"The Sound and the Fury" and "Beloved"

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The novel “The Sound and the Fury”, a work of genius William Faulkner, was published in 1929. It was his 4th novel and to date is considered one of the strongest works of fiction of “high modernism” (Faulkner 1) in America.

For Faulkner, this book for very close to his heart as it caused him the most “pain and anguish” (Faulkner 27). He experiences closeness to this book that he would never forget, and according to him, he felt the tenderest towards this book and he couldn’t leave it alone.

The book tells the story from four different view points and perspectives, of the downfall of a southern family. The family consists of 4 siblings, 3 brothers and 1 daughter, who appear to be a key, if not the key character of the novel. The way the story unfolds has been the subject of great criticism and evaluation. The way the past is represented in this novel is very unique and will be speculated upon in this paper, compared to the way the past is represented in the Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved”.

Beloved is a prize winning novel, Toni Morrison’s fifth novel and based on the life and legal case of Margaret Garner.

Beloved examines and talks about the bodily, mental and spiritual devastation that slavery causes on the lives of slaves. She has beautifully told how the worse impact of slavery, self-alienation, tears apart the life of former slaves The story revolves around the lives of Sethe and her daughter Denver, both former slaves, having escaped from slavery, and their attempts to rebuild their lives. Double meanings and dual thoughts are the centre of every character, every aspect of “Beloved”. In the novel, there are a lot of things that have a disagreement to each other, be it characters, concepts of gender, ideas of time, or the presentation of the past. The reason why Morrison has done this is to bring a sense of complexity, duality in her book, not only of the antebellum African-American system but many other aspects like life, slavery, etc.

These complexities and dualities are interwoven in the novel to clearly accentuate the complexity that is “beloved” just as they demonstrated in the novel the complexity of the slave experience. We learn from the beloved that the past, present and future are not separate but they are wounded and bleed together and they are pieces of a person that are molded together by time. Hence it is possible for a character to represent things when they interact with different people.

In the book, the character Beloved, is a spiritual representation of Sethe’s dead daughter who she had murdered 18 years ago. Every supernatural element in this novel is, in someway, linked to her past. The scars on her back are another thing that is linked to her past.

If we look at the structure and presentation of the past in “the sounds and the fury” (Morrison 17) we will see that Faulkner has tried to “scramble” the pieces and tell us the story through the eyes of each of the three brothers. While reading the book, one begins to look at every episode as it opens up to reveal, another, and another and another, like a china doll, nothing goes on and the tale does not unfold. It simply unfolds in a way that we see Faulkner’s “metaphysics” (31) behind the story line. And in this case, is metaphysics of “time”. We realize that, what has started the novel is the present, and not the ideal time setting between the past and the future. The present rises us from sources unknown to us and drives away another present. Meaning, every portion of the book starts anew and onto another present. It doesn’t go backwards, it doesn’t go forwards, it’s just the presentation of events through the eyes of 4 different people.

The past takes on a sort of “unreal” quality. It’s hard and clear and can not be changed. The present is nameless and rushing away, it’s helpless before the past. The present is incomplete and full of gaps and makes no sense. Through these gaping holes of the present, the past pokes through and invades the present. Everything in the novel “was”, not “is” (Faulkner 41).

We see time and time again, the characters do not live in the present. Their minds slip back into the past and they relive those moments. For example when Quentin insults Bland, he isn’t aware of what he is doing, instead thinking about and reliving his fight with Dalton Ames. When punched in the nose, this fight is overshadowed by whatever happened in the past with Ames.

Faulkner’s past is in order, does not assume sequential order. It is, in real fact, an issue of emotional collections. About a few vital themes, Caddy's pregnancy, Benjy's castration and Quentin's suicide – drop inestimable silent masses. The order of the past is the order of the heard. It would be wrong to think that when the present is past it becomes our closest memory. Its transformation can cause it to go down to the bottom of our memory.

The unique thing about the sound and the fury and its narration is that the events that happen in the novel don’t occur in chronological order but according to their relevance and significance. The novel, which consists of four chapters, are labeled “April Seventh, 1928"; the second, “June Second, 1910"; the third, “April Sixth, 1928"; and the fourth, “April Eighth, 1928” (Faulkner 88).

