Sunday, December 12, 2010

How far is it right to say that The Sound and the Fury revolves upon Caddy even though she herself escapes definition ?

Indirectly Presented to Us
Caddy is the only one among the principal characters of The Sound and the Fury to whom we are not directly introduced. While the other three Compson children are presented to us directly through their monologues which contain their past memories and an account of their experiences, Caddy is presented to us through the minds and consciousness of her brothers. In other words, Caddy is indirectly presented to us. And yet her importance in the scheme of the novel is very great, indeed.

Faulkner’s decision to portray Caddy by an indirect device is therefore all the more problematic. It would have been far better if we had known Caddy more intimately through a monologue spoken by herself just as we now know Jason or Quentin quite intimately through their respective monologues. The actual method adopted by Faulkner in the delineation of Caddy produces a certain amount of vagueness. And that is the reason why it is thought that Caddy is nebulous and escapes definition.
Faulkner’s Own View of Caddy’s Importance
Much can be said for the view that Caddy occupies a central position in The Sound and the Fury and that she constitutes the organizing centre in this novel. There is, for instance, Faulkner’s own view of Caddy which lends weight to this opinion. Faulkner said that the story of this novel began with the image of Caddy in the tree, and that she was its centre, “what I wrote the book about.” Faulkner also associated Caddy with one of his favourite concepts. “I said to myself, now I can write. Now I can make myself a vase like that which the old Roman kept at his bedside and wore the rim slowly away with kissing it. So I, who had never had a sister and was fated to lose my daughter in infancy, set out to make myself a beautiful and tragic little girl.” In other words, Caddy symbolized to. Faulkner the sister whom he never actually had in his own life and the daughter he had lost. In creating the character of Caddy he created the sister he had wanted but never had ; and he also created the daughter that he was fated to lose.
The Novel, a Tragedy of Two Lost Women
Faulkner’s idea of the story in this novel began, as he himself said, with a brother and a sister splashing one another in the brook where they had been sent to play during the funeral of a grandmother whom they called Damuddy. From this scene came one of the central images of the novel, namely Caddy’s muddy drawers. As she climbs up a tree outside the Compson home to observe the funeral inside, her brothers see her muddy drawers from below. From this scene, Faulkner obtained several suggestions-his sense of the brook as the dark and harsh flowing of time that was sweeping Caddy away from her brothers ; his sense that the girl who had the courage to climb the tree would also develop the courage to face change and loss in her later life ; and his sense that her brothers, who had waited below, would respond very differently : that Benjy would fail to understand his loss ; that Quentin would seek oblivion rather than face his ; and that Jason would meet his with terrible rage and ambition. The novel thus focuses not only oh the three brothers but even more so on Caddy. It is for this reason that a critic says that the hovel revolves round Caddy though Caddy herself escapes a satisfactory definition. Faulkner too is oh record as having said that this novel is the tragedy of two lost women : Caddy and her daughter. This again means that Caddy occupies a central position in Faulkner’s own view.
Caddy, a Dominating Character in Benjy’s Monologue
Nor is there any doubt that Caddy holds the centre of the stage in the first two monologues in the hovel. In the first monologue, Caddy’s affection for the idiot Benjy is repeatedly emphasized through Benjy’s own impressions. Again and Again we are reminded of Caddy mothering her idiot brother. For Benjy, Caddy is the very centre of his being. Benjy feels an all-absorbing love for Caddy. She is a source of the greatest comfort to him. She can hush him with a touch of her hand. Up to the age of fourteen, he even sleeps with her Even the father, Mr. Compson, occasionally asks Caddy to look after Benjy. Several times in the course of the monologue Benjy tells us that Caddy smelled like trees, ah image which has a very pleasing effect oh the reader. And Benjy protests, in his own way, when he sees Caddy being kissed by a stranger ; he pulls at her dress, so that she feels compelled to send away her boy-friend and to try to soothe Benjy’s feelings by promising that she would hot repeat what she has done. In short, Caddy dominates Benjy’s existence. When Caddy has left the house after her marriage, Benjy feels lost. Then even the sight of her slipper has a consoling effect on him.
Caddy at the Centre of Quentin’s Recollections
From the second monologue we learn that Caddy has been dominating the thoughts of her elder brother Quentin also, and that she still dominates his thinking (on the day of the monologue). Here we learn that Quentin had been experiencing an incestuous desire for Caddy, a desire which has remained unfulfilled. Quentin recalls Caddy’s promiscuities and her pregnancy which led her to marry a worthless man in haste in order to cover up the illegitimacy of that pregnancy. He recalls both the despicable seducer of Caddy and the hateful man she married. He recalls his futile effort to punish Dalton Ames for what the latter had done to, Caddy. We learn also of how he had reacted most sorrowfully to, Caddy’s defilement indicated by her pregnancy. He had tried to cover up her disgraceful action by telling his father the lie that he had committed incest with her. Leaving aside Quentin’s account of the actual happenings of the day of the monologue, we find that so far as his recollections and memories of the past are concerned, Caddy is at the centre of them all. Quentin’s very decision to commit suicide is due partly to Caddy’s failure to have preserved her virginity, partly to the frustration of his own incestuous desire for her, and partly to a feeling, that perhaps Caddy would prove to be not worth his despair.
