Study Guide

The Sound and the Fury Sexuality and Sexual Identity

By William Faulkner

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

Caddy was all wet and muddy behind, and I started to cry and she came and squatted in the water. (1.212)

Dirty drawers are a foreshadowing of sexual experience. All of Caddy’s brothers seem to be obsessed with this memory of Caddy – this is Benjy’s memory of the scene.

He went and pushed Caddy up into the tree to the first limb. We watched the muddy bottom of her drawers. Then we couldn't see her. We could hear the tree thrashing. (1.498)

Caddy’s muddy drawers are linked to her sexual experience, but they’re also a foreshadowing of the way that she will eventually disappear. Her adventurousness is an often-overlooked aspect of her disappearance.

Caddy put her arms around me, and her shining veil, and I couldn't smell trees anymore and I began to cry. (1.507)

Benjy comprehends the world through his sense of smell. When Caddy no longer smells like trees, he understands that she’s no longer innocent.

I got undressed and I looked at myself and I began to cry. Hush, Luster said. Looking for them aint going to do no good. They're gone. (1.947)

Benjy is castrated after he attempts to reach out to girls walking by the road. This is the one passage which overtly references the castration – which is only presented here as a loss which has already occurred.

Because it means less to women, Father said. He said it was men invented virginity not women. Father said it's like death: only a state in which the others are left and I said, But to believe it doesn't matter and he said, That's what's so sad about anything: not only virginity […] (2.13)

Ouch. Mr. Compson’s got a point here. Musing that Southern values for women (including chastity) were invented by men who want idealized images of the women in their lives, he suggests that virginity is only as important as Quentin thinks is. Like so many other things in this novel, it’s all in Quentin’s head.

Why wont you bring him to the house, Caddy? Why must you do like n***** women do in the pasture the ditches the dark woods hot hidden furious in the dark woods. (2.76)

Quentin’s attempt to hurt Caddy comes off as a racial slur – he tries to shame her by equating her with black women. It’s interesting, though, that he seems pretty investing in imagining Caddy running off into the woods. There’s an awful lot of adjectives here – almost as if he’s trying to picture what Caddy does in the woods as he’s speaking to her.

There was something terrible in me sometimes at night I could see it grinning at me I could see it through them grinning at me through their faces it's gone now and I'm sick (2.214)

Caddy’s description of her sexual encounters is a bit strange, right? She sees in the men she meets a reflection of the horrible things in herself. This is one of the only insights we get into Caddy’s character – and it suggests that she might be as submerged in her own world as either Quentin or Jason.

Because women so delicate so mysterious Father said. Delicate equilibrium of periodical filth between two moons balanced. Moons he said full and yellow as harvest moons her hips thighs. (2.379)

So, in other words, a woman’s essence is that fact that she menstruates. It’s not such a thoughtful analysis of women – but then again, it’s not an uncommon one. Note how Mr. Compson uses the image of the moon to denote the time between a woman’s periods – but his mind shifts to use the roundness of moon as a metaphor for the human body.

Once a b**** always a b****, what I say. (3.1)

Ah, Jason. A lovely man. Faulkner doesn’t give us any time to doubt that we hate him – after all, any character who starts his section with these lines is probably a total jerk, right?