Benjy Compson

Character Key: 
Display Name: 
Benjy Compson
Sort Name: 
Compson, Benjamin
Maury Compson
Benjamin Compson
Upper Class
Family (new): 
Date of Birth: 
Saturday, April 27, 1895
Stream of Consciousness

Benjy is the cognitively disabled youngest child of Jason Compson III and Caroline Bascomb. In the novel he is referred to as a "natural" (160) and a "looney" (17); in interviews Faulkner frequently called him an "idiot"; until recently most readers probably thought of him as "severely retarded." At his birth he was named Maury, after Mrs. Compson's brother, but when he is five years old his mother changes his name to Benjamin after his mental disability has become apparent. Saturday, "April Seventh, 1928" - the date and title of his section - is his thirty-third birthday, although that means nothing to him. Having no concept of time, Benjy experiences the world almost entirely through physical sensations. Stimuli in 1928 set off a set of memories from his earlier life, which he seems to relive as if they were happening in the present. Because readers get to know him from within his consciousness in that first section, it often comes as a shock to read narrator's description of him in fourth section and see him from without: he is "a big man" whose "skin was dead looking and hairless. . . . His eyes were clear, of the pale sweet blue of cornflowers, his thick mouth hung open, drooling a little" (274). That narrator also provides a description of the sound Benjy makes so often in his section (which Luster refers to as "that moaning," 4): "Ben wailed again, hopeless and prolonged. It was nothing. Just sound" (288). Benjy does have many reasons to cry. His name is not the only thing he has lost. His father, for example, sells "the pasture," Benjy's favorite part of the family property, to send his brother Quentin to Harvard. Around his seventeenth year, after his attempt to reach out to the young daughter of the Burgess family next door is misinterpreted as an attempted rape, he is surgically castrated. But most of all, and all the time, he misses his sister Caddy, and the way she used to "smell like trees."

Social Status: 
has influential social contacts (family, business, political)
cognitively disabled
speech impaired
Individual or Group: 
Character changes class in this text: