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The Sound and the Fury
by William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury Chapter 3 Summary
Jason’s narration takes place exactly one day before Benjy’s section (the first section of the novel). Jason’s a pretty great guy. In fact, he’s such a great guy that we’re going to re-print his first line, word for word. Here goes: "Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say" (3.1). See? Isn’t he lovely? Just wait. He gets better. He’s angry because "she" has skipped school again. Jason is pretty sure that "she" spent all her time gobbing makeup onto her face this morning, as well. Mother moans about the lack of discipline "she" has received. Who’s "she"? Just wait. It’s interesting to note, though, that Jason’s not too concerned with her as a person – just as a "she," a woman. Jason’s pretty sure that "she" isn’t skipping school to do things she could do in public. In other words, he thinks she’s sleeping around. He gets a great deal of delight out of sharing his opinion with Mother. Mother begins to cry. She’s been cursed by her family. Jason threatens to quit the store. Then Benjy would go to Jackson – but at least he could follow the girl around all the time. Mother cries some more and whines about how she knows she’s a burden to everyone. We’ve got to admit, we agree. So does Jason. Jason says that he’ll teach the girl to mind him, even if it takes a few beatings. Mother cries some more. Jason goes down into the kitchen, where he sees the girl. She’s begging for another cup of coffee from Dilsey, but Dilsey says that seventeen-year-old girls don’t need that much caffeine. Jason insists that she come over to him. He grabs her arm. She threatens to slap him, but he grabs both her hands. Dilsey yells at Jason, trying to stop him, but Jason ignores her. Jason accuses Quentin of hanging out with men. Actually, he accuses her of hanging out with "dam slick-headed jellybeans," but we’re guessing he means men. Quentin? Didn’t we just read a section about Quentin? And wasn’t he a guy? Well, yes. But this Quentin is a generation younger. Also, she’s a girl. Quentin swears at Jason. Jason threatens to whip Quentin. All in all, it’s just another pleasant morning at the Compson house. Dilsey throws herself between Jason and Quentin, saying that Jason should hit her if he absolutely needs to beat someone. Quentin turns to Dilsey, saying she wants her mother. Dilsey assures Quentin that she’ll protect her from Jason. Quentin pushes her aside, calling her an "old nigger" and runs off. In other words, she’s very grateful. She’s just not so good at expressing her feelings. Jason goes outside and berates Luster because he hasn’t changed the tire on Jason’s car yet. Luster says that he can’t take care of Benjy and do other things. Jason mutters about having to "feed a whole dam kitchen full of niggers" who can’t do anything. Benjy moans and blubbers. Jason decides to leave without changing the tire. As he pulls out, he sees Quentin by the drive. Jason asks what she’s done with her schoolbooks. After all, he paid for them. Quentin retorts that her mother paid for the books. She’d starve and go naked before she takes anything from Jason. Quentin threatens to tear her dress off to prove her point. Jason is inclined to encourage her…until he realizes that all the neighbors would see. Blind with rage, he forces her to stop. Quentin becomes quiet. She apologizes. She wishes she had never been born. Jason agrees. He drops her off at school – but not before he threatens to whip her if she ever skips school again. He’s got a position in the town to uphold, and he won’t have her ruin it. After he leaves the school, Jason stops at the post office. Jason drives to the store, where Earl tells him to help out in the back. When no one’s looking, Jason opens his mail. He’s got a letter from Caddy. She asks whether Quentin has been receiving her letters. Caddy’s convinced that Jason is hiding her letters – and maybe even the money she’s been sending for Quentin. She threatens to come visit if Jason doesn’t tell her how Quentin is doing. Earl yells at Job, the black man who works in the store. Jason mutters to himself about the worthlessness of black labor. We told you he was a great guy. (Although, come to think of it, we haven’t noticed Jason doing much work at all.) At ten, Jason starts talking to a guy outside the store. Cotton’s a speculation crop – in other words, its prices fluctuate frequently. Jason blames the Jews for this. Jason heads to the telegraph office to check crop prices. Sure enough, cotton’s up a few cents. Looking at the telegram he’s just gotten, Jason decides not to sell. After