The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner is a structural gem which lays everything out in front of you in the opening section without explaining anything.  By waiting until nearly the end of the book to illuminate the opening pages, Faulkner achieves a profound sense of simultaneity, almost as though the character’s lives were laid out in advance and time were only an illusion.  This technical feat dovetails beautifully with Faulkner’s thematic exploration of fate and meaning.  Although that ought to be enough stylistic pyrotechnics for one book, Faulkner goes a step further and creates three completely unique stream of consciousness styles which embed the reader in the minds of three very different characters.  In the fourth and final section this effect is lessened; presumably intentionally, as the more approachable prose helps to ground the story and bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to feel the full range of sensations which a novel can produce within one’s heart and mind when an author chooses his words in order to fashion an experience rather than merely relating a sequence events.  Faulkner doesn’t give much context, especially in the opening sections, but if you press on without worrying about the details you will feel the lives of these characters accumulating inside you with all the muddied connections and emotional resonances which we find in our own memories.


The Sound and the Fury was originally published in 1929.  As the story draws to a close one can sense the imminent stock market collapse in the air — and yet the novel was published on October 7th, 13 days before the market broke.

Wikipedia says “There are also echoes of existential themes in the novel, as Sartre argued in his famous essay on Faulkner.[citation needed]


About Matthew Lie - Paehlke

Matthew Lie-Paehlke is a PhD student in Urban Planning at the University of Toronto.
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