Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

I am very proud to say that I finished this book. Now that that's out of the way, I should tell you that this post will not at all resemble a review, because I feel completely underqualified to pass any kind of judgment on this book.

I know there are a lot of you out there who have either never read the book, or couldn't finish it. That's the very reason I finished it. (Shamelessly.) I made very little effort to really understand the book. In the beginning, I almost believed that I would finish it and have so little to think or say about it when I was done that I would hardly be able to blog about it, but I actually have plenty to say about it.

The truth is, I'm not sure Faulkner even really intended this book to be understood. (But like I said, I can't make any real judgments, because I haven't devoted any time to the study of the book or Faulkner--I just read through it.) It reminds me of art. Most art is pretty much beyond me. Even the art that seems obvious (nothing is obvious to me in art). But even though I can't see much meaning in a lot of art, that doesn't mean I can't look at it and feel emotion. And isn't that kind of the point of art, anyway? That's exactly how I felt about The Sound and the Fury. I don't even really know enough about it that I could write an accurate summary. But I sure felt emotional about it. The first chapter made me feel uneasy and almost afraid of what the rest of the book had to offer. The second chapter made me feel sick but had me flipping pages constantly. The third chapter made me so angry I had trouble finishing. And the last chapter...well, in the last chapter, I finally got to the part that wasn't very emotional at all, but was all the descriptive and introductory stuff you usually find in the first chapter of the book.

I've heard people say that the best way to read The Sound and the Fury is to read it backwards. And believe it or not, it would actually be way easier to understand that way. But I'm not sure that it would necessarily be easier to read. I think the last chapter might be Faulkner's way of peering over his glasses at us pointedly and saying, "Now do you see the value of the other chapters?" (I don't know whether he wore glasses or not, but he probably did at some point, right?)

Anyway. The last chapter had so little of the emotion of the previous chapters that I actually began to miss those crazy confusing chapters. (Well, the third was a lot less confusing than the first two, but still wasn't completely clear.) I realized that most books make a point of making things clear in the very beginning; this book, on the other hand, drew me in completely by emotion, with no explanation or sense whatsoever. And it was actually a really amazing way to do it. (Not that I would want every author to do that...)

Like I said, I didn't make a study of this book; I read it for fun. (Whether I actually had any fun is a different story.) And I'm kind of glad I didn't look up everything about it, because I might have missed the emotional experience I had. But I will freely admit that after the first half of the book or so, I looked up the summary on Cliff Notes, and I really am glad I did that. There are some small aspects of the book that really confused me and it was really helpful to just get a little clarification on events and the relationships of the characters, so I could focus on other aspects of the book. For example, there are two major characters named Quentin, one male and one female. Quite confusing. Also, what happens at the end of chapter 2? (I missed that completely before I read the summary, but, um, it was one of the biggest events of the book. Whoops.)

I actually would like to study the themes and everything of this book if I ever get a chance while I'm still in college, but if I don't, I probably won't ever re-read it. The truth is, even though I could see the genius in it and I undoubtedly will never forget the characters, it wasn't exactly a cheerful read. Reading it, like I said, made me feel uneasy, sick, and angry. Not really a good combination. The book is definitely not for the faint of heart. And, like a lot of great art, there's only so long you can stare at it without needing a lot of help to understand it. (Well, that's true for me, at least.) Reading the book definitely gave me new insight into the Modernists, though, and if that's what you're looking for, The Sound and the Fury is a good book to read.


  1. You did it! Good for you. Some time I'll have to try it again, or some other Faulkner thing. I was initialy attracted to this particular book of his because the title is from King Lear, which is not exactly enough motivation to finish it, it would seem. I'm glad you finished it and gained something from the experience!

    1. Thank you! I didn't know where the title came from ( studying whatsoever, haha), so that's interesting to know. I hope I'll get to read your thoughts if you ever try it again!

  2. I feel like I should congratulate you on finishing! I'm oddly intrigued to read this one now but since my recent experience with Faulkner was far from enjoyable, I probably should just leave it for now.

    1. Ha ha, thank you. You read As I Lay Dying, right? I remember reading your review. This book really wasn't an enjoyable experience either, so it's probably a good idea to leave it.