You have to love Shreve. We sure do. For one thing, he’s totally not from the South. He’s not even from the northern U.S. He’s Canadian. And in Faulkner’s world, that puts him off the social map entirely. Luckily for Shreve, that’s exactly where he wants to be. He’s able to laugh at the pretensions of other undergrads (and their scheming mothers), making him a small dose of normalcy in Quentin’s crazy world.
Shreve is Quentin’s roommate at Harvard. He’s not the best looking of men: Faulkner describes him as "pumpkin-faced," "pink-cheeked," and bespectacled. What he lacks in looks, however, he makes up for in personality. He looks out for Quentin, making sure that he doesn’t get sucked up into an elite Southern transplanted society set up by Gerald Bland’s mother, Mrs. Bland. Shreve’s able to ridicule what he sees as superficial pretensions – after all, he’s Canadian. He doesn’t have to care what Mrs. Bland thinks of him. In fact, when Quentin worries that Mrs. Bland might not like the fact that he’s about to leave her party, Shreve sagely says, "Hell with them […] Tell her her option expired at sunset" (2.893). For that, dear friends, he earns our respect.
We here at Shmoop have a hunch that Faulkner needed an outsider in his novel to get some sort of perspective on this whole North/South thing. Otherwise, it just seems far too complex and tense and unsolvable. How can you ever untangle all the tensions and differences of one country that seems to be composed of two entirely difference cultures? The answer, says Shreve, may just be to laugh the whole thing off.