all, he pays ten buck a month for information – it better be good. In case we haven’t mentioned it, Jason thinks about money. All the time. Jason remembers the letter from Caddy and quickly wires her a very, very short response. Doc walks up and asks what he’s doing. Jason tells him to mind his own business. Doc asks him if the telegram tells him to sell. Jason tells him to mind his own business. Another crop report comes in – cotton is down one point. Back at the store, Jason opens up a letter he received from Lorraine. Lorraine, as it turns out, is Jason’s mistress in Memphis. Her letter informs him that no good parties are in town when "daddy" is gone. Jason tears up the letter. He never keeps things written by women. In fact, he never writes women, either. He thinks about the last time he saw Lorraine: he gave her forty dollars, then told her never to call him. He’ll let her know when he’s coming back to Memphis. Earl walks in, and Jason shoves all his other letters into his pocket – although he thinks that maybe he should read Quentin’s before he goes home. Earl tells him to help a customer. Jason helps the guy, although he silently makes fun of the poor man the whole time. As he helps other customers, he reflects bitterly that Quentin’s education never did him a bit of good. At Harvard, they teach you how to swim at night – without knowing how to swim. In other words, Quentin drowned himself. Jason remembers that Caddy’s husband promised to send Jason to school. That never happened. Instead, Caddy sent her daughter, Quentin, back to the Compson house. Jason sarcastically thinks that this seems about perfect – it’s one more mouth to feed. Jason remembers his father’s funeral: his mother and Uncle Maury prepare to leave, but Mother decides not to take Benjy to the cemetery – it’d upset him. Jason notices Uncle Maury’s black gloves. Jason remembers paying for those gloves years ago, one month after Father came home with Caddy’s baby. Mother, hysterical, had wanted to get money from Caddy’s ex-husband. Father refuses. Mother can’t see why he wouldn’t give the baby money…unless he knows…. In other words, the baby’s not his. Mother worries that Jason told Caddy’s husband out of spite. Dilsey places Quentin in the children’s room. Mother worries that the room will contaminate the child – after all, it’s been full of bad luck. Dilsey scoffs at this idea. Moaning about the shame of having a daughter "cast off" by her husband, Mother wanders off. Mother agrees to let Quentin sleep in Caddy’s room, but she insists that "that name" will never be mentioned. Mother tells Jason (again) that he’s her only hope. All she has left now are Jason and Uncle Maury. Jason remarks that he could do without Uncle Maury. Remembering his father’s burial, Jason decides again that Uncle Maury is useless. Jason also remembers that Caddy showed up at her father’s funeral. No one had told her about his death – she just read it in the paper. Jason notices that someone’s put expensive flowers on his father’s grave – and on Quentin’s. Angry that Caddy showed up, Jason boasts that no one even speaks her name at the house. Caddy offers to pay Jason fifty dollars for a sight of her daughter. Jason, ever the businessman, asks for one hundred. After some haggling, she agrees. Jason tells her where to stand, and then he gets Quentin and the buggy. When they pass Caddy, Jason whips the horses so that they fly by her. Jason watches with delight as Caddy runs frantically after the buggy. The next day, Caddy shows up at the store. Jason’s furious. She should know better than to come into the town. Caddy wants to see her baby, but Jason refuses. He threatens to tell Mother she’s here if she doesn’t leave immediately. Unable to do anything, Caddy leaves. Jason realizes that Dilsey will probably let her into the house, so he rushes home. Sure enough, she’s been there. He can tell by the way that Benjy is bawling. Furious, he threatens to "fix" Dilsey. We’re not sure what that means, but it doesn’t sound too pleasant. The next time Jason speaks to Caddy, he tells her that he’ll send Dilsey away if she ever lets Caddy in again. Caddy’s furious, but she can’t do anything. Finally, she begs Jason to be nice to Quentin. Caddy will send money for all her needs – and even some money for Mother – but she wants Jason to take care of Quentin. Jason snaps at her. Caddy starts laughing hysterically. She asks Jason to promise her to take the money she sends. Of course, it’s money. Jason promises to take the checks – but he doesn’t say anything about using them for Quentin. That was many years ago. Today, Jason opens Quentin’s letter. Caddy has enclosed a money order for fifty dollars. Jason is