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The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury

by William Faulkner

Language and Communication Theme

Capturing the complexity of human thought production and human memory, Faulkner quickly became one of the leading figures of American Modernism. In The Sound and the Fury, multiple narrators produce stories which weave together the past and the present in restless, unending searches for a language that will allow them to convey the pain of the present and the vanishing promise of the past. Faulkner’s a technically brilliant writer; his range is evident in the spectrum of voices that he creates within one novel. Each character wields language in an utterly unique way.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Benjy’s section of The Sound and the Fury has been critically acclaimed as the most innovative section of the novel. It’s also pretty hard to understand. What seems formally interesting or different about Benjy’s section? How does it fit into the novel as a whole?
  2. During the Reverend Shegog’s sermon, he switches from very precise diction to a form of black dialect. How does this change get tracked in the novel? Why is it important?
  3. Is Benjy’s form of communication less effective than other characters’?
  4. Which section of The Sound and the Fury sounds most like spoken language? Which best represents a character’s thoughts?

Chew on This

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

Because Jason’s section of The Sound and the Fury is the least formally erratic, it creates a character that’s the least interesting.

Although Benjy Compson is presented as an "idiot," it’s Quentin Compson who is least able to communicate effectively.

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