Through a Piece of Colored Glass : An Analysis of Caddy Compson in The Sound and the Fury
Abstract: The Sound and the Fury is William Faulkner’s story of the Compson family’s downfall in the American South during the early 20th century. The novel illustrates the impact on the cultural identity of the South of strictly defined social roles and the tension they created in the aftermath of slavery and defeat in the Civil War. In my analysis, I have chosen to focus on gender issues, especially in their Southern manifestation. The Compsons’ daughter, Caddy, figures prominently in the sons’ narratives, but is only portrayed through their perceptions and memories. My aim is to determine Caddy’s significance in the novel by exploring her relationships with her brothers, as seen through their eyes, and how she is characterized by them. In Benjy’s narrative, I examine her actions as a little girl in light of the Eve myth and the icon of the virgin mother. Quentin’s obsession with Caddy's sexuality as a teenager reveals the implications of associating female sexuality with death, the role of language in reproducing and combating established gender power structures, and the impact of traditional gender roles on women and men. Jason’s binary categorization of women as virgins or whores turns the few glimpses of Caddy as a mother into that of a woman treated as a commodity of exchange. In each of their narratives, Caddy is a dynamic character whose words, body, and actions expose prevailing social and gender power struggles. By conjuring her presence through her absence, her brothers reveal the depth and destructiveness of the social imperatives that underlie their attempts to control her. I suggest that Caddy’s role in the novel is to disrupt the brothers’ narratives and challenge the underlying Southern social and gender constructs that imbue them.
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