furious. Of course Caddy would send a money order, not a check. (Anyone can cash a check – but only Quentin can cash money orders.) All of a sudden, he hears Quentin coming in the back door of the store. She immediately asks for her letter. Jason tells her that only Mother got a letter from Caddy. Quentin begs for her letter – she knows Caddy sent one for her. Jason denies it. A customer appears, and he has to leave for a minute. While he’s gone, Quentin runs to his desk. She’s taking out the letter when he gets back. Angry, Jason hits her knuckles against the desk to get her to drop the letter. She begs him to let her have it – her mother promised a letter. Oh, and also money. Jason still holds the money order. He says Caddy only sent Quentin ten dollars. He bullies Quentin into accepting only ten dollars, although she’s almost certain that Caddy sent more. Jason forces Quentin to sign the money order without looking at it, then gives her ten dollars. In other words, he’s scamming his niece. Pretty great, huh? Jason needs some blank checks. Hmm….we’re a bit suspicious. He tries to get some from the printing press, but they refuse. He finally finds some old check books in the old opera house and doctors a check. Placing the doctored check into Caddy’s letter, Jason heads home. On the way, he stops at the telegraph office. Cotton is down three points. As it turns out, cotton dropped twelve points over the noon hour. Doc tells Jason that it’s rising again. Doc wonders if Jason is planning to sell his stock. Jason tells him to mind his own business. It seems like they have a lovely friendship. Jason finds a black man on the street and sends him to get Jason’s car. Then he grumbles about how long it takes the man to return. All the time, Jason avoids Earl, who’s surely looking for him – after all, Jason’s skipping work. At home, Jason gives the letter to Mother. He encourages her to burn it. After all, he’s the only one who supports the family. Mother refuses to accept Caddy’s money. As it turns out, Caddy sends them two hundred dollars a month. Mother just doesn’t know that Jason keeps it. For a moment, Mother contemplates keeping the money. Jason convinces her not to – after all, they’ve been burning checks for fifteen years. That’s $50,000. Why stop now? Mother agrees. She won’t take money from a fallen woman. It’s lucky that they’re so morally upright, huh? Mother wants to have lunch; Dilsey informs her that Quentin hasn’t come yet. Jason decides that they’ll eat without her. During the meal, Jason mentions that he’d like to send Benjy to Jackson. They might as well see something come from their tax money. Mother moans again. She knows what a burden she is to her darling son. Quentin still hasn’t arrived. Mother sends Dilsey out to look for her. Jason offers to "straighten her out" again. Mother thinks that Jason’s too strict with Quentin. He has his Uncle Maury’s temper. That reminds Jason: he received a letter from Uncle Maury, asking for money. Mother agrees to bankroll him – after all, he’s her brother. Jason says he needs to deposit his own paycheck, as well. Er…we mean…Caddy’s money. But Mother doesn’t need to know that. Jason heads to the telegraph office. Cotton is down thirteen points. Jason’s furious. Why hasn’t he gotten a telegram updating him? What’s he paying those New York stock analysts for? Back at the store, Earl asks Jason why he’s so late. Jason says he was at the dentist. Earl says he might have said something about it earlier. Earl says that he’d like to fire Jason, but he’s too sorry for Jason’s mother. As it turns out, Earl knows that Jason took the thousand dollars that he was supposed to invest in Earl’s store and bought a car, instead. Earl tries to offer Jason advice, but Jason scorns his help. Earl’s not so worried about the car – but he does have a pretty good hunch that Jason’s been stealing from his mother and Caddy. Jason wonders how he can do anything, considering the family he has. He remembers how his mother went around in a black veil and dress for an entire day when she found out that Caddy had kissed a boy. That was back when Caddy was fifteen. Mother hasn’t really ever recovered. Jason scoffs at his blood – he may have governors and generals in his background, but they’ve done him no good at all. The band starts playing – the entire town starts to head over to the circus. Jason stops to talk to Job. All of a sudden, Quentin appears at the end of the alley. Jason checks his watch. It’s half an hour before school gets out. A man with a thin red tie is with Quentin. Quentin herself is all "gummed up" with makeup, Jason notices. He’s convinced that she’s trying to be a prostitute. He runs out into the