My first impression of the book's narrative can be summarized as; (1) Everything has a smell for Benji, (2) Quienten notices his shadow, (3) Jason is angry, and (4) Dilsey sees the light. If this summary doesn't clearly communicate a story to you, welcome to The Sound And The Fury
! The book doesn't tell a story. Rather it is a description of a condition from four different points of view. The condition being described is that of the corruption of Southern aristocratic values. The first three views of the four being expressed are from the perspective of the three brothers in the family. Their views are that of a southern family aware of their aristocratic past but with a present psychological condition of utter demise. The fourth view is described from the view point of an omniscient narrator describing the life of the African-American house servant and her family. This last view together with the Easter timing gives a theme of possible resurrection and renewal for the future. It's interesting to note that the family in degenerate condition is made up of descendants of the slave owning class, and the productive workers who are the hope for the future are descendants of slaves.
The very end of the book contains a clash that is symbolic of the future conflict to come as the Old South changes into the New South. Luster, the black grandson of Dilsey, is driving a horse and wagon into the town square where a marble statue of a Confederate soldier stands. Luster decides to turn toward the left. Suddenly, the youngest son, Jason, jumps up into the wagon and forces the horse to turn right instead. This disagreement between whether to turn left or right appears symbolic of disagreements over directions for the future.
Readers are likely to feel a bit lost while navigating through the interior monologs, tricks with time, jumbled narrative, play of memory, and also saga of decay and decline of a southern family. Appreciation of the book begins after the reader has finished reading the book. The fun comes from trying to put the pieces together and to begin marveling at the abundance of meanings that can be gleaned from the book. Perhaps it is a 20th Century version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Is Benjy a Christ figure? Is there a message of resurrection and renewal? Is it only about corruption of Southern aristocratic values? Is it about false and true visions? Why does the time motif keep showing up? Is it a contrast of order and chaos? What is the meaning of the frequent references to shadows. What is the symbolic meaning of Quentin's watch? How about the role of water in the story? Or is the book a prime example of the failure of language and narrative by being itself a failure to communicate?
How do you rate the number of stars for a book that is torture to read, but a pleasure to interpret? Well, for me it's three stars.