While re-reading Quentin
's section in The Sound and the Fury
I was struck by this line. Repeated twice throughout his story
, it seems to prod at a deep disconnection
. The faulty parenting skills of the Compson children's cold, self-involved mother are delved into in great detail over the course of the book
, but the maelstrom
of words pouring through Quentin's section highlighted what, for me, seems to be a major theme in Faulkner
The title of the book is derived from a Shakespeare quote found in Act 5, Scene 5 of Macbeth. Before going to his death, Macbeth characterizes life as a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." This counterbalance of harmony and noise weaves its way into Faulkner's novel specifically through language. In the first section, devoted to the broken memories of the idiot son, Benjy, we are presented with a character embodying the description in the Shakespeare quote. Unable to speak his thoughts or truly comprehend reality, Benjy is relegated to a state where the sole vocalization of his emotions is found either through crying or bellowing. After his primary caretaker, found in the form of his sister, Caddy, is disowned from the family, Benjy is left without any solid connection to the external world.
Quentin, although granted a firmer possession of his mental faculties, is just as lost as Benjy. Raised by a detached mother and an alcoholic nihilist of a father, he has been raised in a world where language and time have no meaning. The first memory we are presented with in Quentin's section is his father's gift of a watch with the words "I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it's excruciatingly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father's." As the memories flood in on each other, the language breaks down into an onslaught of sentences and associations without order. It is left to the reader to make sense of Quentin's mind. Eventually, it becomes clear that the reason for the absurd disorder of these thoughts is a near complete dissociation of word from meaning. Without an internalized sense of meaning derived from a positive connection with a discourse, the very possibility of finding truth in language is destroyed. It is the fault of the parents for not instilling a connection with the environment that creates this abscess of meaning. This lack is what causes Quentin to conclude "if I'd just had a mother so I could say Mother Mother."