Character Analyisis of Benjy from William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury".

Essay by iamhiddenHigh School, 11th gradeA+, July 2003

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Life's But a Walking Shadow

Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

- Shakespeare's Macbeth; Act V, Scene v, Lines 26-30

How better could one describe the narrative of the beginning of this book than "told by an idiot," for told by an idiot it begins? Originally named Maury Compson, the mentally handicapped Benjamin is the first narrator of William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, a novel whose title originated from a line of William Shakespeare's famous play Macbeth (see quote above). With no concept of time nor reason, Benjy is left to live his painful life through mere memories of his family. He seems to remember not things he sees and hears, but more often things he smells.

To understand all that the eyes see and the ears hear, this requires reason; but the human nose cannot lie to you -- if you smell lemons, there are lemons nearby, if you smell trees, nearby are trees -- or Caddy.

Only Caddy, Benjy's older sister, holds compassion towards the slowest of the family. Benjy subconsciously relates the kindness and love that Caddy shows towards him and the innocence that she has as the smell of trees and leaves. All throughout the book, Benjy constantly says how "Caddy smelled like trees" (Faulkner 43). Yet in many cases, Benjy "couldn't smell trees anymore," thus showing that Caddy is not always there for Benjy (Faulkner 40). When Caddy is getting married, Benjy somehow knows that he is going to lose her, so he no longer recognizes Caddy as the young girl who used to play with Benjy and love him...