Jason Lycurgus Compson II

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Jason Lycurgus Compson II
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Compson, Jason Lycurgus II
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General Jason Compson, the grandfather of Quentin, Caddy, Jason and Benjy, appears in thirteen different texts, the most of any Compson. Given Faulkner's willingness to sacrifice consistency to the needs of a particular story, it's not surprising that it's hard to pull all his appearances into one cumulative biography. He is seen through Quentin's eyes in the first two of those texts, with "Colonel Sartoris" beside him as an avatar of an idealized Southern past in The Sound and the Fury ("and Grandfather was always right," 176), and as the plantation aristocrat in "A Justice" ("we all believed that he did fine things, that his waking life passed from one fine (if faintly grandiose) picture to another," 360). Absalom, Absalom! develops his own story in more detail - early settler in Yoknapatawpha, big planter, Confederate officer who lost an arm at the battle of Shiloh - but his role in that text is mainly defined by the fact that he was Thomas Sutpen's "only friend" (220); he is essentially the novel's fifth narrator, so much of the Sutpen story derives from what "Grandfather" told Mr. Compson that Sutpen told him, as retold in turn to Quentin by Mr. Compson. He doesn't earn an entry of his own in either the "Genealogy" that Absalom! includes (307-09) or the "Appendix Compson" that Faulkner wrote in the mid-1940s, though the entry there for the first Jason Lycurgus Compson provides enough detail about him to dramatically revise the image Quentin had, calling Jason II the man who began the tradition of Compson men who "fail at everything [they touch] save longevity or suicide" (330). But he acquires yet another identity (and apparently a new arm!) in the hunting stories Faulkner wrote. As a member of Major de Spain's hunting parties he is an impressive figure. While in The Sound and the Fury Quentin sees grandfather's watch as yet one more symbolic reminder of failure, in Go Down, Moses the exemplary Ike McCaslin, who renounces his own grandfather's legacy, cherishes among his very few possessions the hunting horn, "bound with silver," that "General Compson left him left him in his will" (345). The General does succeed at longevity - he dies in 1900 - and last appears in Faulkner's last novel. There the motif of failure creeps back into his biography: as an old man he keeps "getting lost" in the woods, a problem that grows worse when "his hearing begins to fail" (20).