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Friday, May 7, 2021

Faulkner: To Transcend the Clock

Man invented the clock, and the clock made man its prisoner. Man became awed by the hands on the clock’s face, frequently looking at them for guidance, moulding his daily routine to fit their circular movements. 

Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury is developed on the notion of the immense power that time exercises on man. Faulkner writes: “A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you'd think misfortune would get tired but then time is your misfortune.” In another passage, he writes, “And so as soon as I knew I couldn’t see it, I began to wonder what time it was. Father said that constant speculation regarding the position of mechanical hands on an arbitrary dial which is a symptom of mind-function.” He suggests that time cannot become alive until the clock is abandoned: “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” There is a symbolic significance to Quentin’s act of breaking his watch. 

In his brilliant novels, Proust reminisces time. But in The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner’s focus is not time but on absolution from the clock.

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