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Themes

In this novel, innocence comes in strange forms. There’s the mother who preaches a sort of rigid withdrawal from life, a son whose attempts to speak result in forced castration, and a son so obsessed with innocence that he kills himself to stop thinking about it. As Mr. Compson says, innocence can only be recognized once it’s been lost. That doesn’t mean, however, that people won’t chase the ideal it represents forever. No coming of age story is complete without a loss of innocence; in The Sound and the Fury, we have loss upon loss upon loss.

Questions About Innocence

  1. Is Quentin (Jr.) an innocent girl? If so, why is she not likeable?
  2. Does Quentin actually understand his father’s philosophies about sexuality and morality? If so, why does he still commit suicide?
  3. Other characters think of Benjy as a simple child. Does his section of the novel disprove this view? Why or why not?
  4. Does Faulkner offer any positive versions of innocence in this novel? What does this say about the possibility for innocence in the world he depicts?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Quentin’s emotional breakdown at the end of his section results not from anger at the loss of Caddy’s innocence but despair at the loss of his own.

The image of Caddy’s muddy drawers is the key to the novel because it confuses temporality, combining innocence with evidence of later guilt.

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