John T. Matthews's The Sound And The Fury

Improved Essays
Myth and Regional Identity
John T. Matthews, in The Sound and the Fury: Faulkner and the Lost Cause, locates the cause of the struggle as the Civil War. Matthews points out that the Civil War had “permanently altered the foundation of both the Southern economy and race relations” by abolishing slavery, which was the basis of Southern society. As the promise of Reconstruction fell through and without a system to replace slavery, the South was denied economic recovery. The Southerners were faced with a dilemma of devising a new system of labor that would replace slavery, which meant surrendering the ideals of the Old South (6). In the Old South, slave labor not only justified their economic independence from the North capitalists but also maintained
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Sartre points out that Faulknerian man “views time as his greatest misfortune” and cuts off the “thrust from the future” and overwhelms the present with a past that is always “superpresent” (76-77), implying that the Faulknerian men do not live fully in the present, therefore, cannot live fully in history. In Faulkner’s world, the Faulknerian man is depressed by the fundamental lack of meaning in the present due to his tragic historical conditions (David 5). Faulkner’s Southerner seeks to infuse “vitality into the stagnant present by reliving the past” and myth allows him to do so. It seems that for the deprived South, there exists only a bleak future, and the only thing that is dynamic and rich is the romanticized past (David 6). According to Sykes, this human act of symbolic world building always attempts to establish order by maintaining a close relationship with myth, or a collective ideal, because it has “exceptional significance in explaining [essential] features of life” (7). Because myth provides such order, in The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom!, the amount of pain and loss that exists in the time-bound reality determines the rigidity of the individual’s interior world. Faulkner’s narrators often battle with themselves by looking towards the future or by believing that change can occur, but eventually succumb to their fixation on the past loss so much that the internal flow of time is either arrested or …show more content…
as the inversion of the Southern patriarch. In the novel, the troubling accounts of Sutpen challenge the myth of the Cavalier while simultaneously reinforcing it: Rosa Coldfield, Sutpen’s spinster sister-in-law, sees Sutpen as the demonic force that ruined the idyllic South; Mr. Compson, the alcoholic, pessimistic Southerner, identifies with Sutpen as a tragic hero, a victim of his fate, much like how he views himself and his ancestors; lastly, Quentin, the young Southerner, sees Sutpen as an enigmatic figure and a historical burden who forces him to confront the ugly truth about the South he reveres. In the novel, Quentin emerges as the chief narrator who, with the help of his Canadian roommate Shreve, recreates the flawed and humanized vision of Sutpen and his family to reconcile his ambivalent feelings about his region, but ultimately fails to succeed. In Absalom, Absalom!, like in The Sound and the Fury, the four narrators’ failure to retell the Sutpen legend largely reveals the persistent reinforcement of the myth of the Cavalier which proves to be fatal to the South’s future. The narrators’ failure reveals that the inability to reject harmful myth prevents the community from engaging with the present and moving

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