Caroline Bascomb Compson

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Caroline Bascomb Compson
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Compson, Caroline Bascomb
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In The Sound and the Fury Caroline Compson is the sister of Maury Bascomb (Uncle Maury), the wife of Jason Compson III, and the mother of Quentin, Candace, Jason and Maury|Benjamin. She is probably also the daughter of the woman called "Damuddy" whose death is the earliest event (and loss) in Benjy and Quentin's memories. A bed-ridden neurotic and a hypochondriac, Caroline seems hopelessly preoccupied with herself. She is obsessed with the social standing of the Bascomb family and largely oblivious to the misery of her own. She often speaks of how badly her children have let her down, but readers are likely to be appalled by how badly she fails them. The only child she recognizes as truly hers is Jason; she is ashamed of Benjy, and hostile towards Caddy and Quentin. Given how consistently she is portrayed as an uncaring and incompetent mother, it is easy to appreciate the depth of feeling in Quentin's (repeated) phrase, "if I'd just had a mother so I could say Mother Mother" (172, also 95). It's like the golfers' "caddie" that Benjy keeps believing means "Caddy" is close by: for Caroline's children the word "mother" is basically just an empty sound, a name for what isn't there. She appears next in "That Evening Sun," which is narrated by Quentin. He never describes "Mother," as he calls her, but her spoken words characterize her as the querulous, self-centered person readers meet in novel: "You'll leave me alone, to take Nancy home?" she complains to her husband (293). According to the "Appendix Compson" she dies in 1933. The last two volumes of the Snopes trilogy mention her briefly. Given her fastidiousness about her public image, it probably gave Faulkner pleasure in The Town to make her the owner of the building that Montgomery Ward Snopes rents for his Atelier Monty, a fancy name for a business that gave the men in and around Yoknapatawpha access to pornographic French postcards. In her last mention she and Faulkner create a new ending to the Compson story. Although in the "Appendix" Jason ships Benjy to the state mental institution after her death, in The Mansion we learn that not only is she still alive when Jason does that, but once it's done her "whining" and tears force him to bring Benjy back home. Readers of those earlier texts are familiar with her whining, but her maternal grief here may come as a surprise.