The Sound and the Fury

Summary of April Seventh, 1928:

This section of the book is commonly referred to as "Benjy's section" because it is narrated by the retarded youngest son of the Compson family, Benjamin Compson. At this point in the story, Benjy is 33 years old - in fact, today is his birthday - but the story skips back and forth in time as various events trigger memories. When the reader first plunges into this narrative, the jumps in time are difficult to navigate or understand, although many scenes are marked by recurring images, sounds, or words. In addition, a sort of chronology can be established depending on who is Benjy's caretaker: first Versh when Benjy is a child, then T. P. when he is an adolescent, then Luster when he is an adult. One other fact that may confuse first-time readers is the repetition of names. There are, for example, two Jasons (father and son), two Quentins (Benjy's brother and Caddy's daughter), and two Mauries (Benjy himself before 1900 and Benjy's uncle). Benjy recalls three important events: the evening of his grandmother "Damuddy's" death in 1898, his name change in 1900, and Caddy's sexual promiscuity and wedding in 1910, although these events are punctuated by other memories, including the delivery of a letter to his uncle's mistress in 1902 or 1903, Caddy's wearing perfume in 1906, a sequence of events at the gate of the house in 1910 and 1911 that culminates in his castration, Quentin's death in 1910, his father's death and funeral in 1912, and Roskus's death some time after this. I will summarize each event briefly.

The events of the present day (4/7/28) center around Luster's search for a quarter he has lost somewhere on the property. He received this quarter from his grandmother Dilsey in order to go to the circus that evening. Luster takes Benjy with him as he searches by the golf course that used to be the Compson's pasture, by the carriage house, down by the branch of the Yoknapatawpha River, and finally near Benjy's "graveyard" of jimson flowers in a bottle.

As the story opens, Benjy and Luster are by the golf course, where the golfers' cries of "caddie" cause Benjy to "beller" because he mistakes their cries for his missing sister Caddy's name. In the branch, Luster finds a golfer's ball, which he later tries to sell to the golfers; they accuse him of stealing it and take it from him. Luster tries to steer Benjy away from the swing, where Miss Quentin and her "beau" (one of the musicians from the circus) are sitting, but is unsuccessful. Quentin is furious and runs into the house, while her friend jokes with Luster and asks him who visits Quentin. Luster replies that there are too many male visitors to distinguish.

Luster takes Benjy past the fence, where Benjy sees schoolgirls passing with their satchels. Benjy moans whenever Luster tries to break from the routine path Benjy is used to. At Benjy's "graveyard," Luster disturbs the arrangement of flowers in the blue bottle, causing Benjy to cry. At this Luster becomes frustrated and says "beller. You want something to beller about. All right, then. Caddy. . . . Caddy. Beller now. Caddy" (55). Benjy's crying summons Dilsey, Luster's grandmother, who scolds him for making Benjy cry and for disturbing Quentin. They go in the kitchen, where Dilsey opens the oven door so Benjy can watch the fire. Dilsey has bought Benjy a birthday cake, and Luster blows out the candles, making Benjy cry again. Luster teases him by closing the oven door so that the fire "goes away." Dilsey scolds Luster again. Benjy is burned when he tries to touch the fire. His cries disturb his mother, who comes to the kitchen and reprimands Dilsey. Dilsey gives him an old slipper to hold, an object that he loves.

Luster takes Benjy to the library, where his cries disturb Jason, who comes to the door and yells at Luster. Luster asks Jason for a quarter. At dinner, Jason interrogates Quentin about the man she was with that afternoon and threatens to send Benjy to an asylum in Jackson. Quentin threatens to run away, and she and Jason fight. She runs out of the room. Benjy goes to the library, where Luster finds him and shows him that Quentin has given him a quarter. Luster dresses Benjy for bed; when Benjy's pants are off he looks down and cries when he is reminded of his castration. Luster puts on his nightgown and the two of them watch as Quentin climbs out her window and down a tree. Luster puts Benjy to bed.

Benjy's memories, in chronological order:

Damuddy's death, 1898: Benjy is three years old and his name at this point is still Maury. Caddy is seven, Quentin is older (nine?) and Jason is between seven and three.

