Concept of Time in the Sound and the Fury Research Proposal

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Faulkner and Time

Fragmented Time and the Modern Era

The plot of the Sound and the Fury is simple, if one considers the actions that take place in the present time. However, it can be difficult to follow, as Faulkner continually interjects memories into the present timeline. Flashbacks can be a powerful tool that can add depth to characterization, but they can be confusing and difficult to keep up with as well. Faulkner uses the concept of time to suggest that time is not a constant that continually moves forward. His revolutionary use of Benjy to explore human perceptions of time is one of the key elements that mark the novel as a modern work. This research will explore the hypothesis that Faulkner's use of time is a more accurate representation of human thought and that in Faulkner's view, linear time is only an illusion.

About The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury is a classic work of the modernist period. Unlike the works of Victorian writers, the work does not have a single, central character and conflict. It centers on four separate characters, the Compson children. The story examines the corrupt nature of Southern values, using time as the lens through which to view these values. Faulkner continually switches viewpoint between the different characters, providing the reader the ability to see the events through more than one perspective. The children act as narrators, as does Faulkner himself at times.

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Faulkner uses stream of consciousness style, but he does so through the eyes of the various characters. First, we are introduced to the inner world of the characters. Through their inner thoughts, we begin to envision the world outside of them. Faulkner artfully switches tone with each changing narrator. The story takes place in Jefferson, Mississippi and at Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts, depending on which narrator is speaking.

Research Proposal on Concept of Time in the Sound and the Fury Assignment

In terms of setting, the events of the story take place in both the past and the present. At times, it is up to the reader to decide which is which. Three of the chapters take place over Easter Weekend in 1928. Quentin's section takes place in June of 1910. The memories of the narrators take place anywhere from 1898 to 1928. It is often difficult to determine the exact time frame from contextual clues. Faulkner must purposefully inform the reader where they are in order to make the events coherent. Faulkner continually switches tenses to provide the reader with clues.

The major conflict in the story is the fall of the Compson family's fall from power in the old South. The conflict is presented against the backdrop of the power structure of the aristocracy and the expectations and morals imposed by the old social system. Conflict arises from the moral dilemmas of the characters, such as Caddy's promiscuity and resulting hurried wedding, Quentin's suicide, Benjy's castration, and the death of Mr. Compson by way of alcoholism. These actions are not those that are expected of a Southern Aristocratic family. The immoral underpinnings of the family are revealed through the eyes of the children, rather than through the family members who commit the acts.

Faulkner uses many symbols to convey the motif and themes of the story. The key themes of the story are time, order, chaos, and the shadows that lurk behind the material world. Time is the most obvious theme in the work. Time is represented through two contrasting symbolisms. Water represents the flow of time. Quentin's watch also represents the passage of time, only in a more ordered fashion than water. Water represents free-flowing time with a more random pattern. This imagery conveys a sense of chaos, juxtaposed against the more familiar, orderly sense of time with which the readers are more comfortable.

Faulkner uses several images to foreshadow Caddy's downfall. For instance, Caddy's muddy underclothes and Caddy's perfume suggest her future pregnancy and forced marriage. The use of foreshadowing adds the element of the future and continual march of time in the novel. Faulkner generously intertwined the past, present, and future using his imagery.

Comparative Views of Time

Faulkner used his characters to compare and contrast their perceptions of time. The Sound and the Fury represents a stylistic invention of the modernist movement called "stream of consciousness." This same style can be found in the works of other modernist writers, such as James Joyce and Jean Toomer. This style of writing attempts to mimic the natural flow of human thought. It explores the inner concepts that make us human and separates our psychological lives from our material lives. Through the use of stream of consciousness and a comparison of the concept of time in his characters, Faulkner proposes that our psychological concept of time is different from a material concept of time.

Faulkner proposes that time is not constant, or that it occurs in an orderly fashion. The character of Benjy is used to represent the non-linear, abstract concept of time. Benjy does not have a concept of time and is unable to distinguish between the present and what happened in the past. However, this ability gives him a perspective and the ability to draw connections between the past and the present that are not obvious to others. Benjy's concept of time contrasts with Quentin's concept of time Quentin is trapped by the linearity of time. He is trapped by his memories of the past and is unable to let go and live in the present. Quentin breaks his watch as a symbol of stopping the march of time. The clock's ticking seems like a prison sentence, marching forward one-step at a time. Faulkner uses the characters of Benjy and Quentin as a symbol of the various ways in which time can be perceived.

Faulkner juxtaposes his characters' concept of time to illustrate various facets of the concept of time. For instance, Quentin's brother Jason, uses time only for personal gain. Jason is obsessed with the wasting of time. Quentin has spent much of his life wasting time and living in the past. Jason lives very much in the present. Dilsey is at peace with time, unlike the Compsons who feel the need to use time to their advantage at every opportunity. Dilsey sees her life in the bigger perspective of the universe. The Compsons, Jason, and Quentin cannot see beyond their own lives. They have a very narrow view of themselves and of their lives.

Faulkner's presentation of time coincides with his concept of order and chaos. Humans use many devices to provide a sense of order to the concept of time. We use watches and calendars to help us organize time. These tools give the illusion that time is linear. As humans watch the measured march of time, it reminds them of many things, such as their mortality. Dilsey is the only character who has come to terms with this concept of time. Benjy uses a series of memories to organize new information. When the pattern does not fit, he becomes upset. The Compsons and other characters use time for their personal gain and to help them become more attached to the material possessions. Faulkner uses this group of characters to stress the concept that time has both material and ethereal aspects. Each character attempts to use time to create order from chaos in their own fashion.

The most profound example of time is when Quentin breaks his watch. The march of time continues, even after he leaves the broken watch behind in his room. One cannot escape the march of time. The watch is symbolic of the past, as it once belonged to Mr. Compson and symbolizes the past glory of the family. It also symbolizes the future and the passage of time. The watch did not stop ticking, reminding Quentin of his inability to stop time. This scene is one of the most profound examples that illustrates Faulkner's concept to time and his connection with the eternal nature of time. Unlike Victorian writer, Faulkner does not assume that time is linear.

Faulkner uses his characters as a tool for comparing and contrasting various ways of looking at time. Time frees some characters and imprisons others. Time never changes, only the reactions of the characters change in relation to time. Time is a constant force regardless of how the characters perceive time. Time is a force that acts upon the characters. It has a different affect on each of them, but it is not time that changes in every circumstance but the reactions of the characters. In this way, time becomes a character. Time is an unseen actor in the play. Time is both a friend and a foe. Time is a hero and a villain. Each character has a different concept of time, but this concept is only a creation of their own perceptions and experiences. They also have perceptions of the other characters in the novel. Time is no different from any other character in the story from this… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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