In William Faulkner's novel, The Sound and the Fury, Caroline Compson focused directly upon appearances. Mrs. Compson never allowed herself to forget that her family wasn't as good as her husband's. Marrying into a higher class altered her perception of society. She searched for the acquisition of material objects in her life, always afraid of how others looked upon her family. Mrs. Compson cared more for appearances than for reality. Her obsession with sounds and appearance greatly altered the life of her children. She shifted her responsibilities as a mother onto the black housekeeper Dilsey, because she was unable to handle the appearance of her own family.
Mrs. Compson felt a great burden placed upon her life after the birth of her fourth child Benjy. At birth Benjy appeared normal, though he never fully mentally developed. When Mrs. Compson learned of her sons disability her entire life shattered. She wondered how anyone could accept her or her son now.
The mother's obsession with sound and appearances led to the following, "Reckon Maury going to let me cry on him a while, too. His name is Benjy now, Caddy said. How come it is, Dilsey said. He aint wore out the name he was born with yet, is he. Benjamin came out of the bible, Caddy said. It's a better name for him than Maury was."(Faulkner 58) Mrs. Compson felt that Benjy did not deserve the family name of Maury. In her eyes he was not her son. She found it impossible to love a feeble child.
Caroline Compson's fixation upon sound and appearance led to the death of Quentin. She forced Harvard upon her son. Mrs. Compson felt that she would be looked upon as an important person if she could say her son attended Harvard. She had no concerns over what effects sending Quentin to Harvard had on the rest of her family. She only concentrated on sounds. The following quote showed how Quentin felt about the situation.
"Harvard is such a fine sound forty acres is no high price for a fine sound.
A fine dead sound we will swap Benjy's pasture for a fine dead sound."(Faulkner 174) The fact that they sold the pasture, the only thing Benjy loved, for Quentin to go to school haunted him. His mother's obsession with sounds cost him his life. Quentin could not deal with the pain. He saw suicide as his only way out. Quentin never wanted to attend Harvard. The idea of her son at Harvard demonstrated her materialistic view of life.
Mrs. Compson could not deal with Caddy's promiscuous behavior. She saw no way of justifying Caddy's actions to herself. This unwilling acceptance of her behavior forced her away. The following quote demonstrated the mother's emphasis on sounds.
"She must never learn that name.
Dilsey, I forbid you ever to speak that name in her hearing. If she could grow up never to know that she had a mother, I would thank God.(Faulkner 199) Mrs. Compson felt that if no one mentioned Caddy's name the immoral actions that she committed would go away. She had no real feeling for her children. She lived in a world where feeling did not exist. Her world depicted a materialistic view of people, a world where only sounds existed.
Mrs. Compson's obsession with appearance forced her children away. To an outside observer Mrs. Compson appeared to be the mother of the family. However, the appearance was not the reality. Dilsey, the black maid, raised the children, both emotionally and physically. She loved unconditionally, like a true mother should. Dilsey shared a tender loving bond with the children, not a biological one. She focused on reality rather than appearance. Dilsey searched deep into the children's souls, forming a special bond inside the heart of each one; a bond that Mrs. Compson and her search for the perfect appearance could never find. Both reality and time slipped away from Mrs. Compson in her desires for material appearances. Unlike Mrs. Compson Dilsey understood time. The following quote showed Dilsey as the stable figure of the family.
"A cabinet clock ticked, then with a preliminary sound as if it had cleared its throat, struck five times. 'Eight oclock' Dilsey said. "(Faulkner 274) Mrs. Compson forced her children into the arms of Dilsey because she could not see past the appearance of things.
In William Faulkner's novel, The Sound and the Fury, Mrs. Compson lived her life always concerned with appearance. This quality drove her children away. She could not accept her children for what they were. She eventually lost all of them: Quentin took his own life; Benjy was forever lost to a mental disability; Caddy disgraced herself sexually and disappeared; Jason became so bitter he could find no way of establishing a family of his own. If her children would have been able to reach out and talk to her, things may have ended differently.