A Dalton Ames
One of Caddy’s lovers who may have made her pregnant. In his monologue, Caddy’s brother Quentin remembers his failed confrontation with Dalton Ames over Caddy and tries to deny Ames’s role in Caddy’s life.
B Sheriff Anse
Jason tries to get the sheriff to help him catch his niece Quentin after she robs him and runs away from home. The sheriff refuses to help him, saying he figures the money was probably not Jason’s to begin with.
C Maury L. Bascomb
Mrs. Compson’s brother and an uncle to the Compson children. Benjy is named after Uncle Maury when he is born, but Mrs. Compson changes his name to Benjamin when she learns he is retarded. Uncle Maury appears in Benjy’s monologue, humoring his sister’s complaints. In Jason’s story, Uncle Maury is shown borrowing yet another sum of money from his sister in order to pursue a dubious business deal.
D Gerald Bland
One of Quentin’s acquaintances at Harvard. He is spoiled by his indulgent mother, who puts on parties for him and allows him a car. When Gerald begins boasting of his success with women, a distracted Quentin tries to punch him. Gerald is a boxer, however, and bloodies Quentin without damage to himself.
One of Caddy’s boyfriends. He appears as a memory in Benjy’s section. Charlie is obviously trying to make out with Caddy and she is pushing him away because Benjy is with her.
F Benjamin Compson
Benjy is the youngest of the Compson brothers. He had originally been named after his uncle Maury, but when the Compsons discover that he is retarded, they change his name to Benjamin. The first section of the book, “April Seventh, 1928,” is Benjy’s monologue. Benjy sees the world in terms of sights and sounds, and his narration reflects this emphasis. At the time of this section, Benjy is thirty-three years old, making him the same age as Jesus was when he was crucified. His brother Jason has despised him since childhood, when he destroyed the paper dolls Benjy and Caddy made. As head of the family, Jason has Benjy castrated when he makes advances to a young girl. After their mother dies, Jason has Benjy put into a mental hospital.
Benjy loves his sister Caddy, and his monologue mainly consists of memories of her. Caddy treats him with love and affection, unlike his mother Caroline, a complaining, dependent woman who treats him as a shameful nuisance. Benjy has never recovered from Caddy’s leaving the family after her pregnancy. His thoughts reflect this loss, and his memories focus on Caddy’s budding sexuality as if he knows this was the cause of her exile. His positive memories of his sister include her “smelling like trees,” and his sad ones relate his bellowing whenever she shows signs of womanhood-putting on perfume or sitting with a boyfriend. At the conclusion of the novel, Benjy hears a golfer call for his “caddie” and bellows his grief once again: “it was horror; shock; agony eyeless, tongueless; just sound.” Benjy can be seen as a personification of innocence in the novel.
G Caddy Compson
Caddy is the central character of the novel, even though none of the narration is seen through her eyes. In each of the three sections that represent the internal monologues of her brothers, she is of primary concern to them. The reader learns about Caddy through each of her brothers. They are all involved with her, but each in a different way. To a large extent, the brothers’ Characters are formed around their responses to Caddy. Benjy and Quentin love her in two distinct ways. Jason despises her as he does everything and everyone else. Caddy is the most normal of the Compson children. As the novel progresses and the pieces of her life unfold, she is seen as a young girl. She is loving in her relationships to Benjy and Quentin, but she also matures and has boyfriends. When Caddy becomes pregnant by one of them (perhaps Dalton Ames), she does the socially correct thing and marries another man, Herbert Head, who will be able to provide financially for her and her child. After her husband learns that her daughter is not his child, he turns her out. Caddy leaves her daughter, whom she has named after her dead brother Quentin, with the Compsons. She leaves the Compson home but sends money to support her daughter. In his “Appendix: Compson 1699-1945,” Faulkner describes how Caddy traveled to Mexico and Paris after a second divorce and was never heard from again. According to the author, Caddy was “doomed and knew it, accepted the doom without either seeking it or fleeing it.”
H Mrs. Carolyn Bascomb Compson
The mother of Benjy, Jason, Quentin, and Caddy. Mrs. Compson is depicted as a negligent mother. She is a self-absorbed hypochondriac and spends a great deal of time in bed. She does not show any maternal feelings for her children. Their care and nurturing are left mostly to Dilsey, the Compson’s African American housekeeper.