The four children are playing in the branch of the river. Roskus calls them to supper, but Caddy refuses to come. She squats down in the river and gets her dress wet; Versh tells her that her mother will whip her for that. Caddy asks Versh to help her take her dress off, and Quentin warns him not to. Caddy takes off her dress and Quentin hits her. The two of them fight in the branch and get muddy. Caddy says that she will run away, which makes Maury/Benjy cry; she immediately takes it back. Roskus asks Versh to bring the children to the house, and Versh puts Caddy's dress back on her.

They head up to the house, but Quentin stays behind, throwing rocks into the river. The children notice that all the lights are on in the house and assume that their parents are having a party. Father tells the children to be quiet and to eat dinner in the kitchen; he won't tell them why they have to be quiet. Caddy asks him to tell the other children to mind her for the evening, and he does. The children hear their mother crying, which makes Maury/Benjy cry. Quentin is also agitated by her crying, but Caddy reassures him that she is just singing. Jason too begins to cry.

The children go outside and down to the servants' quarters, where Frony and T. P. (who are children at this point) have a jar of lightning bugs. Frony asks about the funeral, and Versh scolds her for mentioning it. The children discuss the only death they know - when their mare Nancy died and the buzzards "undressed her" in a ditch. Caddy asks T. P. to give Maury/Benjy his jar of lightning bugs to hold. The children go back up to the house and stop outside the parlor window. Caddy climbs up a tree to see in the window, and the children watch her muddy drawers as she climbs.

Dilsey comes out of the house and yells at them. Caddy tells the others that their parents were not doing anything inside, although she may be trying to protect them from the truth. The children go inside and upstairs. Father comes to help tuck them into bed in a strange room. Dilsey dresses them and tucks them in, and they go to sleep.

Benjy's name change, 1900: Benjy is five years old, Caddy is nine, etc.

Benjy is sitting by the library fire and watching it. Dilsey and Caddy discuss Benjy's new name; Dilsey wants to know why his parents have changed it, and Caddy replies that mother said Benjamin was a better name for him than Maury was. Dilsey says that "folks don't have no luck, changing names" (58). Caddy brings Benjy to where her mother is lying in the bedroom with a cloth on her head, to say good night. Benjy can hear the clock ticking and the rain falling on the roof. Mother chides Caddy not to carry him because he is too heavy and will ruin her posture. She holds Benjy's face in her hands and repeats "Benjamin" over and over. Benjy cries until Caddy holds his favorite cushion over his mother's head.

She leads him to the fire so that he can watch it. Father picks him up, and he watches the reflection of Caddy and Jason fighting in the library mirror. Father puts him down and breaks up Caddy and Jason, who are fighting because Jason cut up all of Benjy's paper dolls. Father takes Jason to the room next door and spanks him. They all sit by the fire, and Benjy holds his cushion. Quentin comes and sits next to them. He has been in a fight at school and has a bruise. Father asks him about it. Versh sits next to them and tells them a story about a "bluegum" he knows who changed his name too. Father tells him to be quiet. Caddy and Versh feed Benjy his dinner, and the four children sit in father's lap. Benjy says that Caddy and Quentin smell like trees and rain.

Versh, Caddy and Benjy go outside, December 23, 1902: Benjy is seven years old and Caddy is eleven.

Benjy is crying because he wants to go outside. Mother says it is too cold for him and he will freeze his hands. She says that if he won't be quiet he will have to go to the kitchen. Versh replies that Dilsey wants him out of the kitchen because she has a lot of cooking to do, and Uncle Maury tells her to let him go outside. Versh puts on his coat and they go outside; Versh tells him to keep his hands in his pockets. Caddy comes through the gate, home from school. She takes his hands and they run through the fallen leaves into the house. Caddy puts him by the fire, and Versh starts to take his coat off, but Caddy asks if she can take him outside again. Versh puts on his overshoes again, and mother takes his face in her hands and calls him "my poor baby," but Caddy kneels by him and tells him that he is not a poor baby at all because he has her. Benjy notices that she smells like trees.

Caddy and Benjy deliver Uncle Maury's letter to Mrs. Patterson, December 25, 1902.

Caddy and Benjy cross the yard by the barn, where the servants are killing a pig for dinner. Caddy tells Benjy to keep his hands in his pockets and lets him hold the letter. She wonders why Uncle Maury did not send Versh with the letter. They cross the frozen branch and come to the Patterson's fence. Caddy takes the letter and climbs the fence to deliver it. Mrs. Patterson comes out of the house.