Рефераты. American Literature books summary

as Benjy watches the various members of his family move in and out of the

mirror: "Caddy and Jason were fighting in the mirror . we could see Caddy

fighting in the mirror and Father put me down and went into the mirror and

fought too . He rolled into the corner, out of the mirror. Father brought

Caddy to the fire. They were all out of the mirror" (64-65). The mirror is

a frame of reference through which Benjy sees the world; people are either

in or out of the mirror, and he does not understand the concept of

reflection. Like the mirror, Benjy's section of the book provides readers

with a similar exact reflection of the world that Benjy sees, framed by his

memories. Characters slide in and out of the mirror of his perception,

their conversations and actions accurately reported but somewhat distorted

in the process.

As the "tale told by an idiot," Benjy's section makes up the center kernel

of the story of the Compson family tragedy. And the scene of Damuddy's

death in many ways makes up the center around which this section and the

entire story revolve. Faulkner has said that the story grew out of the

image of a little girl's muddy drawers as she climbs a tree to look into

the parlor windows at the funeral taking place. From this image a story

evolved, a story "without plot, of some children being sent away from the

house during the grandmother's funeral. There were too young to be told

what was going on and they saw things only incidentally to the childish

games they were playing" (Millgate, 96). This original story was entitled

"Twilight," and the story grew into a novel because Faulkner fell in love

with the character of this little girl to such an extent that he strove to

tell her story from four different viewpoints.

If this one scene is the center of the story, it is also a microcosm of the

events to follow. The interactions of the children in this scene prefigure

their relations in the future and in fact the entire future of the Compson

family. Thus Caddy's soaking her dress in the water of the branch is a

metaphor for the sexual fall that will torment Quentin and ruin the family:

She was wet. We were playing in the branch and Caddy squatted down and got

her dress wet and Versh said, "Your mommer going to whip you for getting

your dress wet."

"It's not wet." Caddy said. She stood up in the water and looked at her

dress. "I'll take it off." she said. "Then it'll be dry."

"I bet you won't." Quentin said.

"I bet I will." Caddy said.

"I bet you better not." Quentin said.

"You just take your dress off," Quentin said. Caddy took her dress off and

threw it on the bank. Then she didn't have on anything but her bodice and

drawers, and Quentin slapped her and she slipped and fell down in the water


Caddy sullies her garments in an act that prefigures her later sexuality.

She then takes off her dress, a further sexual metaphor, causing Quentin to

become enraged and slap her. Just as the loss of her virginity upsets

Quentin to the point of suicide, his angry and embarrassed reaction to

taking off her dress here reveals the jealous protectiveness he feels for

her sexuality. Benjy, too, is traumatized by the muddying of Caddy's dress:

"Caddy was all wet and muddy behind, and I started to cry and she came and

squatted in the water" (19). Just as her sexuality will cause his world to

crack later on, her muddy dress here causes him to cry.

Jason, too, is a miniature version of what he will become in this scene.

While Caddy and Quentin fight in the branch, Jason stands "by himself

further down the branch," prefiguring the isolation from the rest of his

family that will characterize his later existence (19). Although the other

children ask him not to tell their father that they have been playing in

the branch, the first thing he does when he sees father is tattle. He is as

perverse and mean here as he is sadistic in the third section of the book.

His reaction to Damuddy's death, too, is a miniature for the way he will

deal with the loss that he sees in Caddy's betrayal of the family later on:

"Do you think the buzzards are going to undress Damuddy." Caddy said.

"You're crazy."

"You're a skizzard." Jason said. He began to cry.

"You're a knobnot." Caddy said. Jason cried. His hands were in his pockets.

"Jason going to be rich man." Versh said. "He holding his money all the

time" (35-36).

Here Jason cries over the loss of Damuddy with his hands in his pockets,

"holding his money," just as later he will sublimate his anger at Caddy's

absence by becoming a miserly workaholic and embezzling thousands of

dollars from Quentin and his mother.

The scene ends with the image of Caddy's muddy drawers as she climbs the

tree: "We watched the muddy bottom of her drawers. Then we couldn't see

her. We could hear the tree thrashing . . . . the tree quit thrashing. We

looked up into the still branches" (39). This image of Caddy's muddy

undergarments disappearing into the branches of the tree, the scene that

prompted Faulkner to write the entire novel, is, as critic John T. Matthews

points out, an image of Caddy disappearing, just as she will disappear from

the lives of her three brothers:

What the novel has made, it has also lost . . . . [Caddy] is memorable

precisely because she inhabits the memories of her brothers and the novel,

and memory for Faulkner never transcends the sense of loss . . . . Caught

in Faulkner's mind as she climbs out of the book, Caddy is the figure that

the novel is written to lose (Matthews, 2-3). Thus the seminal scene in

this section of the story is that of the sullied Caddy, "climbing out of"

Benjy's life.

