Dopke 1

Joe Dopke

Mrs. Smith

A.P English

August 20 2012

The Past

Time: possibly one of the single most abstract concepts to have been created. And it’s so

common; it’s taken for granted! Ask the average anyone, “What time is it?” and a single,

definitive answer replies. Ask that same person, “What is time?” and an opaque, jumbled

cacophony of “well, um…”, “you see, uh…” and “it’s, um…” (Most likely mumbled) is the

response. With this paradox, exploring and explaining time becomes a tricky matter. Hence why

authors such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Toni Morrison receive such high

praise. They grasp the definition of time enough to be able to infuse it within their works.

Examining three specific books of theirs, The Sound and The Fury, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, and

Beloved reveals time, more specifically the past and its relationship to humans, to be very

significant in the comprehension of what time really is.

There are three elements that make up each novel’s own interpretation of the past, those


 How what happens in the past shapes both the present and the future (cause and


 How both obsession and ignorance of said past inevitably leads to problems in the

future (focus on the effect)

 How to move on from the past and successfully recover (dealing with the effect)

His inability to distinguish the past and present result in “random” episodes of crying (at least to those who can’t read Benjy’s mind they seem so) fueled by memories of when “things were wrong”. and is obsessed with it.” The only sane person in the book seems to be Dilsey. affecting all three of the Compson sons negatively. but not allow it to control her the way it did to the members of the Compson family. Dopke 2 Examining each novel one by one and applying these lenses will serve to connect these themes clearly. being selfishly focused almost entirely on the future ignored the past that had brought him to his current static position of “power. Benjy. Faulkner uses the past to push the Compson family progressively lower. embodies complete ignorance’s final outcome. the black maid who boasted the emotional and mental strength to recognize her past. Her acts continued to cause him great emotional torment. choosing instead to acknowledge and learn from it. a loss he held against her for throughout the book’s timeline. The last son Jason lost a well-paying job as a result of Caddy. In The Sound and The Fury. harbors a deep brooding obsession towards Caddie. The next son Quentin even more so than Benjy. then Caddie’s acts were the matches. up until the moment he committed suicide. the most significant “thing” being when Caddie would arrive home from sex. being severely mentally retarded. In his perspective her acts violated a traditional southern code. His mind however. he figuratively became the embodiment the code’s beliefs. If those beliefs were firewood. Benjy paradoxically is both ignorant of the past he thrives in. As The Sound and The Fury describes the rotting away of a once . The ultimate nail in the coffin of the Compson family’s reputation is pounded when Caddie commits acts of promiscuity. choosing to rather die than live with thoughts of his sister and have them haunting him for the rest of his life. a code to which he was so loyal.

” Morrison uses the past as what holds the family both statically in place. Beloved comes back to remind Sethe of her existence. Brick feels no desire to sleep with her. Dopke 3 prominent southern lineage. as she had promised to Big Momma. and that very past is reflection of Beloved. the final book has a lot to do with children. I would repress my memories as well. but unfortunately for her. Brick broke his ankle on the local track field. attempting to relieve the glory days that were his years in high school. he becomes disgusted. as drinking ones problems away has been considered a solution that only causes more problems for a very long time. inherent problems with devotion to this southern moral code. The reconciliation is finally conceived when Maggie demands Brick and her consummate their marriage. and because Sethe had become callused to Beloved’s uncomfortable spiritual presence at 124. to manifest the memories that were Sweet Home. but in similar theme. “If I had that sort of pain. to which he chose (again) to wash away his pain. the future was a matter of . The timeline of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof starts when Maggie attempts to seduce Brick. When Big Daddy discovers this relationship. Skipper. The book doesn’t say mention whether Maggie has a child later. reflecting just as with Quentin. Brick’s alcoholism starts as an escape he foolishly chose to deal with the death of his friend and secret lover. described perfectly by the quote “To Sethe. Sethe and admit. taking his booze away until he complies. Because Sethe killed Beloved as a child. deciding to drink instead. whose interpretation is the horrors of slavery. The recollections recorded in the book Beloved admittedly left those reading it disturbed. the reader cannot help but resonate sympathy with the main character. Therefore. This refuge screams ignorance. the next work catches a family right at the moment where decay stands on their porch. consequently relieving her of one fixed purpose. Along with that. and what pushes them lower as well. the inhumaneness of it all.

” only to switch it with another purpose. instead of choosing to overcome them. being a rejuvenated obsession over Beloved. Finally. the constant theme of “reconciliation not retribution” becomes a staple to their pages. where Paul D’s volunteering to care for Sethe finally opens up his heart. Paul D. where time becomes only a tool used to spread this greater message. lonesome girl due to the consequences of her mother’s infanticide and what that meant to the other African American’s in their town of Cincinnati. accept them. The final message Morrison leaves the reader with reconciliation regarding the story. Dopke 4 keeping the past at bay. where Beloved childishly controls Sethe.” To which Sethe weakly replies “It was out of love. These consequences are embodied physically when Nelson Lord asks her “Didn’t your mother get locked away for murder? Wasn’t you there with her when she went?” scarring her view on the people of her town for years. emotionally scarring contents can’t hurt you unless you let them weaken you. Throughout these works. This new obsession returns Sethe to a state almost similar to that of slavery. This is why Denver believed it was only a matter of time before Sethe killed her again. Denver becomes a quiet. The past’s harmful. the other character. not allowing himself to have feelings of love. and allow their lessons to be heard. further driving the dehumanizing aspects of slavery into his psyche. has become so hardened by his experiences. justifying her actions with “You killed me.” The two other characters of the book embody a similar problems to all the other characters previously mentioned. . that his heart is described as a “rusted over tobacco tin”.