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... А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

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American Literature books summary

appearances in the town; he wants her forever to remain the unstained,

saintly mother/sister he imagines her to be.

Quentin did not, of course, commit incest with Caddy. And yet the

encounters he remembers are fraught with sexual overtones. When Caddy walks

in on Quentin and Natalie kissing in the barn, for instance, Quentin throws

himself into the "stinking" mud of the pigpen. When this fails to get a

response from Caddy, he wipes mud on her:

You dont you dont I'll make you I'll make you give a damn. She hit my hands

away I smeared mud on her with the other hand I couldnt feel the wet

smacking of her hand I wiped mud from my legs smeared it on her wet hard

turning body hearing her fingers going into my face but I couldnt feel it

even when the rain began to taste sweet on my lips (137).

Echoing the mud-stained drawers that symbolize her later sexuality, Quentin

smears mud on Caddy's body in a heated exchange, feeling as he does so her

"wet hard turning body." The mud is both Quentin's penance for his sexual

experimentation with Natalie and the sign of sexuality between Quentin and


The scene in the branch of the river is similarly sexual in nature. Quentin

finds Caddy at the branch trying to wash away the guilt she finds; amid the

"suck[ing] and gurgl[ing]" waves of the water. When he asks her if she

loves Dalton Ames, she places his hand on her chest and he feels her heart

"thudding" (150). He smells honeysuckle "on her face and throat like paint

her blood pounded against my hand I was leaning on my other arm it began to

jerk and jump and I had to pant to get any air at all out of that thick

gray honeysuckle;" and he lies "crying against her damp blouse" (150).

Taking out a knife, he holds it against her throat and tells her "it wont

take but a second Ill try not to hurt." She replies "no like this you have

to push it harder," and he says "touch your hand to it" (151). In this

scene we have the repetitive surging both of the water and of Caddy's blood

beneath Quentin's hand. We have the two siblings lying on top of one

another at the edge of this surging water, the pungent smell of honeysuckle

(which Quentin associates with sex throughout the section) so thick around

them that Quentin has trouble breathing. We have a knife (a common phallic

symbol) which Quentin proposes to push into Caddy's blood-flushed neck,

promising he will "try not to hurt." Overall, the scene overflows with

sexual metaphors; if the two do not actually commit incest, they certainly

do share a number of emotionally powerful, sexually loaded moments.

Quentin's wish to have committed incest is not a desire to have sex with

Caddy; that would shatter his ideals of purity even more than her

encounters with Dalton Ames. Nor is it, as we have determined, a way to

preserve the family honor. Instead, it seems to be a way to keep Caddy to

himself forever: "if it could just be a hell beyond that: the clean flame

the two of us more than dead. Then you will have only me then only me then

the two of us amid the pointing and the horror beyond the clean flame"

(116). Separated from the rest of the world by the "clean" purifying flames

of hell, Quentin and Caddy could be alone together, forever burning away

the sin of her sexuality. He would rather implicate himself in something as

horrible as incest than leave Caddy to her promiscuity or lose her through

her marriage to Herbert Head.

If time-words are the most frequently occurring words in this section, the

second most frequent is the word "shadow." Throughout his journeys, Quentin

is just as obsessed with his shadow as he is with time. For example, he

walks on his shadow as he wanders through Cambridge: "trampling my shadow's

bones . . . . I walked upon the belly of my shadow" (96). When asked what

the significance of shadows was in this section, Faulkner replied "that

shadow that stayed on his mind so much was foreknowledge of his own death,

that he was - Death is here, shall I step into it or shall I step away from

it a little longer? I won't escape it, but shall I accept it now or shall I

put it off until next Friday" (Minter, qtd. in Martin, 6). This explanation

certainly seems to fit some of Quentin's thoughts; for example, at one

point, he imagines drowning his shadow in the water of the river, just as

he will later drown himself: "my shadow leaning flat upon the water, so

easily had I tricked it . . . . if I only had something to blot it into the

water, holding it until it was drowned, the shadow of the package like two

shoes wrapped up lying on the water.

Niggers say a drowned man's shadow was watching for him in the water all

the time" (90). Here Quentin imagines his drowned shadow beckoning him from

the river, drowned before him and waiting for him to follow suit.

