English Language and Literature ETDs

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Though The Sound and the Fury has received considerable critical attention since its publication in 1929, certain issues have yet to be resolved. Primary among these are the related issues of the novel's unity and of the possibility of an optimistic theme. The theory of archetypes postulated by C. G. Jung provides a model that helps to solve these problems. Archetypes are patterns of human experience though, as Jung insists, they can never be "reduced to a simple formula." However, one can speak of models that parallel the literary experience. The model that parallels this novel is that of an archetypal, psychological journey from chaos through a realm of adventure and peril to a condition in which conflict is resolved and wholeness and peace restored. This model is most closely paralleled in human experience by the "rites of passage" which Arnold Van Gennep describes in three stages: separation, transition, and incorporation. In other words, in The Sound and the Fury the reader, like the primitive initiate, is separated from everyday reality, lives through trials and transitions with the characters, and reemerges with a broader understanding of life and a fuller range of experience.

The first section, "April Seventh, 1928, " corresponds to separation. The removal of the initiate from his customary surroundings is analogous to the disorientation the reader experiences upon entering the mind of the idiot. Two motifs supplement this experience: the motif of separation represented by the section's time scheme, the changes in the Compson world, the eccentric method of narration, and the imagery of passage; and the motif of reconciliation embodied in images of light and trees which symbolize illumination and rebirth.

"June Second 1910" and "April Sixth 1928" parallel the transition stage. Though Quentin and Jason are unsuccessful in passing the trials of initiation, their sections provide the basic terms of the initiation paradigm through which a person must work: the shadow (whatever is within ourselves that we do not wish to accept and so project onto others) and the encounter with the archetypal feminine (physical life in both its positive and negative aspects).

In the final section, "April Eighth 1928," through a series of oppositions and transformations that symbolize the reconciliation of paradoxes by active participation in symbol and rite, we complete the trials and are "incorporated" into the vision of the novel. The final scene completes the experience by providing a symbol of unity and wholeness--the mandala or magic circle, the ultimate symbol of Oneness which at once epitomizes the completeness of the novel and "closes" our initiation into the mystery of The Sound and the Fury.

This framework makes it possible to propose a new reading of this novel that provides some answers to issues left unsettled by previous readings. If, for instance, we look at the four sections as phases in an initiation journey traced by the reader, we are able to talk about unity without denying the individuality of the fragments. In addition, an archetypal approach gives us a way to talk about the meaning of the novel in the light of the optimistic purpose Faulkner asserted in his Nobel Prize Speech. The pattern suggested here is inevitably optimistic because it confirms our sense of the unity and imperishability of all being.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

David Johnson

Second Committee Member

Morris Eaves

Third Committee Member

Jim Barbour



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