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Fourteen ways of looking at a blackbird : point of view in The Sound and the Fury Layman, Lewis Magnus

Abstract

This thesis is an intensive analysis of The Sound and the Fury, focussing on Faulkner's treatment of point of view. The novel is examined as an exploration of the act of perception, reflecting the author's Bergsonian view of consciousness. Faulkner's statement that every reflector sees one aspect of the truth and that the writing of the novel is an attempt to achieve a comprehensive overview is used as a focal point for the thesis. In the introductory chapter I state my basic approach: to discuss the validity and distortion of each point of view as conveyed by the rendering of authorial involvement and distance from the presented perspectives. Before applying these criteria to the reflectors of the novel, I briefly discuss The Sound and the Fury in relation to As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom! and Go Down, Moses. The four subsequent chapters are close analyses of each section of the book. I emphasize Benjy's function as a literal embodiment of the Compson dilemma. In Chapter 3 I stress the relationship of Quentin's monologue to Benjy's as a reflection of the growth of consciousness. I also explore the significance of incest and the quixotic aspects of Quentin's character. The focus of Chapter 4 is upon Jason as a reflector who fully expresses the negative impulses to renounce responsibilities and withdraw from human involvement. I suggest that Part Three is simultaneously a realization of destructive possibilities and a kind of comic relief. The likelihood that Joyce's use of perspective in the Cyclops episode of Ulysses was a precedent for this horror-comedy is explored. In Chapter Five I examine the narrative point of view and the way the language of Section Four reflects the process of perception. I study the interrelationship of the various parts of this section to each other and to the monologues of the Compson brothers. I assert that there is a sense of affirmation, stemming from the author's and audience's ability to comprehend the significance of experience, that is not embodied in any characters in the novel. The final chapter contains some general conclusions about the book and a discussion of the "Appendix" written in 1945. By intensively analyzing aspects of the novel such as the use of multi-perspectives, the function of a character who begins and ends the book, and the anti-climactic ending, I have striven to achieve two goals. First, I have attempted to gain a full understanding of The Sound and the Fury. Second, in exploring distinctive and essential features of Faulkner's novels I have sought to gain insight into his works as a whole.

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