William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury is a mystery of sorts, an unveiling, a slow surprise culminating in a heart-breaking, breath-taking scene. Dilsey, the Compson family’s African American servant woman takes the mentally disabled Benjy Compson’s head in her lap to comfort his crying:
“We’s down to worse’n dis, ef folks jes knowed,” she said. “You’s de Lawd’s chile, anyway. En I be His’n too, fo long…
Benjy doesn’t understand or remember the unraveling of his family but the sorrow, longing and loss are his to feel and his to express in the sound (and the fury, I suppose) of his crying.
I don’t think I’ve come across a scene that could represent more the Biblical phrase “the least of these”. In his final section, Faulkner delivers short vignettes that tell the continual disappearance of the Compson family but he finally describes Dilsey and her family with simply “They endured.”
Hope? Maybe a glimmer.
The Sound and the Fury is not an easy book to read. It’s been on my shelf for over three decades and I’ve only now had the patience to get through it. Even now, I had to consciously suspend my desire for certainty in order to keep going. But I did and it was worth it. Once finished, perhaps the reader has “endured”, too.