Analyze the extent to which the reliability of the narrator can affect the reader’s understanding of events in chapters 1 and 2 of The Sound and the Fury.
Please go beyond that Benji is cognitively disabled and Quentin is losing his mind in term of their reliability. The audience’s ability to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the text is strongly connected to the narrators of the story. In the first two chapters Benjy and Quentin are the narrators respectively, and they both pose many tendencies that make it difficult to fully understand the chapters. However, Benjy’s chapter is very reliable whereas Quentin’s is completely unreliable.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
Given this, there are still some similarities between both chapters and narrators which helps to bring a slightly more cohesive storyline. Starting with Benjy’s chapter, the inclination arises to disregard his thoughts due to his disability. His disability does make his chapter much more difficult to understand and makes him seem unreliable.
This is shown primarily in two ways. First, this is seen in his inability to tell the audience what he is doing. Instead, Benjy’s actions are almost always being shown through other characters. Luster tells Benjy numerous times to “Shut up that moaning.
” (3) and people are also consistently speaking for him: “He wants to go outdoors.” (4). This all demonstrates how Benjy may not be the most reliable narrator for he cannot really describe his own actions. The second method that shows Benjy’s unreliability is his transitions from the past and present. His thoughts are completely cohesive without break or real indication. One example is shown: “‘You snagged on that nail again.
Cant you ever crawl through here without snagging on that nail.’ Caddy uncaught me and we crawled through.” (3). Without Faulkner’s use of italics, it would seem that Caddy is there with Benjy and helped him escape. However, this is just a memory of Caddy. This confusion between the past and present makes Benjy seem very unreliable as a narrator. It is important to understand, however, that this is just how it seems because Benjy’s chapter is, in fact, very reliable and may perhaps be the most reliable of the entire novel.
This is due to the fact that the negative effects of Benjy’s disability are only enhanced because of the Compson family. The audience knows that he can think on his own for he does say “I began to cry” (13) numerous times. However, as seen above, the family does not let him.
They and the caretakers speak for him. Benjy is also very easily picked on and misunderstood so the family does not treat him very well. A very good example of this is when Benjy grabs the girl from across the fence: “I was trying to say, and I caught her, trying to say…” (35).
He is clearly trying to formulate a thought but it is too difficult. Instead of trying to understand, his family simply castrates him. Benjy clearly understands as he cries numerous times over it. When someone forcefully takes away a golf ball (an allusion to his own genitals) from Luster, Benjy starts to cry. Then Luster says “Hush up. I the one got something to moan over, you ain’t.” (36). Benjy also cries when he undresses and looks at himself in the mirror.
Yet again, Luster says “Hush…Looking for them aint going to do no good. They’re gone.” (49).
These examples only help show how Benjy is actually more cognitively adept than many might have thought. It is really only because of his family that the audience is led to believe that he is unreliable. Benjy’s own mother even calls him “a judgement on herself…
” (4). This all begins to also speak to the idea that the family, with the exception of Caddy, does not actually love Benjy. They simply do what is possible to belittle him and keep him out of sight from the rest of the world. Nevertheless, Roskus makes a statement that embodies Benjy’s narration and summarizes the reliability behind it: “Benjy know lot more than folks think.
” (21). Moving on to Quentin’s chapter, it becomes much clearer that he is in fact completely opposite of Benjy. While Benjy seems to be unreliable at the beginning and reliable towards the end with more understanding, Quentin starts the chapter seemingly reliable and ending up much more unreliable. This is mainly seen