The First chapter starts off from Saturday April 7, 1928, a day before Easter, but has flash backs frequently back to previous years. That’s because the speaker of this chapter is Benjy Compson, who is feeble minded and cannot speak, read or write, and gets confused between the past and the present. A memory from long ago may occur to him as a present experience.

Each chapter like this starts off at a random year and date, which has its own relevance but occasionally flashes back to the past. The “past” is represented through flashbacks and memories in this novel.

In the “Beloved”, Morrison had her own way of sharing the “past” with us and that was through a supernatural theme. The novel is anxious and its characters “haunted” by the earlier period, the choices made, and other things, bad and old memories. Then, aside from the past that haunts them, another supernatural realm, a vampire is there, who symbolizes “sucking” the soul heart and mind of Seathe and draining the connection between mother and daughter and Paul D.

The “vampire” could also be a supernatural representation of the “past” as it’s affecting their lives and their relationship among each other (Morrison 52).

Sethe is the most haunted character in the book, showing as she is the one whose severely beaten and has a permanently scarred back. She survived and escaped slavery and murdered her child rather than return to slavery so it is she who’s past is the most haunting and disturbing. The repeated mention of her “Scarred” back is another representation of her “past” (Morrison 31). It is possible that her past is represented on her back, her “back” because its something that is behind her, something she cannot see but knows that is there.

The novel grows out of ceaseless resurgences of the past that question on the existence and identity of the fairly newly freed, but not yet free people. The characters in the novel struggle with being slaves of the past traumas. The novel tries to show the ways in which this regular relationship of past and present is achieved. From the very start, the novel focuses on memory and history and portrays Sethe’s struggles with the haunting bequest of slavery, in the form of her hostile reminiscences and also in the shape of “Beloved”, her dead daughter’s ghost.

The present is like a resistance for Sethe. A resistance which could beat back the past, since the reminiscences of her daughter's death are too excruciating for her to recall consciously. But Sethe's despotism is challenging, because the absence of history and memory inhibits the building of a stable identity. Even the hard-earned liberty of Sethe is endangered by her incapability to tackle her previous life.

The effect that Beloved has on the characters of the book, well she can be a good symbol of the past, coming to haunt them. Her representing Sethe’s dead daughter is a clear cut show of Sethe’s behavior towards Beloved and how Beloved in the end, took away the understanding and relationship that Denver, Paul and Sethe’ had. So in a way, Sethe’s haunting past took away the relationship she has with her family and eventually killed her. It’s a symbol. The main and central concept of the novel is that the past plays an integral role in each character’s lives. They each in turn attempt to understand the nature of the past and time. Sethe is the character who seems to want to run away from it. She is constantly “beating back the past” (Morrison 64).

Sethe doesn’t want to think or talk about the past because she feels that she would rather forget about it while Beloved on the other hand, is preoccupied with discovering her past. She continually makes inquiries about Sethe’s earlier period in order to understand why her mother killed her (Beloved is a representation of the daughter Sethe killed eighteen years ago). While Beloved is enthralled with the past, Sethe is trying her best to forget it. Beloved’s and Sethe’s troubles in their affiliation come up from this thoughtful difference.

Sethe is scared and fears her past; she identifies that it has the ability to live in the present. Beloved is the physical demonstration of this idea. Beloved and Sethe characterize dissimilar approaches toward the earlier period, and they try to settle these concepts all through the novel. Beloved is a psychologically painful read. Like its title character, it is a difficult body to assert with, one that can motivate or pain the reader with equal intensity. Yet, charming with this distressing, remorseless force in a painstaking way, we may begin to understand the past, as well as its impact on our present.

There’s a difference between the way the past is represented in each book and each has its own way of showing us what the painful past was like for them. In the “sounds and the fury”, the past is represented by a series of flashbacks during each chapter. The characters go back in time, mentally, and think about whatever painful encounter they had. It’s a classic technique of showing the past to a reader, and has been used by many writers. This is nevertheless effective as it shows us the narrator’s point of view of the story and the events and how he/she saw it through their eyes and what kind of impact did it have on them. The “sounds and the fury” has been written in a unique, obscure way, each of its four chapters being narrated by someone different, with a different perspective, and different point of view. And above all it’s not even written in chronological order. It’s written in the way it was required, and the way the author though it necessary.

Works CitedFaulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: Vintage-Random, 1990Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Columbia Critical Guides. 1999