The Sound and the Fury Theme of Memory and the Past
For the characters in The Sound and the Fury, memories of the past dominate the present day. Revolving around Caddy, the runaway daughter of the family, the novel works (and re-works and re-works) the consequences of her disappearance from her brothers’ lives. Everything important happened Before. Before what? Well, before the time of narration. Also before characters have a chance to figure out what response they should have. Focusing on the past, characters let the present moment slide by – and only later do they realize how much of their lives they’ve lost.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Do any of the members of the Compson family actually live in the present?
- How much does the fact that the novel is set in the South (after, of course, the Civil War) affect the way that race is discussed?
- How do the Compson brothers deal with the past differently? Who has the best grasp on their relationship with their past?
- Is Caddy the central figure in all the brothers’ memory? What else factors into their childhood memories?
Chew on This
Of all the Compson brothers, Jason Compson is the one most obsessed with the past.
It doesn’t really matter when Benjy’s or Jason’s section of the novel occurs. Although The Sound and the Fury is set in 1910 and 1928, the novel’s timeline actually stops much earlier.