Quentin Compson

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Quentin Compson
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Compson, Quentin
Quentin Compson III
Upper Class
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Date of Birth: 
Thursday, January 1, 1891 to Thursday, December 31, 1891
Cause of Death: 
Stream of Consciousness

The eldest son of Jason and Caroline Compson, Quentin is a major character in two of Faulkner's major novels, this one and Absalom, Absalom! (1936). In this novel, he is a freshman at Harvard College. It is through Quentin that the novel articulates its thematic focus on the loss of meaning in the modern world. His consciousness is haunted, for example, by his father's nihilism, by the destructiveness of time, by his own inadequacies and above all by his younger sister Caddy's lost virginity. He spends June 2, 1910 - the day his section takes place - both preparing for his suicide and looking for some other way to escape time. At the end of the day Quentin leaves his dorm room to drown himself in the Charles River. Caught between the patrician ideals of a lost past and the sordid realities of the present, Quentin tells his father that he is Caddy's lover, that "I have committed incest" (79). Some commentators on the novel believe the incest actually occurred, others believe Quentin's attitude toward Caddy was defined by sexual desire, but others note his horror of sexuality coupled with his shame at being a virgin, and interpret his obsession with Caddy as metaphysical rather than physical: the desire to hold on to her as a symbol of meaning in the midst of a world threatened by chaos and meaninglessness.

There is a problem with his larger chronology in that Quentin dies in 1910 in <em>The Sound and the Fury</em>, but is alive in the 1920s in "That Evening Sun" (1931). However, evidence suggests that Faulkner conceived of "That Evening Sun" before <em>The Sound and the Fury</em>. (SR: save this for Q's composite bio.) Later, at Harvard, he and his Canadian roommate, Shreve MacKenzie, are narrators using guess-work to construct the story of Thomas Sutpen in Absalom, Absalom! Quentin's narration in The Sound and the Fury is an amalgamation of first-person and stream-of-consciousness.
Social Status: 
has influential social contacts (family, business, political)
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Date of Death: 
Thursday, June 2, 1910