Like his shadow mirroring his motions and emotions, certain aspects of his

day's travels mirror his life and the troubled state of his mind. Most

obvious among these is his encounter with the Italian girl he calls

"sister" and the reaction of her brother Julio. Calling this little girl

"little sister" or "sister" ironically recalls Caddy, whom Quentin at one

point calls "Little Sister Death." But whereas his suicidal mission is

caused by the fact that he cannot hold on to Caddy, here he cannot get rid

of this "little sister," who follows him around the town and will not leave

him. Then when Julio finds them, he accuses Quentin stealing her, just as

Quentin feels Dalton Ames and Herbert Head have stolen Caddy from him.

Julio is not the only character to mirror Quentin, though. As Edmond Volpe

points out, Dalton Ames himself is a foil for Quentin, the embodiment of

the romantic ideal he has cast for himself:

Quentin's meeting with Dalton is a disaster. His conception of himself in

the traditional role of protector of women collapses, not only because he

fails to accomplish his purpose [of beating Dalton up] but because he is

forced to recognize his own weakness. Dalton is actually a reflection of

Quentin's vision of himself: calm, courageous, strong, kind. The real

Quentin does not measure up to the ideal Quentin, just as reality does not

measure up to Quentin's romantic vision of what life should be (113).

Quentin is in actuality the "obverse reflection" of himself, a man who does

not live up to his own ideals, who fails to protect his sister from a

villain who turns out to be as chivalrous and Quentin is weak.

Thus at the "infinitesimal instant" of his death, Quentin is a man whose

disillusionment with his shattered ideals consumes him. His death, one of

the "signs" Roskus sees of the bad luck of the Compson family, is one step

in the gradual dissolution of the family, a degeneration that will pick up

speed in the sections to come.

Summary of April Sixth, 1928:

Beginning with the statement "once a bitch always a bitch," this section

reads as if Jason is telling the reader the story of his day; it is more

chronological and less choppy than Quentin's or Benjy's sections, but still

unconventional in tone. Jason and his mother in her room waiting for

Quentin to finish putting on her makeup and go down to breakfast. Mother is

concerned that Quentin often skips school and asks Jason to take care of

it. Both Jason and his mother are manipulative and passive-aggressive,

mother complaining about the ailments she suffers and the way her children

betrayed her, Jason countering with statements like "I never had time to go

to Harvard or drink myself into the ground. I had to work. But of course if

you want me to follow her around and see what she does, I can quit the

store and get a job where I can work at night" (181). Jason goes down to

the kitchen, where Quentin is begging Dilsey for another cup of coffee.

Dilsey tells her she will be late for school, and Jason says he will fix

that, grabbing her by the arm.

Her bathrobe comes unfastened and she pulls it closed around her. He begins

to take off his belt, but Dilsey stops him from hitting her. Mother comes

in, and Jason puts down the belt. Quentin runs out of the house. In the car

on the way to town, Quentin and Jason fight about who paid for her

schoolbooks - Caddy or Jason. Jason claims that Mother has been burning all

of the checks Caddy sends. Quentin tells Jason that she would tear off any

dress that he paid for and grabs the neck of her dress as if she will tear

it. Jason has to stop the car and grab her wrists to stop her. He tells her

that she is a slut and a bad girl, and she replies that she would rather be

in hell than in his house. He drops her off at school and drives on to his

job at the farm goods store.

At the store, old Job, a black worker, is unloading cultivators, and Jason

accuses of him of doing it as slowly as he possibly can. He has mail; he

opens a letter with a check from Caddy. The letter asks if Quentin is sick

and states that she knows that Jason reads all her letters. He goes out to

the front of the store and engages in a conversation with a farmer about

the cotton crop. He tells him that cotton is a "speculator's crop" that "a

bunch of damn eastern jews" get farmers to grow so that they can control

the stock market (191). He goes to the telegraph office, where a stock

report has just come in (Jason has invested in the cotton crop) - the

cotton stock is up four points. He tells the telegraph operator to send a

collect message to Caddy saying "Q writing today" (193).

He goes back to the store and sits at his desk, reading a letter from his

girlfriend Lorraine, who is basically a prostitute he keeps in Memphis. She

calls Jason her "daddy." He burns her letter, commenting "I make it a rule

never to keep a scrap of paper bearing a woman's hand, and I never write

them at all" (193). Then he takes out Caddy's letter to Quentin, but before

he can open it some business interrupts him. He recalls the day of his

father's funeral; he remembers saying that Quentin wasted his chance at

Harvard, learning only "how to go for a swim at night without knowing how

to swim," Benjy is nothing but a "gelding" that should be rented out as a

circus sideshow, Father was a drunk who should have had a "one-armed strait

jacket," and Caddy is a whore (196-197).

