Study Guide

The Sound and the Fury Guilt and Blame

By William Faulkner

Guilt and Blame

"I'm going to tell on you." Jason said.

He was crying. "You've already told." Caddy said. "There's not anything else you can tell, now."(1.322-3)

Jason’s a tattler. It’s pretty much what he does all of his childhood. Caddy’s the only person who calls him on it – which may explain why he feels so much hatred towards her.

"They aint no luck on this place." Roskus said. "I seen it at first but when they changed his name I knowed it." (1.359)

Roskus’s superstitions may seem a bit unrealistic, but they allow him to understand the history of the Compson household without placing blame on members of the Compson family (unlike Mrs. Compson or Jason, who blame just about everybody).

I said, Why couldn't it have been me and not her who is unvirgin (1.13)

Quentin blames Caddy for having sex. His obsession with her purity becomes the focal point of his life.

Women are like that they dont acquire knowledge of people we are for that they are just born with a practical fertility of suspicion that makes a crop every so often and usually right they have an affinity for evil for supplying whatever the evil lacks in itself for drawing it about them instinctively as you do bed-clothing in slumber fertilising the mind for it until the evil has served its purpose whether it ever existed or no (2.103)

Mr. Compson’s understanding of gender leads him to all sorts of generalizations – in this case, one which blames women in general for the mistakes which Caddy makes.

what have I done to have been given children like these Benjamin was punishment enough and now for her to have no more regard for me her own mother I've suffered for her dreamed and planned and sacrificed I went down into the valley yet never since she opened her eyes has she given me one unselfish thought at times I look at her I wonder if she can be my child except Jason he has never given me one moment's sorrow since I first held him in my arms I knew then that he was to be my joy and my salvation I thought that Benjamin was punishment enough for any sins I have committed I thought he was my punishment for putting aside my pride and marrying a man who held himself above me I dont complain I loved him above all of them because of it because my duty (2.154)

This is Mrs. Compson’s one big moment in this text. It’s interesting that her monologue is worked into Quentin’s section – suggesting that perhaps her logic influences him more than we’d otherwise assume.

Ill make you say we did Im stronger than you Ill make you know we did you thought it was them but it was me listen I fooled you all the time it was me (2.563)

Quentin’s attempt to assume the guilt for all of Caddy’s sexuality hinges on his ability to be physically strong – but we’ve seen him get his butt kicked by both Dalton Ames and Gerald Bland. Hmm. No wonder it doesn’t work out. In this particular passage, he tries to convince Caddy that he can change her history just by being stronger than she is.

Well, Jason likes work. I says no I never had university advantages because at Harvard they teach you how to go for a swim at night without knowing how to swim and at Sewanee they dont even teach you what water is. (3.147)

Jason spends his life blaming just about everyone in his family for his own situation in life. Give the guy credit, though – he can be pretty funny. Hmm. That’s a good point. What do you make of the fact that the most despicable guy in the novel is also the funniest?

Mother says. "I know I’m just a troublesome old woman. But I know that people cannot flout God’s laws with impunity." (3.168)

Jason appreciates his mother’s willingness to blame her family’s fate upon herself – if only because it allows him to agree with her.

"But she must never know. She must never even learn that name. Dilsey, I forbid you ever to speak that name in her hearing. If she could grow up never to know that she had a mother, I would thank God." (3.170)

The fact that Mrs. Compson is willing to cut Caddy completely out of her daughter’s life allows us to see just how deeply she believes in her own sense of divine "justice."