The scene of Damuddy's death is not the only part of this section that

forecasts the future. Like a Greek tragedy, this section is imbued with a

sense of impending disaster, and in fact the events of the present day

chronicle a family that has fallen into decay. For Benjy, the dissolution

of the life he knows is wrapped up in Caddy and her sexuality, which

eventually leads her to desert him. For his mother and the servants, the

family's demise is a fate that cannot be avoided, of which Benjy's idiocy

and Quentin's death are signs. This is what prompts Roskus to repeatedly

vow that "they aint no luck on this place," and what causes mother to

perform the almost ritualistic ablution of changing Benjy's name. It is as

if changing his name from Maury, the name of a Bascomb, will somehow avert

the disastrous fate that the Compson blood seems to bring. This

overwhelming sense of an inescapable family curse will resurface many times

throughout the book.

Summary of June Second, 1910:

This section of the book details the events of the day of Quentin's

suicide, from the moment he wakes in the morning until he leaves his room

that night, headed to the river to drown himself. Like Benjy's section,

this section is narrated in stream of consciousness, sliding constantly

between modern-day events and memories; however, Quentin's section is not

as disjointed at Benjy's, regardless of his agitated mental state. As with

Benjy, most of the memories he relates are centered on Caddy and her

precocious sexuality.

The present day:

Quentin wakes in his Harvard dorm room to the sound of his watch ticking:

"when the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtain it was between seven

and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch" (76).

This is the watch his father gave him when he came to Harvard. He tries to

ignore the sound, but the more he tries, the louder it seems. He turns the

watch over and returns to bed, but the ticking goes on. His roommate Shreve

appears in the doorway and asks him if he is going to chapel, then runs out

the door to avoid being late himself. Quentin watches his friends running

to chapel out the window of his dorm room, then listens to the school's

bell chiming the hour (8:00 a.m.).

He goes to the dresser and picks up his watch, tapping it against the side

of the dresser to break the glass. He twists the hands of the watch off,

but the watch keeps ticking. He notices that he cut himself in the process

and meticulously cleans his wound with iodine. He painstakingly packs up

all his clothes except two suits, two pairs of shoes, and two hats, then

locks his trunk and piles his schoolbooks on the sitting-room table, as the

quarter-hour bell chimes.

He bathes and puts on a new suit and his (now broken) watch, puts his trunk

key into an envelope addressed to his father, then writes two noes and

seals them. He goes out the door, bumping into his returning roommate on

the way, who asks him why he is all dressed up. The half-hour chimes and

Quentin walks into Harvard Square, to the post office. He buys stamps and

mails one letter to his father and keeps one for Shreve in his coat pocket.

He is looking for his friend "the Deacon," an eccentric black man who

befriends all the Southern students at Harvard. He goes out to breakfast;

while he is eating he hears the clock strike the hour (10:00 a.m.).

Quentin continues to walk around the square, trying to avoid looking at

clocks, but finds it impossible to escape time like that. He eventually

walks into a jeweler's and asks him about fixing his watch. He asks if any

of the watches in the window is right, and stops the jeweler before he can

tell him what time it is. The jeweler says that he will fix his watch this

afternoon, but Quentin takes it back and says he will get it fixed later.

Walking back out into the street, he buys two six-pound flat-irons; he

chooses them because they are "heavy enough" but will look like a pair of

shoes when they are wrapped up and he is carrying them around the Square


He takes a fruitless cable car ride, then gets off the car on a bridge,

where he watches one of his friends rowing on the river. He walks back to

the Square as the bell chimes the quarter hour (11:15), and he meets up

with the Deacon and gives him the letter he has written to Shreve, asking

him to deliver it tomorrow. He tells the Deacon that when he delivers the

letter tomorrow Shreve will have a present for him. As the bell chimes the

half-hour, he runs into Shreve, who tells him a letter arrived for him this

morning. Then he gets on another car as the bells chime 11:45.

When he gets off the car he is near a run-down town on the Charles River,

and he walks along the river until he comes across three boys fishing on a

bridge over the river; he hides the flat irons under the edge of the bridge

before striking up a conversation with the boys. They notice that he has a

strange accent and ask if he is from Canada; he asks them if there are any

factories in town (factories would have hourly whistles). He walks on

toward the town, although he is anxious to keep far enough away from the

church steeple's clock to render its face unreadable. Finally he arrives in

town and walks into a bakery; there is nobody behind the counter, but there

is a little Italian immigrant girl standing before it. A woman enters

behind the counter and Quentin buys two buns. He tells the proprietress

that the little girl would like something too; the proprietress eyes the

girl suspiciously and accuses her of stealing something.

Quentin defends her and she extends her hand to reveal a nickel. The woman

wraps up a five-cent loaf of bread for the girl, and Quentin puts some

money on the counter and buys another bun as well. The woman asks him if he

is going to give the bun to the girl, and he says he is. Still acting

exasperated, she goes into a back room and comes out with a misshapen cake;

she gives it to the girl, telling her it won't taste any different than a

good cake. The girl follows Quentin out of the store, and he takes her to a

drugstore and buys her some ice cream. They leave the drugstore and he

gives her one of the buns and says goodbye, but she continues to follow

him. Not knowing exactly what to do, he walks with her toward the immigrant

neighborhood across the train tracks where he assumes she lives. She will

not talk to him or indicate where she lives. He asks some men in front of a

store if they know her, and they do, but they don't know where she lives

either. They tell him to take her to the town marshal's office, but when he

does the marshal isn't there.

