re angry that he brought a little girl with him.
  • All of a sudden, a group of men run up to them.
  • The little girl finally talks. She points at one of the men, saying, "There’s Julio."
  • Julio charges at Quentin, trying to beat him up.
  • Apparently, he thinks Quentin is trying to run off with his sister.
  • The sheriff is right behind him. He arrests Quentin.
  • Quentin can’t get a word in edgewise.
  • Julio accuses Quentin of stealing his sister.
  • Quentin finds this so incredibly farcical that he sits down and laughs.
  • He can’t seem to stop laughing, even after the sheriff begins to think that he’s hysterical.
  • As the group walk back to town, a car with Gerald, his mother, Spoade, Shreve, and two girls drives up.
  • Mrs. Bland (Gerald’s mother) demands to know what’s happening.
  • Of course, when they all hear that Quentin’s been arrested, Shreve is the only one who immediately gets out of the car.
  • The girls, especially, look at Quentin in horror.
  • Shreve joins them as the walk to the jail, where the sheriff books Quentin.
  • Quentin hasn’t said anything about helping the little girl. We’re not really sure why, but we’re guessing that his silence is important.
  • Spoade insists that Quentin’s arrest is a mistake.
  • The sheriff, calculating a bit, charges Quentin six dollars for Julio’s trouble.
  • In those times, six bucks is a decent amount of cash.
  • Shreve’s outraged – but Quentin pays the money, and they all leave.
  • In the car, Quentin seems to be a bit out of it.
  • In reality, his mind is fluttering between the past and the present.
  • He’s remembering a conversation he had with Caddy about sex.
  • "Have you ever done that?" he asks Caddy.
  • He remembers insisting that he’s committed incest. His father doesn’t believe him.
  • Quentin tries to insist that he’s committing incest with Caddy.
  • He remembers a summer night when Caddy runs off with a man.
  • Quentin finds Caddy down in the branch (that’s a stream, remember?).
  • She’s lying down with her legs in the water.
  • Quentin asks her over and over if she loves the man.
  • Caddy doesn’t say anything, but she puts Quentin’s hand over her heart, where he feels her blood throbbing.
  • Quentin asks if she remembers the time that she sat in the branch and got her drawers muddy.
  • Remember how we told you that this was an important scene in Benjy’s section? Here’s why:
  • Quentin suddenly pulls out a knife and threatens to push it into Caddy’s throat.
  • Who would’ve guessed he was such a killer?
  • Well, actually, he’s not. He can’t quite push the knife in.
  • Caddy looks at him, pitying him.
  • She asks him if he’s ever had sex. He insists he has, but they both know he’s lying.
  • They both get up and start walking back to the house.
  • Quentin smells the honeysuckle, a scent which overpowers his senses.
  • As they walk, Caddy sees her lover. She runs up to him, and Quentin sees their bodies blur together.
  • Caddy tells him to go back to the house, but Quentin says he’s going for a walk.
  • He comes back, and Caddy’s alone.
  • As they walk, Quentin pushes her to find out how she feels about her lover.
  • A bit obsessed, you say? Well, yes. He is.
  • He threatens to kill Caddy a few times. We’re not too worried, though – we’ve seen this play out before.
  • They’re both crying. Caddy insists that she’s bad.
  • Quentin remembers meeting her lover a few days later. He offers the man a challenge, which the man accepts.
  • The next day, Quentin asks T.P. to saddle a horse. He’s going to fight for his sister.
  • On second thought, he decides to walk.
  • Meeting Caddy’s lover on the road, Quentin declares that the man has until sundown to leave the town.
  • He’s a real cowboy, isn’t he?
  • The guy doesn’t seem to notice. He keep smoking and looking at the river.
  • Angry, Quentin yells at him again. Does the man have a sister?
  • The man answers that he doesn’t. They’re all "bitches," anyway.
  • That does it. Quentin starts swinging at the man.
