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(In light of the term "self-conscious") examine the features of Faulkner’s ‘modern’ narrative through close focus on Quentin’s section in The Sound and the Fury.

(In light of the term "self-conscious") examine the features of Faulkner’s ‘modern’ narrative through close focus on Quentin’s section in The Sound and the Fury.

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...the text is very self-conscious, as it is the form of the novel that tells the readers the most about the character’s state of mind. ...it is not the events that tell the readers who Quentin is, but it is the way in which those events are presented. It is Faulkner’s stylistic choices that define the character and his section.
...the text is very self-conscious, as it is the form of the novel that tells the readers the most about the character’s state of mind. ...it is not the events that tell the readers who Quentin is, but it is the way in which those events are presented. It is Faulkner’s stylistic choices that define the character and his section.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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02/11/2014

 
Alexandra Christy - 06555349
For Richard Gray the term ‘self-conscious’ provides us with ‘the most convenientshort hand way of referring to a particular quality that Faulkner demonstrates in hiswork.’ In the light of Gray’s comment, examine the features of Faulkner’s ‘modern’narrative through close focus on Quentin’s section in
The Sound and the Fury
.Please note your answer should focus on Quentin’s section.The term “self-conscious” is not a straightforward one to apply to
The Sound and the Fury
, or indeed any of the works by William Faulkner. In many interviews andlectures on his work, Faulkner seems to be acutely unaware of the role his techniquesand the features of his style of narrative play within the text. When asked by a studentat the University of Virginia about the symbolism of shadows in
The Sound and the Fury
, his response gave the definite impression that he wasn’t aware of any suchthing, answering, “That wasn’t a deliberate symbolism” and, after discussing it,finishing with, “I think that if it had any reason that must have been it.”
1
. It is difficultthen, when the author himself seems so blissfully unconscious of his part as author inshaping the narratives of his characters, to label his work as self-conscious. In spite of this however, it seems undeniable that the novel is aware of what it is doing, and the problems its narrative form raises.
2
Examining Faulkner’s choices to presentQuentin’s section in a fragmentary way, to present Quentin’s memories sporadicallyrather than chronologically and to deliberately misuse grammar and syntax in certain passages of Quentin’s section should lead towards a deeper understanding of the term“self-conscious” as it applies to Faulkner’s
The Sound and the Fury
.
1
Martin, p. 56
2
Kartiganer, p. 613Page 1 of 9
 
Alexandra Christy - 06555349
When picking up a novel for the first time, one generally expects to begin atthe beginning, or at the very least for the novel to have a beginning, middle and anend. One expects some exposition, and an explanation of the characters or the setting,and to follow the plot in chronological order, at least for the most part.
3
This is not thecase in Faulkner’s
The Sound and the Fury
, at all. The novel, including Quentin’ssection, is fragmentary and encourages a sense of alienation. The general story of thissection, describing the events of Quentin’s day, is fairly simple to follow, but it is theway in which passages amid the section are presented that “demands attention”
4
.While it has been suggested that the beginning of the section “cannot be said … togive the reader the impression of looking directly into Quentin's mind”
5
, in fact thereare subtle hints towards the fragmentary insight Faulkner is already giving intoQuentin’s mind. Coming after Benjy’s section, in which there are numerous shifts intime, the curious phrase in the first sentence of Quentin’s section, “and then I was intime again, hearing the watch”
6
hints straight away that Quentin has difficultyremaining in one time period, and that he too will end up shifting between the pastand present within his narrative. Also, the lack of quotation marks when he says,“when Father gave it to me he said, Quentin, I give you the mausoleum of all hopeand desire...”
7
warns to the fact that this is not a conventional narrative, and preparesthe readers to expect something unusual. It already feels as though Quentin isthinking, or remembering, quicker than he can express in full and proper sentences.What the readers do get, then, are fragments of Quentin’s mind, insights to hismemories and thoughts:
3
Bowling, p. 555
4
Martin, p. 46
5
Bowling, p. 557
6
Faulkner, p. 63
7
Faulkner, p. 63Page 2 of 9
 
Alexandra Christy - 06555349
…it would be nice for them down at New London if the weather heldup like this. Why shouldn’t it? The month of brides, the voice that breathed
She ran right out of the mirror, out of the banked scent. Roses. Roses. Mr and Mrs Jason Richmond Compson announce themarriage of.
Roses. Not virgins like dogwood, milkweed. I said Ihave committed incest, Father, I said. Roses. Cunning and serene. If you attend Harvard one year and don’t see the boat-race, there should be a refund. Let Jason have it. Give Jason a year at Harvard.Shreve stood in the door, putting his collar on, his glassesglinting rosily…
8
Prepared for the shifts in time by the previous section, the italicised section alerts thereader to a change, that the description is no longer of the present. What isn’texpected, however, is that it appears in the middle of a sentence, and that thesentences themselves are not complete either. And when the text switches back toregular font, it seems that the narrative is now neither in the past nor the present, butsomewhere else. Indeed, there has been a shift into the thoughts of Quentin, into his psyche. The ideas, like the sentences, are not complete, but are mere fragments of memories or emotions. Words with certain associations, such as “roses” appear ontheir own, signifying a feeling or an object that represents a memory. It is deliberatelyconfusing; purposely alienating the reader because, after all, only the person to whomthe thoughts belong can truly understand them. They cannot be expressed completelyand accurately in words, and it is the inability to express himself that leads toQuentin’s suicide. Quentin’s section highlights the overarching feature in the novel -the “succession of grotesquely shaped fragments struggling to discover their own
8
Faulkner, p. 64Page 3 of 9

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