Quentin decides to take her down to her neighborhood and hopefully someone

will claim her. At one point she seems to tell him that a certain house is

hers, but the woman inside doesn't know her. They continue to walk through

the neighborhood until they come out on the other side, by the river.

Quentin gives a coin to the girl, then runs away from her along the river.

He walks along the river for a while, then suddenly meets up with the

little girl again. They walk along together for a while, still looking for

her house; eventually they turn back and walk toward town again. They come

across some boys swimming, and the boys throw water at them. The hurry

toward town, but the girl still won't tell him where she lives.

Suddenly a man flies at them and attacks Quentin; he is the little girl's

brother. He has the town marshal with him, and they take him into town to

talk to the police because they think he was trying to kidnap the girl. In

town they meet up with Shreve, Spoade and Gerald, Quentin's friends, who

have come into town in Gerald's mother's car. Eventually after discussing

everything at length, the marshal lets Quentin go, and he gets into the car

with his friends and drives away.

As they drive Quentin slides into a kind of trance wherein he remembers

various events from his past, mostly to do with her precocious sexuality

(to be discussed later). While his is lost in this reverie the boys and

Gerald's mother have gotten out of the car and set up a picnic. Suddenly he

comes to, bleeding, and the boys tell him that he just suddenly began

punching Gerald and Gerald beat him up. They tell him that he began

shouting "did you ever have a sister? Did you?" then attacked Gerald out of

the blue. Quentin is more concerned about the state of his clothes than

anything else. His friends want to take the cable car back to Boston

without Gerald, but Quentin tells them he doesn't want to go back. They ask

him what he plans to do (perhaps they suspect something about his suicidal

plans). They go back to the party, and Quentin walks slowly toward the city

as the twilight descends.

Eventually Quentin gets on a cable car. Although it is dark by now, he can

smell the water of the river as they pass by it. As they pass the Harvard

Square post office again, he hears the clock chiming but has no idea what

time it is. He plans to return to the bridge where he left his flatirons,

but he has to wash his clothes first in order to carry out his plans

correctly. He returns to his dorm room and takes off his clothes,

meticulously washing the blood off his vest with gasoline. The bell chimes

the half-hour as he does so. Back in his darkened room, he looks out the

window for a while, then as the last chime of the three-quarters hour

sounds, he puts his clothes and vest back on. He walks into Shreve's room

and puts a letter and his watch in the desk drawer. He remembers that he

hasn't brushed his teeth, so he goes back into his room and takes the

toothbrush out of his bag. He brushes his teeth and returns the brush to

the bag, then goes to the door. He returns for his hat, then leaves the


Quentin's memories:

Quentin's memories are not as clearly defined or as chronologically

discernible as Benjy's. There are three important memories that obsess him.

Benjy's name change, 1900: Dilsey claims that Benjy can "smell what you

tell him;" Roskus asks if he can smell bad luck, sure that the only reason

they changed his name is to try to help his luck.

Quentin kisses Natalie, undated: Natalie, a neighbor girl, and Quentin are

in the barn and it is raining outside. Natalie is hurt; Caddy pushed her

down the ladder and ran off. Quentin asks her where it hurts and says that

he bets he can lift her up. [a skip in time] Natalie tells him that

something [probably kissing] is "like dancing sitting down" (135); Quentin

asks her how he should hold her to dance, placing his arms around her, and

she moans. Quentin looks up to see Caddy in the door watching them. Quentin

tells her that he and Natalie were just dancing sitting down; she ignores


She and Natalie fight about the events that led to Natalie being pushed off

the ladder and whose fault it was; Caddy claims that she was "just brushing

the trash off the back of your dress" (136). Natalie leaves and Quentin

jumps into the mud of the pigpen, muddying himself up to his waist. Caddy

ignores him and stands with her back to him. He comes around in front of

her and tells her that he was just hugging Natalie. She turns her back and

continues to ignore him, saying she doesn't give a damn what he was doing.

Shouting "I'll make you give a damn," he smears mud on her dress as she

slaps him. They tumble, fighting, on the grass, then sit up and realize how

dirty they are. They head to the branch to wash the mud off themselves.

Caddy kisses a boy (1906): Quentin slaps Caddy and demands to know why she

let the boy kiss her. With the red print of his hand rising on her cheek,

she replies that she didn't let him, she made him. Quentin tells her that

it is not for kissing that he slapped her, but for kissing a "darn town

squirt" (134). He rubs her face in the grass until she says "calf rope."

She shouts that at least she didn't kiss a "dirty girl like Natalie anyway"


Caddy has sex with Dalton Ames, 1909: Caddy stands in the doorway, and

someone [Quentin?] asks her why she won't bring Dalton Ames into the house.

Mother replies that she "must do things for women's reasons" (92). Caddy

will not look at Quentin. Benjy bellows and pulls at her dress and she

shrinks against the wall, and he pushes her out of the room. Sitting on the

porch, Quentin hears her door slamming and Benjy still howling. She runs

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