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Themes

Setting a black family and a white family together in the post-Reconstruction South, Faulkner makes racial relations an inevitable center of the novel. What does it mean to be white in the North? What does it mean to be black? How does this change when you’re in the South? How are kinship structures formed across racial and social boundaries? How do differences in economic and social status cloud our understanding of differences between races? More broadly, how does a white author steeped in Southern values accurately and sympathetically relate the experiences of his black characters? They’re all tricky questions – and The Sound and the Fury pursues them relentlessly, arriving at answers that are rarely easy.

Questions About Race

  1. Why isn’t Dilsey’s section written in the first person (like the other sections are)?
  2. How do the Gibsons relate to the Compsons?
  3. Quentin recognizes the Gibsons as kin – but only after he moves to the North. Why isn’t this possible for him in the South?
  4. The Sound and the Fury often contains the racial reflections of characters which are stereotypical – if not outright racist. How does this influence your sense of the novel’s attitude towards/ thoughts on race?

Chew on This

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

By giving the last section of the novel to Dilsey, Faulkner attempts to argue for a form of racial equality that the characters of the novel themselves can’t recognize.

By refusing to allow Dilsey to speak for herself in the final section of The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner falls prey to the same sorts of racial blindness which he depicts in earlier sections of the novel.

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