Caddy’s Insignificant Position in Jason’s Monologue
If the rest of the novel had been written in the same way, with the focus oh Caddy, we could have affirmed that Caddy is the organizing centre of the novel and that the story revolves round her. But that does not happen. Caddy occupies a very small position in the second half of the novel. The subject of Jason’s monologue, which constitutes the third section of the hovel, is Jason himself. This monologue exposes Jason’s own dishonesty, crookedness, and fraudulent nature, besides his harshness, lack of compassion, and greed. There is surely one important episode describing Caddy’s visit to Jefferson to attend her father’s funeral and her appeal to Jason to let her have a glimpse of her baby. But even this episode, apart from showing her intense maternal anxiety about her child and her overpowering desire to see the child, throws more light on. Jason’s character by exposing him for what he is : cold-hearted, callous, and mercenary. The rest of the monologue shows Jason, in his relationship with his mother, with his niece, with Dilsey, with his employer, and so on.
Caddy, Altogether Absent From the Final Section
In the final section of the novel, the focus is chiefly on Dilsey and at the way Caddy’s daughter takes her revenge upon her uncle Jason for having defrauded her of the money that Caddy had been sending to her or for her. Caddy is completely absent from this section, unless we choose to regard Caddy’s daughter as a duplicate of Caddy herself. Without any doubt, the centre of interest in the second half of the novel (Sections III and IV) has shifted entirely from Caddy and the two brothers, who were in different ways inordinately fond of her, to her third brother who has ho feeling of tenderness for her at all, and to Dilsey the negro servant in her relation to Mrs. Compson, in her relation to the idiot Benjy, and, above all, in her relation to God.
The Focus on the Disintegration of the Family as a Whole
We can then confidently say that Caddy is not the organizing centre of the novel or the unifying principle. Whatever Faulkner himself might have said, we have to judge the novel by Faulkner’s actual performance and not by his sentimental attitude towards Caddy. Caddy is an important character, one of the four most important ones. But she cannot be regarded as the supreme character or as the one around whom the entire story has been built up. And yet the novel does have an organizing centre or a unifying principle which is the Compson family as a whole. The theme of The Sound and the Fury is the deterioration and disintegration of the Compson family. The theme is its decline from the high standards of dignity and respectability which once it had but which have now crumbled. And the Compson family with whom the novel deals includes all the four Compson children, and their parents too. Caddy represents but one aspect of that family. And the novel is therefore much bigger than the personality and role of Caddy.
Our Mixed Reaction to Caddy
As for our reaction to Caddy, it is of a mixed kind. We can by no means declare that we adore her. As both Benjy and Quentin tend to idealize her in their monologues, we too feel attracted towards her because of her compassionate nature and her freedom from any real wickedness or evil. At the same time we cannot absolutely condone her promiscuity and her disregard of the demands of social respectability. Her own mother refers to her as a “fallen” woman and has, forbidden the mention of her name in the Compson household. In fact, Mrs. Compson has been refusing even to touch the money that Caddy has been sending because she regards that as tainted money. We cannot therefore regard Caddy as a true heroine, though she has some of the qualities of a heroine.
The Degradation of All That is Beautiful
Unlike her brothers, Caddy establishes her independence and achieves freedom. But her departure from the Compson home severs ties, making it impossible for her to help Quentin, comfort Benjy, or protect her daughter. Finally, freedom sweeps her into dishonour and shame. Deserted by her mother, Miss Quentin is left no one with whom to learn love, and so repeats her mother’s dishonour and flight without possessing the natural compassion which her mother evidenced towards Benjy. If in the story of Jason we observe the near-triumph of all that is repugnant, in the stories of Caddy and Miss Quentin we observe the degradation of all that is beautiful.
A Summing Up of Caddy’s Position in the Novel
In the figure of Caddy, Faulkner created one he had been longing for. She was the sister he never actually had. In addition to that, she serves to bring out, and throw light on, the characters of all three of her brothers. Finally, she is an important member of the family whose decay and decline constitute the central theme of the novel. She is indispensable to the scheme of the novel because, if she is eliminated, the story of Quentin falls to pieces, and the story of Benjy loses much of its meaning. But the novel .as a whole is not just about Caddy.

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