5. The Sound and the Fury (1929): Portrait Narrative as Tragedy

  1. James Phelan

Published Online: 1 APR 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118512876.ch5

Reading the American Novel 1920-2010

Reading the American Novel 1920-2010

How to Cite

Phelan, J. (2013) The Sound and the Fury (1929): Portrait Narrative as Tragedy, in Reading the American Novel 1920-2010, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118512876.ch5

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 APR 2013
  2. Published Print: 10 APR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780631230670

Online ISBN: 9781118512876



  • modernism;
  • portrait narrative;
  • The Sound and the Fury;
  • William Faulkner


In The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner responds to the historical decline of the old Southern aristocracy with the techniques of high modernism and the vision of a tragedian. One consequence of Faulkner's decision to write four discrete sections is that the task of reconstructing the larger, overarching narrative falls to us. With the Jason and Dilsey sections, Faulkner makes the narrative side of the component dominant as he uses Jason to show many of the connections among the fragments of the first two sections, connections that inform our understanding of the more straightforward narrative tracing Jason's struggle with Quentin. In the fourth section, Faulkner frames the final events of this narrative within the context provided by Dilsey's Easter reflections and the Reverend Shegog's Easter Sunday sermon and by a final scene with Jason, Luster, and Benjy in which Jason manages to restore some minimal order.