I Jason Compson IV
The middle son of the Compson family. After his brother Quentin’s suicide and the death of his father, Jason is the head of the family. Throughout the novel Jason is shown as a cold-blooded person. Mrs. Compson, however, sees him as the only one of her children with any common sense; in his “Appendix: Compson 1699-1945,” Faulkner describes him as “the first sane Compson since before Culloden and (a childless bachelor) hence the last.” Jason does seem attached to the real world more than his other siblings. He sees the necessity of succeeding in society, which he translates as the need to make money. Because of his rationality, the only person he fears and respects is Dilsey, the family’s black housekeeper-“his sworn enemy since birth.”
Jason is embittered by whatever seems to get in his way. He resents his parents for sending his brother Quentin to Harvard and seems eaten up by jealousy. He is angry with his sister Caddy because he believes her promiscuity caused her divorce and thus his chances of getting a job in her husband’s bank. When Caddy leaves her daughter Quentin with the Compsons after her divorce, he schemes to keep the money Caddy sends for Quentin’s support for himself. He further takes revenge by preventing Caddy from seeing her daughter, even briefly, and by treating the girl spitefully and with contempt. When his niece Quentin attempts to assert herself, Jason reacts cruelly and angrily. He finds her behavior a reflection of Caddy’s actions, which he believed caused his present unhappy state. Quentin finally rebels and steals Jason’s money and runs away-not just the $4,000 he swindled from her but an additional $2,800 in his own savings besides. Jason is beside himself and tries to find her and have her arrested. In terms of his anger, Jason is a man out of control, even though he is able to meet the practical demands of making a living. Although he is later seen as a moderately successful businessman, Jason is the final representation of the Compson family’s downfall.
J Quentin Compson
The eldest son of the Compsons. Quentin’s monologue, the second section of the book, takes place on June 2, 1910, while he is a student at Harvard. It is the day Quentin decides to commit suicide and the whole monologue details the events of this day and the events that led up to his decision to take his life. Faulkner’s Themes of family pride and the changes wrought on an individual over time are played out in Quentin’s character. He cannot stand the changes that have taken place in his relationship with his sister Caddy, for whom he has incestuous feelings. He is devastated when she reaches sexual maturity and obsesses over her relationships with men. But as Faulkner writes in his “Appendix: Compson 1699-1945,” Quentin loves “not his sister’s body but some concept of Compson honour precariously and (he knew well) only temporarily supported by the minute fragile membrane of her maidenhead.”
The notion that Quentin’s preoccupation with an outdated ideal of family “honor” has been much commented on by critics. The loss of the innocence that Quentin witnesses in Caddy’s “fall” is something that he finds intolerable. He cannot accept his father’s reassurances that in time his pain “will no longer hurt like this now,” for that would make his pain meaningless. Unable to adjust, seeing no other alternative, Quentin commits suicide. As the child for whom the Compson parents sacrificed so much, his death is a terrible loss to the family. His death is also symbolic of the feeling of meaninglessness of life for the Compson family, particularly for Mr. Compson, who uses alcohol to blunt his sense of purposelessness.
The Compson children’s grandmother. In his narration, Benjy recalls the day of her funeral, when Caddy climbs up a tree to peer in a window while her brothers and Dilsey’s children watch her muddy underpants.
An African American porter at the train station near Harvard who hires himself out to Southern students he meets at the station. He has been “guide mentor and friend to unnumbered crops of innocent and lonely freshman,” Quentin says. Deacon tells Quentin that “you and me’s the same folk, come long and short.” This parallels Quentin’s observation that “a nigger is not a person so much as a form of behaviour” and that “the best way to take all people, black or white, is to take them for what they think they are.”
Jason’s supervisor at the store where he works. He puts up with Jason’s lateness and rude talk, even though he suspects Jason of robbing his own mother, because he feels sorry for Mrs. Compson.
N Dilsey Gibson
The Compson housekeeper, who is seen to be the most positive character in the novel. Dilsey is the person who nurtures the Compson children, since both their mother and father are incapable of displaying love and affection. Her service to the family, even as she suffers from arthritis, is in stark contrast to Mrs. Compson’s neglect due to imagined illnesses. She is the only character that is able to embrace the meaning of life and accept a sense of family history. Her section is the fourth and final one and takes place on Easter Sunday, a time of resurrection. An inspiring sermon is an important part of the section and both Dilsey and Benjy, whom Dilsey has brought along to church, are spiritually moved. Dilsey’s response, unlike Benjy’s, is more than an emotional one. She experiences an epiphany-a sudden perception of truth-and tells her children “I seed de beginnin, en now I sees de endin.” Some critics have interpreted this as a comment on the fall of the Compson family.