Uncle Maury patted Mother's arm with expensive black gloves at the funeral,

and Jason noted that the flowers on the grave must have cost fifty dollars.

He also remembers the day that Father brought baby Quentin home; Mother

would not let her sleep in Caddy's old room, afraid she will be

contaminated by the atmosphere in there. She also declares that nobody in

the house must ever say Caddy's name again. On the day of the funeral,

Caddy appeared in the cemetery and begged Jason to let her see the baby for

just one minute, and she would pay him fifty dollars; later she changes

this to one hundred dollars. Jason smugly remembers how he took the baby in

a carriage and held her up to the window as he drove past Caddy; this

fulfilled his agreement to the letter. Later she showed up in the kitchen,

accusing him of backing out of their agreement. He threatened her and told

her to leave town immediately. She made him promise to treat Quentin well

and to give her the money that she sends for her.

Jason's boss, Earl, comes up to the front of the store and tells Jason he

is going out for a snack because they won't have time to go home for lunch;

a show is in town and there will be too much business. Jason finally opens

Caddy's letter to Quentin, and inside is a money order for fifty dollars,

not a check. He looks around in the office for a blank check; every month

he takes a fake check home to mother to burn and cashes the real check. But

the blank checks are all gone. Quentin comes in and asks if a letter has

come for her. He taunts her, then finally gives her the letter, without the

money in it. She reaches out for the money order, but he will not give it

to her. He tells her she has to sign it without looking at it. She asks how

much it is for, and he tells her it is for ten dollars. She says he is

lying, but he will not give it to her until she agrees to take ten dollars

for it. She takes the money and leaves, upset.

Earl returns and again tells Jason not to go home to lunch; Jason agrees

and leaves. First he goes to a print shop to get a blank check. The print

shop doesn't have any, and finally Jason finds a checkbook that was a prop

at an old theater. He goes back to the store and puts the check in the

letter, gluing the envelope back to look unopened. As he leaves again, Earl

tells him not to take too much time. He goes to the telegraph office and

checks up on the stock market, then goes home for lunch. He goes up to

Mother's room and gives her the doctored letter. Instead of burning it

right away she looks at it for a while. She notices that it is drawn on a

different bank than the others have been, but then burns it. Dilsey is not

ready with lunch yet because she is waiting for Quentin to come home;

finally she puts it on the table and they eat. Jason hands Mother a letter

from Uncle Maury; it is a letter asking her to lend him some money for an

investment he would like to make.

Jason takes Mother's bankbook with him and returns to town. He goes to the

bank and deposits the money from Caddy and his paycheck, then returns to

the telegraph office for an update; the stock is down thirteen points. He

goes back to the store, where Earl asks him if he went home to dinner.

Jason tells him that he had to go to the dentist's. A while later he hears

the band from the show start playing. He argues with Job about spending

money to go to a show like that. Suddenly he sees Quentin in an alley with

a stranger with a red bow tie. It is still 45 minutes before school should

let out. He follows them up the street, but they disappear. A boy comes up

and gives Jason a telegram: the market day closed with cotton stocks down.

He goes back to the store and tells Earl that he has to go out for a while.

He gets in his car and goes home. Gasoline gives him headaches, and he

thinks about having to bring some camphor with him when he goes back to the

store. He goes into his room and hides the money from Caddy in a strongbox

in his room. Mother tells him to take some aspirin, but he doesn't. He gets

back in his car and is almost to town when he passes a Ford driven by a man

with a red bow tie. He looks closer and sees Quentin inside. He chases the

Ford through the countryside, his headache growing by the second. Finally

he sees the Ford parked near a field and gets out to look for them; he is

sure they are hiding in the bushes somewhere having sex. The sun slants

directly into his eyes, and his headache is pounding so hard he can't think

straight. He reaches the place where he thinks they are, then hears a car

start up behind him and drive off, the horn honking. He returns to his own

car and sees that they have let the air out of one of his tires. He has to

walk to the nearest farm to borrow a pump to blow it back up.

