“Something Terrible in Me“: A Note on Demon-Possession and Suicide in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury

By Graham Jensen

University of Saskatchewan

This note explores the subject of religion in William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury, including its importance in relation to Quentin and several clues that make an interpretation of his motives for...

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This note explores the subject of religion in William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury, including its importance in relation to Quentin and several clues that make an interpretation of his motives for suicide possible. Two subtexts, which are both alluded to in Quentin’s section, are central to the formation of my interpretation here: the biblical story of the demon-possessed man from the region of the Gerasenes1 and, to a lesser extent, the roughly analogous story of Eubuleus found in Greek mythology. In combination with Faulkner’s “Compson Appendix,” these subtexts emphasize key themes in the novel—including sexuality, death, and the self. I argue that although Quentin’s suicide is not easily interpreted as a symbolic Christian act per se, from an intertextual perspective it can at least be read as an act of self-sacrifice or purgation, an attempt to relinquish his demons and reunite with his sister Caddy in the afterlife.

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Original publication information:

Jensen, Graham. “‘Something Terrible in Me’: A Note on Demon-Possession and Suicide in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.” In The Sound and the Fury: A Hypertext Edition, ed. Peter Stoicheff, Allison Muri, and Joel Deshaye. U of Saskatchewan. 2010.