Through what is often called the “Dilsey” section of the novel, the author’s point of view is expressed. Faulkner handles this by telling her story through the third person. It is through Dilsey’s tireless caring for the elder Compsons and their children that the author expresses his belief in the enduring quality of humanity. She is portrayed as a selfless and realistic person. She understands the behavior of all the children and accepts life in all its aspects because of a faith which flows from Christian love.
O Frony Gibson
Dilsey’s daughter. When Dilsey, Benjy, and Frony are at church on Easter Sunday, Frony has to speak for her mother when Dilsey refuses to answer some youngsters who ask how she’s doing. Frony answers for her out of a sense of common courtesy. Dilsey is shown here to have the capacity to be somewhat scornful of others, a quality that has also been attributed to the author.
P Luster Gibson
Dilsey’s grandson, whose primary function is as Benjy’s caretaker. As Faulkner writes in the “Appendix: Compson 1699-1945,” Luster is “a man, aged fourteen” who is “capable of the complete care and security of an idiot twice his age and three times his size.” He is with Benjy during the opening scenes of Benjy’s monologue. They pass the golf course where Benjy begins to cry upon hearing the word “caddie” called out. This reminds him of his sister Caddy. Luster sometimes teases Benjy, but for the most part he comforts and guides Benjy.
Q Roskus Gibson
Dilsey’s husband. Roskus appears in Benjy’s monologue. Benjy sees him milking the cow in the barn. Roskus is critical of the Compsons in many ways. Among other things, he disapproves of their changing Benjy’s name after they realized he was retarded.
R T.P. Gibson
One of Dilsey’s sons, who is beginning to take jobs over from his ailing father Roskus. He appears in Benjy’s section struggling to control the horse Queenie when he is told to take the reins. Mrs. Compson is uneasy about his handling the reins also. When Benjy recalls Caddy’s wedding, he remembers his brother Quentin hitting young T.P. and knocking him into the pigpen. The good-natured T.P. seems to take it all in fun, and continues his care of Benjy. Later Luster is shown taking over similar tasks from T.P.
S Versh Gibson
Another son of Dilsey’s. Benjy likes to go to Versh’s house for the smell of the fire.
T Sydney Herbert Head
Called Herbert, he is Caddy’s fiance and later her husband. He turns Caddy out when he discovers that he is not the father of Miss Quentin. While he is engaged to Caddy, he has a conversation with her brother Quentin about cheating that illustrates Quentin’s rigid view of ethics and morality.
U Jason Compson III
The father of Quentin, Jason, Benjy, and Caddy. Mr. Compson is a retired lawyer and has become an alcoholic. He is already dead at the time of the novel in 1928, and is shown in flashback during Benjy’s and Jason’s narrations. His deterioration accelerates after losing his oldest son Quentin to suicide and his daughter Caddy to marriage. He also loses much of his social position, because he has had to sell the last of his inherited estate in order to pay for Caddy’s wedding and Quentin’s tuition to Harvard. In his conversations with his children, especially Quentin, Mr. Compson is shown as cynical.
V Miss Quentin
Caddy’s daughter, whose father is uncertain but may be Dalton Ames. When Caddy’s husband Herbert Head discovers Quentin is not his, he divorces Caddy. The Compsons also disown their disgraced daughter. Unable to support Quentin, Caddy brings her daughter home to be brought up by the Compsons. She leaves but sends support money for her daughter. Jason uses the money to save for himself. When at age seventeen Quentin has had enough of Jason’s mistreatment, she steals the money from his strong box-including some of his own savings-and runs away. Jason attempts to pursue her to recover his money. He has nothing but contempt for her, seeing in her a reflection of Caddy, whom he blames for all his troubles.
W Reverend Shegog
The guest preacher at the Easter Sunday service Dilsey attends with Frony and Benjy. He is a fiery speaker and moves both Benjy and Dilsey to tears. His appearance, which is small and undistinguished, contrasts sharply with that of the regular preacher at Dilsey’s church, who is large and impressive. Rev. Shegog’s sermon, which progresses from a cold tone to a rousing, passionate plea, leaves Benjy rapt and Dilsey in tears.
Quentin’s roommate at Harvard. He is friendly and concerned for Quentin’s well-being, so much so that Spoade teasingly calls Shreve Quentin’s “husband.” He is one of the two people for whom Quentin leaves a suicide note.
One of Quentin’s friends at Harvard. He has “cold, quizzical eyes” and teasingly calls Shreve Quentin’s “husband.” Although he is Quentin’s friend, he is puzzled by his behavior.