street to follow her. As he runs, he thinks about all the ways that the family has screwed him over. Quentin seems to have disappeared. Frustrated, Jason heads back to the office. He tells Earl he’s heading home, then he gets in the car. As Jason drives, he realizes that he’s getting a splitting headache. At home, Jason counts his money, then locks it into a box. His mother thinks something is wrong – as she reminds Jason, gasoline has made him sick for years. Maybe driving the car causes him to be ill? Jason ignores her, gets back in the car, and drives to town. On the way, he sees a car skid into an alley – and he realizes that the driver has a red tie on. Jason speeds after it. After a while, he sees the car parked by the woods. Angry, he pulls his car up and stalks into the fields to find Quentin. As Jason gets angrier, his narration gets more disjointed. He thinks about how angry he is at Quentin, what a promiscuous she is, and how he’ll "fix" her. By the time he gets back to his car, he hears the other car squealing away, its horn blaring. Jason gets into his car, thinking that perhaps one side is lower than the other – only once he starts driving, however, does he realize that he’s got a flat tire. He borrows a pump, pumps up the car, and buys a "shot" (a.k.a. a good ol' fashioned Coke) the drugstore. In the telegraph, he notices that cotton is down forty points. He’s lost major, major money. Jason yells at the telegraph operator because he didn’t send Jason updates on the market. The operator says he tried – Jason was gone. Angry, Jason orders the operator to send a telegraph to his firm with one word: BUY. He’s a financial genius. Back at the store, Jason goads Earl into firing him. Earl won’t do it – he’s too sorry for Jason’s mother. Jason starts thinking about his family. That’s the reason he doesn’t marry Lorraine, he reflects. Good women sleep around, he thinks, and prostitutes are just prostitutes. Jason passes the Methodist church and thinks that the pastor is probably getting fat off of other people’s money. The band starts up again, louder and faster than before. Jason listens, thinking angrily about how much money the circus must make. He tells Earl he’s leaving – he has a headache. Earl’s worried – Jason gets headaches too often. Maybe this one was caused by the dentist? Jason forgot all about his lie. He struggles to cover his tracks. As Jason leaves the store, he runs into Job. Job tells him that Jason’s managed to fool everyone – even a man so smart that he can’t keep up with himself. When Jason asks who that is, Job replies, "Mr. Jason Compson." Furious, Jason thinks some awful things about black people. Jason drives home. Luster tells him that his mother and Quentin have been fighting – and Dilsey’s upstairs with them, trying to stop them. Luster begs Dilsey to allow him to go to the show. Dilsey refuses to give him any money. Jason remembers that he’s got some tickets to the show in his pocket. He offers to sell them to Luster for a nickel. Luster says he doesn’t have a nickel – but he begs for the tickets. He promises to change the car tires for a month. Jason drops the tickets into the stove. Wow, we’re glad he’s able to get his kicks by tormenting a kid. Jason sits down to read the paper. Dilsey tells him dinner’s on the table – neither of the others is coming down to eat. Jason refuses to start until they come. Eventually, both women come down. During dinner, Jason tells his mother that he generously lent his own car to a show man who was afraid that his sister's husband was running around with "some town woman." Not so much, but... ... Mother buys it. She gently chastises Jason for being too good and trusting. Jason watches Quentin, who’s stopped eating completely. Quentin turns to her grandmother, her face contorted with pain, and asks why Jason is so mean to Quentin. Jason’s mother gets angry at Quentin, reminding her that Jason is the closest thing to a father she’ll ever know. Upset, Quentin says that the things she does are responses to Jason’s meanness. If she’s bad, he’s made her so. She runs up to her room. Mother sighs. Quentin, she thinks, has inherited all of Caddy’s bad traits – and some of the other Quentin’s, too. Perhaps the child is a judgment on her. Mother admits that she’s let Jason down. After all, all the money went to send Quentin to Harvard. Jason was supposed to go to work in the bank where Caddy’s husband, Herbert, worked. That never happened – so Mother blames Caddy. And, of course, herself. Mother reveals that she locks Quentin into her room every night to make sure that she studies. Jason goes up into his room and counts his money.
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