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A Psychoanalytic Approach to Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

A Psychoanalytic Approach to Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

In Faulkner’s work, The Sound and the Fury, Caddy is never given an interior monologue of her own; she is seen only through the gaze of her brothers, and even then only in retreat, standing in doorways, running, vanishing, forever elusive, forever just out of reach. Caddy seems, then, to be simultaneously absent and present; with her, Faulkner evokes an absent presence, or the absent center of the novel, as André Bleikasten and John T. Matthews have observed. The “absent center” is a key term in Lacanian theory, and in order to understand how Caddy’s absence, or repression, supports the masculine identity, we’ll have to review some Lacanian theory.

According to Lacan, at first all children are engaged in an imaginary dyadic relation with the mother in which they find themselves whole. During this period, no clear boundaries exist between the [male] child and the external world, and the child lacks any defined center of self. For the child to acquire language, to enter the realm of the symbolic, the child must become aware of difference. Identity comes about only as a result of difference, only by exclusion. The appearance of the father establishes sexual difference, signified by the phallus, the mark of the father’s difference from the mother. The father creates difference by separating the child from the maternal body: He prohibits the merging of mother and child and denies the child the use of the phallus to recreate this union. (Nancy Chodorow says, a woman’s entry into the symbolic is different from a man’s. The daughter isn’t threatened with castration, and identifies with the mother. Girl longs to recover the lost unity for the m ot…

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…ging a relationship outside the family. A “lack” exists and is exacerbated by the conscious and unconscious divisions between male characters, Jason and Quentin, and female characters, Caddy and Quentin. Faulkner does not offer an easy exit or resolution to the paradox. The “lack” existing within the psyches of Quentin and Jason gives rise to other forms of absence and means to attaining absence, culminating in violence, suicide, and solitude.

Works Cited and Consulted

Fowler, Doreen. “Little Sister Death: The Sound and the Fury and the Denied Unconscious,”

Faulkner and Psychology. Ed. Donald M. Kartiganer and Ann J. Abadie. UP Mississippi: Jackson 1994.

Porter, Carolyn. “Symbolic Fathers and Dead Mothers: A Feminist Approach to Faulkner.”

Faulkner and Psychology. Ed. Donald M. Kartiganer and Ann J. Abadie. UP Mississippi: Jackson 1994.

lieshod The Lies in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

The Lies in Heart of Darkness

A lie, as defined by Webster’s dictionary is 1) a false statement deliberately presented as true; 2) to convey a false image or impression. It is generally accepted that Marlow told a lie to the Intended – the reasons for that lie are debatable. I would suggest that he told not just one lie, to the Intended, but several – that his visit itself was, in a form, a lie.

The statement easily recognized as a lie, and that falls into Webster’s definition 1), is Marlow’s deliberate falsification of Kurtz’s last words – “The last word he pronounced was – your name” (Longman p. 2246), when we all know that Kurtz’s last words were, “The horror! The horror!”(Longman p. 2240). Marlow’s intentions – however noble in this one instance – are questionable, in regards to the lesser lies he tells the Intended. This lie, in Marlow’s mind, was justified as a means of protecting the Intended. Marlow saw Kurtz’s death as “…a moment of triumph for the wildernes, an invading and vengeful rush, it seemed to me, I would have to keep back alone for the salvation of another soul”(Longman p. 2243). Now the lie is not only justified but honorable.

Marlow’s more noble self – his spiritually attuned nature – tells us early on that, “You know I hate, detest and can’t bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies – which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world – what I want to forget.” (Longman p. 2210). His statement is recognition of the lies (of the world, in general and of the brick-maker, in particular) (Longman p. 2208-2210). He reviles these lies as a betrayal of what is good and…

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……”[Marlow]. To illustrate how effectively the previous lies are preparing Marlow – he didn’t even choke on this one! Lie #7: “His end was in every way worthy of his life”[Marlow]. Taken at face value that may very well have been a true statement however, Marlow intended for it to carry the false impression of a noble, honorable and worthy death and life.

Marlow never elaborates on how the lie(s) made him feel. I believe Marlow’s true character was honest and noble and suffered from this blow to his earlier righteous abhorrence. Possibly these lie(s) could be classified as irony (out of respect for Marlow’s true character) – the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning or an incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs. Or is that the first step into the Heart of Darkness? Justifying sins based on intentions or results.

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