He returns to town, stopping in a drugstore to get a shot for his headache

and the telegraph office; he has lost $200 on the stock market. Then he

goes back to the store. A telegram has arrived from his stockbroker,

advising him to sell. Instead he writes back to the broker, telling him he

will buy. The store closes, and he drives home to the sounds of the band

playing. At home, Quentin and Mother are fighting upstairs, and Luster asks

him for a quarter to go to the show. Jason replies that he has two tickets

already that he won't be using. Luster begs him for one, but he tells him

he will only sell it to him for a nickel. Luster replies that he has no

money, and Jason burns the tickets in the fireplace. Dilsey puts supper on

the table for him and tells him that Quentin and Mother won't be coming to


Jason insists that they come unless they are actually sick. They come

down. At dinner, he offers Quentin an extra piece of meat and tells her and

Mother that he lent his car to a stranger who needed to chase around one of

his relatives who was running around with a town woman. Quentin looks

guilty. Finally she stands up and says that if she is bad, it is only

because Jason made her bad. She runs off and slams the door. Mother

comments that she got all of Caddy's bad traits and all of Quentin's too;

Jason takes this to mean that Mother thinks Quentin is the child of Caddy

and her brother's incestuous relationship. They finish dinner, and Mother

locks Quentin into her room for the night. Jason retires to his room for

the night, still ruminating on the "dam New York jew" that is taking all of

his money (263).

Analysis of April Sixth, 1928:

Jason's section appears more readable and more conventional; its style,

while still stream-of-consciousness, is more chronological in progression,

with very few jumps in time. It reads more like a monologue than a string

of loosely connected events, like Benjy's and Quentin's sections were.

Critics have claimed that the book progresses from chaos to order, from

timelessness to chronology, from pure sensation to logical order, and from

interiority to exteriority as it travels from Benjy's world of bright

shapes and confused time through Jason's rigorously ordered universe to the

third-person narrative of the fourth section. This third section represents

a shift into the public world from the anguished interiority of Benjy and

Quentin, and a shift into "normal" novelistic narrative as Jason recounts

the story of the events of the day.

The first sentence of each section reveals a lot about the tone and themes

of that particular part; this is especially true with Quentin's and Jason's

section. In Quentin's section, the first sentence draws the reader into his

obsession with being caught "in time" and includes two of the most common

symbols in the section: time and shadows. Jason's section begins "once a

bitch always a bitch, what I say," introducing both Jason's irrational

anger not only toward his sister and her daughter, but toward the world in

general, and also the rigorous logic that runs through this section (180).

Jason's world is dominated by logic. Once a bitch, always a bitch; like

mother, like daughter. Caddy was a whore, so is her daughter. He is furious

at Caddy for ruining his chances at getting a job, and the way she ruined

his chances was to bear an illegitimate daughter; therefore the way he will

get revenge on her and simultaneously recoup the money he lost is through

this same daughter. Caddy should have gotten him a job, but instead she had

Quentin; therefore it is his right to embezzle the money she sends to

Quentin in order to make up for the money he lost when he lost the job.

Jason's logic takes the form of literalism. Caddy is responsible for

getting him money, no matter where it comes from. She sends money each

month for Quentin's upkeep; he keeps Quentin clothed, housed and fed, so

the money should go to him. He himself claims that he "make[s] it a rule

never to keep a scrap of paper bearing a woman's hand," and yet he keeps

the money from the checks Caddy sends him; this act fits into his system of

logic because he cashes the checks, literally getting rid of her

handwriting while keeping the money. He allows his mother to literally burn

the checks she sends, but only after he has cashed them in secret. When

Caddy gives him 100 dollars to "see [Quentin] a minute" he grants her

request to the letter, holding the baby up to the carriage window as he

drives by, literally allowing Caddy only a minute's glimpse (203-205). When

Luster can't pay him a nickel for tickets to the show, he burns the tickets

rather than give then to him (255). All of these acts fit into a rigid and

literally defined logical order with which Jason structures his life.

Some readers see Jason's logic as a sign that he is more "sane" than the

rest of his family. He is not retarded like Benjy or irrationally

distraught like Quentin. He is able to live his life in a relatively normal

way, with a logical order to both his narrative and his daily activities.

However, Jason is just as blind, just as divorced from reality as his

brothers. Like them, he tries to control his life through a strictly

defined order, and when this is disrupted he collapses into irrationality.

Benjy's system of order is the routine of everyday life, disrupted on a

grand scale when Caddy leaves and on a small scale when Luster turns the

horses the wrong way or changes the arrangement of his "graveyard."

Quentin's system of order is the honor and purity he saw in himself and

Caddy when they were young, disrupted when Caddy loses her virginity and

leaves him. Jason's system of order is the rigidity of his logic, most of

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