For The Sound and the Fury, his second Yoknapatawpha fiction, Faulkner creates a third aristocratic family: the Compsons. Their social credentials are even more impressive than the Sartorises - according to Quentin Compson, at least, "one of our forefathers was a governor and three were generals" (101); although only one General ever appears in the nineteen fictions with Compsons in them, he outranks all the Colonels and Majors in the other stories. The family's first appearance foregrounds the 20th century descendants of these men, and in some respects Faulkner deploys them to create the same contrast as in Flags in the Dust between the great past and the sordid present. But in the novel the past that matters most is personal, not cultural: The Sound and the Fury is one of Faulkner's two greatest dramatizations of the family itself as an environment, of the way individuals are shaped by their familial experiences with parents and siblings (the other is his next novel, As I Lay Dying, where the family is poor white but the psychological issues are much the same).

Although the Compson who appears most frequently is the General, the most important member of the family is his grandson Quentin. He dies in that first novel, but Faulkner resurrects him in three stories - "That Evening Sun," "A Justice" and "Lion" - where as narrator Quentin provides access to cultural spaces that are far removed from the big houses of the plantation aristocracy: a black servant's cabin, an Indian's tribal past, and the big woods that can seem outside time itself, whether measured in historical or Freudian terms. And in Absalom, Absalom!, as the point of view around which the novel is organized, Quentin simultaneously confronts his own familial and the Southern past, and the profound interrelationship between them.

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Compson Family Biography