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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.
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.
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."
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.