Study Guide

Quentin Compson (Jr.) in The Sound and the Fury

By William Faulkner

Quentin Compson (Jr.)

Quentin (Jr.) is a rebellious teen who chases after the circus. With "gaping" red lips and angry, hostile gestures, Quentin seems to spurn just about everyone she meets.

When you consider her life history, it’s no wonder that the girl’s not all warm and fuzzy. See, Quentin is Caddy Compson’s daughter. She should have grown up with Herbert Head as a father. Let’s be clear: he’s no prize. But at least he’d actually be a real father-figure. Instead, of course, Herbert figured out that Quentin wasn’t really his kid. He ditched Caddy. Caddy, in turn, ditched Quentin to be raised by her grandmother. And, of course, with Uncle Jason. By the time little Quentin shows up at the house, her grandfather (Mr. Compson) is steadily drinking himself to death because Quentin’s uncle (also Quentin) has killed himself. Quentin (Jr.) basically walks into a crypt. After all, Mrs. Compson is convinced that the family is cursed, Jason just hates everyone, and Benjy isn't so good at communicating with anyone at all.

Despite her unfortunate upbringing, Quentin does have Dilsey to rely on. Perhaps that’s why it’s so surprising that Quentin turns on Dilsey, calling her a "damn old n*****" and pushing her away. We have to admit, it doesn’t make us like her much.

Then again, we’re not sure that we’re supposed to like her. In some ways, Quentin’s the symbolic End of the Compson Family. She’s the result of all of Caddy’s abandonment, Mrs. Compson’s kooky notions of justice, Quentin’s self-immolation, and Jason’s spite. As she herself despairs, "I dont care…I'm bad and I'm going to hell, and I dont care" (3.96). She’s only about seventeen (after all, she’s still in school), but already she’s lost any sort of individual personality. When Mrs. Compson breaks into her room, she finds a space that "was not a girl's room. It was not anybody's room, and the faint scent of cheap cosmetics and the few feminine objects and the other evidences of crude and hopeless efforts to feminise it but added to its anonymity, giving it that dead and stereotyped transience of rooms in assignation houses" (4.146).

If there’s no real Quentin to inhabit the room, then it’s probably not a big surprise that she disappears by the end of the novel. She runs off with a circus man, to be precise. If you were thinking that the circus was probably a good place for the whole Compson family, well, you just hit analytical gold. Faulkner couldn’t have shoved it into our faces any more obviously than this.