On ‘The Sound and the Fury’ – Jason Compson

While Jason is certainly the least sympathetic of the compson siblings, I find find it difficult to truly hate him. By his section of the novel, April 6 1928, he’s grown into a misogynist, a racist, an anti-semite. A hateful, bitter man who has no love for his family and is only interested in money. But it’s important to note the circumstances which led Jason to become this character.

He was the only Compson child that recieved anything resembling affection from their mother, but that is perhaps more a curse than a blessing. Caroling was both smothering and neglectful to Jason. Her professed love for him was littler more than overbearing and sometimes tiflinf verbal affection. She failed to truly behave affectionately toward him, and as for raising him, she treated him no differently than her other children. They were all mostly left to Dilsey to raise.

Jason, the youngest Compson child, other than Benjy, his idiot brother, was also not given the opportunities that were given to his older siblings. Their father sold Benjy’s pasture to pay for a year of Harvard for Quentin and to pay for Caddy’s wedding to Herbert Head. No such arrangements were even attempted for Jason’s future. And what’s more, his siblings, in his eyes, wasted these opportunities that were given to them. Quentin killed himself after his year at Harvard, wasting both the money and the education, and Caddy’s promiscuity destroyed her marriage, in turn ruining the only advantage Jason was ever given, the job at the bank which Herbert offered to him. When Herbert realized that Caddy’s daughter had come to early and could not be his, he cast off his wife and her family, and Jason’s chance at a job at the bank was gone. Jason resents the fact that his siblingers wasted the opportunities that he was never even given, and he especially resents Caddy, believing that her actions directly destroyed the only opportunity he had ever been given (though he fails to realize he never would have had the opportunity in the first place had it not been for Caddy).

This contempt for his dead and estranged siblings is the cause of his hostility toward his niece, Miss Quentin. The fact that she bears his brother’s name is a constant reminder of the wasted money spent on Quentin’s college career. And the simple fact that she came from Caddy makes her a constant reminder of his sister’s faults and mistakes. The very existance of Miss Quentin infuriates Jason. If she had never existed, if she hadn’t been born illegitimately, ruining Caddy’s marriage, Jason never would have lost his promised job (though, again, he fails to realize that Caddy probably never would have married Herbert in the first place had she not been pregnant.) Jason is also of the mindset “like mother, like daughter”. He believe Quentin is just like her mother even before she’s an adult. He assumes the worst of her for the beginning, from the time he started raising her, so in a a way, he made her the way she is through his expectations.

Jason has such a rage against Caddy. In his mind, her promiscuity is the cause of all his problems. Each Compson brother is preoccupied with Caddy’s promiscuity and virtue, but Jason’s obsession with it is much more selfish than Quentin’s and Benjy’s. And, as Miss Quentin is the product of that promiscuity, and since he merely sees him as a stand in for Caddy, she is the outlet for all of Jason’s rage, the rage he’s been building up for 17 years.

Jason’s life is based entirely on the disappointment of his family. He, the youngest, other than a mentally retarded brother, is left as head of the family, since his older brother has killed himself and his older sister has been cast off by her husband. His father drank himself to death, leaving the family in Jason’s hands. The family that had already been ruined by the time Jason claimed the title of head of the family. He, who was more or less forgotten among the mistakes and failures of his older siblings, who lost all opportunities to those who wasted them, was suddenly left with the burden of taking care of the fallen family, of raising his sister’s bastard child. He was isolated from the world before he even began. He was left in that house with his overbearing, suffocating, self-pitying mother, his sister’s illigitimate child, and constant reminder of his lost opportunity, and a mentally incompetant brother, to provide for and care for.

Though, his cruelty is noticable in their childhood scenes. Like both of his brothers, Jason is preoccupied with Caddy, but where Benjy’s and Quentin’s preoccupations are affectionate, Jason’s is almost purely malicious, based entirely on getting her into trouble and generally disapproving of her behavior. He also maliciously cuts up Benjy and Caddy’s paper dolls just to be mean. It’s often said that Caddy is the outsider of the family, but really Jason is. He fails to form a bond, which all his siblings share with each other, and even his father seems to care for him less than he does for Caddy, Quentin, and Benjy. Even at a young age, he victimizes himself, despite his cruelty, believing that it’s the others who re being cruel to him. While we never get an account of Jason’s childhood behavior from Caddy, we know what she thinks of him, and what she thought of them when they were children, when he asks her is she trusts him, and she says, “No, I know you, I grew up with you.”

The only thing Jason seems to show any feeling for is money. It’s easy to see that the comfort he lacks from his family he finds in money. Perhaps he’s so obsessed with is because he came so close to having it and then was denied it. It’s his only love, and he’s definitely comforted by it. Just looking at it assuages his guilt. After Caddy’s paid him to see her daughter and Jason pulls a dirty trick by just letting her glance at Quentin as they ride by in a carriage, he counts the money and decides he “didn’t feel so bad”. He figures Caddy owes him money anyway, for ruining his chance at a job in the bank. This leads him to steal the money that she sends for Quentin for 17 years.

Basically, 17 years of raising his sister’s bastard child – the living, breathing symbol of the lost opportunities of Jason’s life – has left him to turn into a bitter and hateful man, who is obsessed with seeing the past in the present. Like Quentin, he’s obsessed with time, but in a different way. While Quentin was obsessed with stopping time completely, Jason can’t let go of time. His obsession lies in reliving the past through the present. All of his thoughts, his rages against Miss Quentin, of his discontent with his , always have twinges of the past in them, whether it be of Caddy, their father, or their family’s history.

Jason may be the least likable and and sympathetic Compson child, he’s that way for a reason. A forgotten son, given chances or opportunities, left as the last one to care for the mess of the Compson family. He’s left alone to shoulder the mistakes of his siblings, his parents, and his family.

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