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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golf Ball as a Symbol of Circles Within Circles, 29 Aug. 2004
This review is from: The Sound And The Fury (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Before commenting on the content and value of the book, let me warn that this is one of the most difficult to understand and appreciate of all American novels. Several factors combine to create that difficulty. First, one of the narrators is a person with mental deficiencies. Second, the first section uses an unusual flashback technique that cannot be understood very clearly until you have read the whole book (perhaps more than once). Third, Faulkner is sparing in his clues of how the stories weave together. You have to watch carefully for them. Fourth, the sensibilities of the day meant that much is implied rather than stated overtly. But you have to understand what those hints are about, or you miss the story. Finally, there is much dense Southern black dialect here that requires slow reading to capture the sense of. Fifth, the interior dialogues are interspaced with external dialogues . . . which can create confusion. Sixth, there is a lot of crude stream of consciousness material here, but it will not enchant you as Joyce's or Proust's will. Seventh, the book is heavy with unusual symbolism that is easy to miss. Eighth, the center of the story is often drawn in by looking at the edges rather than looking directly at the center.
So if you like a challenge (like extremely complex puzzles), you will love The Sound and The Fury. If you like your fiction more straightforward, you are going to wonder where you are at times. If you like new experiences in your reading, you will find the book very rewarding.
You will meet three generations of Compsons in this novel, along with their servants, friends, and coworkers. Each Compson is experiencing perceptual disconnections that make them ineffectively connected to reality. But each is different in their dysfunction. You will move inside the minds of three of them to experience those perceptions for yourself. It will not be pleasant. All of this occurs against the backdrop of a precipitous drop in economic and social status in a small community where status is very important.
If you are like me, you will find the beauty of this story in its structure, symbolism, and the character of Dilsey, the family's servant.
The structure allows the reader to discern the book's reality from a subjective perspective, like good art does. There's lots of raw material for judgment here, and your opinions will slowly build. There are obvious connections among the characters and the story, but these connections leave you with basic questions about what causes what. Those questions of causation are one of the strengths of the novel. Because you can start with any circumstance and move off to look for connections, and you will rejoin yourself at the same circumstance eventually. Even in our disconnectedness, we are powerfully connected is the message. I think of this book as a five dimensional puzzle: with time, space, self-interest, subjective perception, and family being the five dimensions. Pulling it all into a coherent image is a worthy task that should delight your mind.
I normally would not dwell on one symbol in a book as complex as this one, but I was very impressed by how well Faulkner boiled down his message into one tiny golf ball. I also mention this symbol here because it will also save you rereading the book at least once if you pay attention to that symbol the first time you read it, and realize that it is important. The roundness of the golf ball also gives you a hint of the book's structure at a time when that structure is totally opaque. You will be returning to variations on this symbol through several circles in the rest of the novel. I will not say any more about this ball's symbolism, because that could ruin the story for you.
Finally, Dilsey is as fine a human being as you can hope to meet in person or in any novel. She reminds me of a good family friend of ours, Cecile Antaya. Her heart is full of practical Christian charity and patience. Her support is critical to the family and to the story. A good question to ask yourself at the end is whether or not this book is really focused on Dilsey rather than on the Compsons.
The title also deserves mention. This book is far more aural than almost any other novel. Sounds reverbrate at key moments to provide critical meaning. The book often speaks without sounds, but there is much fury when the words are internal. Some of the sounds, especially Benjy's sounds, help cause the fury. You will enjoy the interplay of the story with the title.
Difficult books make us better readers. I hope you will find these challenges rewarding! After you have finished making The Sound and The Fury part of yourself, I suggest that you conduct a little experiment. Take a mealtime conversation that you participated in. Write down what you remember and what you thought was going on. Then ask each of the other people to do so as well without any checking with one another. When everyone is done, compare the results and discuss those results. I think what you will find is that you have created a minor version of the communication issues in this novel. I think you will understand much more about what Faulkner was saying about perception as a result.
Build understanding by being more forgiving!
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Initial post: 18 Aug 2009 13:34:25 BDT
Rusty says:
I didn't think this novel was about Dilsey at all. She is a supporting character, involved by default in the Compson household because she is their servant. Maybe Faulkner wanted to include one character who loves this family more than it loves itself... but her significance doesn't seem to go much further than this.
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Donald Mitchell

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