Faulkner’s, The Sound and The Fury is perhaps one of the greatest abusers of time in literature, at least, in my limited knowledge of literature. That said, Faulkner’s abuse of time seems to be in retribution for time’s abuse of his characters. I’ll go character by character and illustrate how time is the enemy of each.
Caroline: As time goes on, Caroline becomes more ineffective as a functioning human being. She delves further into her self-pity and hypochondria. I imagine Caroline rather attractive as a young woman, devastated with the every-day progression of age. She never settled into her role as a mother because of her need to cling to her younger identity. Time and the inevitable personal furthering it brings with its passage is by far the worst force in Caroline’s life.
Quentin- Quentin strikes me as the kind of man who was never able to grasp growing into adulthood. He forever clings to childlike ignorance of worldly issues and the unachieved ideal of a perfectly loving, happy family. He wants to nurture and be nurtured by his sister, Caddy, who becomes in their pubescent bodily chaos both a mother figure and a potential lover for him. The older he and his family grow, the more real his loss of (rather, never having gained) family, mother, and lover becomes. Eventually, he is unable to face the passing of one more minute farther away from his dreams.
Benjy- For Bengy, time does not move laterally. Personally, he is trapped forever in a stagnant childlike mentality. His memories blow by him and seem to be as recent as his current reality. Time does all the usual bodily damage and provides him none of the clarity or maturity it brings. He simply has the repeated disappointment of believing he is a child, surrounded by those who love him, and suddenly being ripped back into his elder solitude.
Jason- Time is merely a tool for Jason. With each passing moment he perceives a growth in his power. A true sewer of discord, Jason thrives on the splintered nature of his family and relishes every minute that brings with it more opportunity to manipulate and divide.
Miss Quentin- Time is both cruel and kind to the child. True, time does steal her innocence and wonder, but it also sets her free from her tyrannical and detached keepers. Time repays its debt to Miss Quentin.
Caddy – Very much like her daughter, time is both a friend and a foe to her. As Caddy grows into adolescence, she becomes more obstinate and attention-starved. Her needs blossom and grow as the simple acknowledgements that would pacify a child no longer quench her thirst. As she has no real male figurehead in her life, she seeks the company and guidance of older men who would seek to use her. With each day that matures her, the need for real intimacy grows within her and the quest to fill that spiritual and emotional hole continues. Promiscuity at a young age makes her confuse sex with love and she conceives out of wedlock and bears a child. For whatever reason, Caddy is unable to care for the child and hands her over to those who may or may not know better. At this point, time forgives Caddy and attempts to heal her wounds. She finally is able to spread her wings and tackle her life, eventually ending up happily on the arm of a well-to-do Nazi officer (according to the epilogue). While I don’t quite understand how one could be happy married to a Nazi, she seems to be. To each his own, I guess.
Dilsey – I have to confess that I find it very difficult to pinpoint time’s relationship to Dilsey. At once she seems worn by time, according to her physical description in the fourth section, and strengthened by time’s wearing away of the Compson dynasty. Rather, that strengthening may be evident as a result of comparison to those surrounding her. The Compson name was built on many of the principles that Dilsey singularly holds dear. The decay of the family honor and name seems to leave her standing as the last pillar of goodness associated with the Compsons. Time has no power over her goodness and spirit or her love for the least of God’s creatures. Dilsey’s principles should live on, thus granting her a kind of immortality; a victory over time.