LITERATURE: The Sound and the Fury – Character

"Ef I jes had a quarter," Luster says, "I could go to dat show."

"En ef you had wings you could fly to heaven," Dilsey says.  "I don’t want to hear another word about dat show."

"That reminds me," I says.  "I’ve got a couple of tickets they gave me."  I took them out of my coat.

"You fixin to use um?" Luster says.

"Not me," i says.  "I wouldn’t go to it for ten dollars."

"Gimme one of um, Mr. Jason," he says.

"I’ll sell you one," I says.  "How about it?"

"I ain’t got no money," he says.  (p. 254)

In the opening of this story, Luster and Benjy were walking the grounds, Luster searching for a quarter he’d lost.  Faulkner brings that quarter back in this scene with Luster and Jason.  It displays the singlemindedness of Luster, his need for a break from his care of Benjy, his dependence on his mother, his grandmother (Dilsey), and his subservience to Jason for this little pleasure.

And, it reveals the truly evil nature of Jason:

"I don’t want them,"  I says.  I came back to the stove.  "I came in here to burn them up.  But if you want to buy one for a nickel?" I says, looking at him and opening the stove lid.

"I ain’t got that much," he says.

"All right," I says.  I dropped one of them in the stove.

"You, Jason," Dilsey says.  "Ain’t you shamed?"

"Mr. Jason," he says.  "Please, suh.  I’ll fix dem tires ev’y day fer a mont."

"I need the cash," I says.  "You can have it for a nickel."

"Hush, Luster," Dilsey says.  She jerked him back.  "Go on," she says.  "Drop hit in.  Go on.  Git hit over with."

"You can have it for a nickel," I says.

"Go on," Dilsey says.  "He ain’t got no nickel.  Go on.  Drop hit in."

"All right," I says.  I dropped it in and Dilsey shut the stove.  (p. 255)

Faulkner has created one of most dislikeable characters I’ve ever met.  And worse, he seemed familiar.  I had a sneaking suspicion that I knew Jason, although who came to mind didn’t jive with this rough man in the book.  I looked up the movie made from this and sure enough, my image of Yul Brynner came back as the smooth, cold, suave Jason of the film.  I remember Joanne Woodward as Quentin.  The movie was made in 1959, and I’d seen it on television some late night many years ago.  Brynner, as I recall, was the perfect domineering, cold and calculating villain.  Faulkner’s is more earthy, less deliberate; a natural rather than a practiced snake.

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