  • Unfortunately, the guy’s actually pretty strong. He catches both of Quentin’s hands and then throws away Quentin’s gun.
  • Oops. That didn’t go so well.
  • All of a sudden, everything goes black.
  • When Quentin wakes up, he asks if he’s been hit.
  • The guy says he has. He offers to help Quentin home, but Quentin angrily refuses.
  • Later, Quentin realizes that he wasn’t hit, at all. He just fainted.
  • Quentin asks Caddy if she loves the man. Caddy places Quentin’s hand at her throat and tells him to say the guy’s name.
  • When Quentin says "Dalton Ames," he can feel Caddy’s blood surge.
  • OK, back in the present:
  • Apparently, Quentin got himself into a huge fight.
  • Gerald was telling bawdy tales about the women that he’d had sex with, and Quentin went crazy. He hit Gerald.
  • Unfortunately, Gerald’s been training as a boxer.
  • As Shreve recounts, Quentin got kicked around for awhile.
  • Spoade asks Quentin why he hit Gerald.
  • Quentin doesn’t respond, but Shreve said that Quentin jumped up in the middle of a story, shouting, "Have you ever had a sister?"
  • Now Quentin’s clothes are all bloody.
  • He hasn’t gotten better at fighting over the years.
  • He leaves Spoade and Shreve, saying that he’ll walk back to campus.
  • Shreve seems worried, but they leave him, anyway.
  • Quentin waits until he hears the car pull away, then he starts walking down the road.
  • As he walks, Quentin muses about the quality of light in the North.
  • All of a sudden, the light appears to brighten, becoming morning light.
  • Really, though, it’s just the lights of a streetcar. Quentin’s being poetic.
  • In the car, Quentin thinks about honeysuckle, which has, he thinks, a sad scent.
  • We’re not sure how a scent can be sad, but there it is, folks.
  • The car drives by the river again.
  • Quentin’s thoughts are running wild.
  • The night smells like honeysuckle, and the scent gets mixed up in all his thoughts, until it seems to symbolize the chaos of his existence.
  • Quentin can smell the curves of the river – and smelling, he becomes like Benjy.
  • Benjy has to smell the things he knows, remember?
  • Quentin gets off the car at the post office.
  • The chimes strike a quarter to…something.
  • Quentin enters his dorm room.
  • It’s dark. Shreve left him a letter telling him that the Blands are having another get-together.
  • Quentin notices his bloody clothes again.
  • Thinking half-completed thoughts, he begins to clean the blood off with gasoline.
  • Hmm…apparently that’s a trick that Martha Stewart missed. Or maybe gasoline just smells good to him.
  • Quentin stuffs the bloody clothes into his bag and puts on the clean set.
  • His thoughts roam over the time after the wedding – after Caddy leaves.
  • Quentin remembers that Caddy always wanted to be king or general when they were little – never the princess or the queen.
  • It’s dark out.
  • Quentin remembers running up to his bedroom at home in the dark.
  • His thoughts are getting pretty fragmented, running over various moments of his past.
  • He brushes his teeth, thinking about home and the dark and Caddy.
  • The clock begins to strike three-quarters past the hour.
  • Quentin remembers earnestly assuring his father that he’s committed incest.
  • Father says that Quentin’s earnestness is what convinces him that Quentin must be lying – even though he knows how much Quentin would like to believe that Caddy hasn’t had sex with other men.
  • Father asks if he ever tried to make Caddy sleep with him.
  • Quentin says he was afraid – afraid she might have said yes.
  • Understanding Quentin’s despair, Father says that the worst tragedy humankind knows is the realization that all human action is temporary.
  • In other words, even saving Caddy through incest won’t last forever.
  • The clock bell (in the present day) stops tolling.
  • Quentin carries his watch into Shreve’s room and puts it in Shreve’s desk.
  • He places his letter to Shreve in his pocket, thinking that he’ll have to stop at the post office.
  • He forgets to brush his hair, but luckily Shreve has a brush.

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