Quentin’s Idle Habit

With June Second, 1910 Faulkner establishes a second narrator in the character of Quentin.  Though his intelligence is far beyond that of Benji’s, Quentin shares in his brother’s inability to function entirely in the present as his memories often invade his narration.  In fact, the construct of time is inescapable for Quentin as he spends each waking moment contemplating the ticking of a clock or examining the movements of the shadows.

“If it had been cloudy”, Quentin could have very well disabled his watch and stayed within his thoughts.  However, the presence of the sun and its encroaching shadows compel Quentin to realize his “idle habits”.  Quentin’s disposition is clearly at odds with that of his father’s who feels that Quentin’s inability to restrict his reveries is merely a waste of time, a habit worthy of regret.  Though there is such a divide between them, Quentin thinks favorably of his father and the rest of his family, “thinking it would be nice for them down at New London”.

Contemplating his current surroundings his memory cannot help but interfere upon his realization that it is the month of June.  Just as in Benji’s narrative we are suddenly transported back to Caddy’s wedding, an event that troubled Quentin because Caddy and her husband were “not virgins”.  Unlike “dogwood” or “milkweed”, Caddy’s marriage was unnatural and did not serve to benefit any of those involved.  Feeling that this marriage further degraded the standing of the Compson family, Quentin claims incest, feeling that even such a horrid act is better than the truth.  The constant reference to roses is particularly evasive here.  Initially, it seems to aid in the description of Caddy’s wedding.  In the sentences following this, Roses seems to refer to Caddy, appearing in places where one would expect her name to be written.  Perhaps this speaks to Quentin’s impression of his sister, something beautiful yet dangerous.

Towards the end of this passage, Quentin seems to be grappling with his parents’ decision to send him to Harvard.  He was encouraged to interact with his surroundings, “see the boat-race”.  It is clearly a privilege for Quentin to be granted an opportunity to attend Harvard, however his inability to break from the circumstances of the past prevent him from enjoying the present.

As my classmate Haani put it, “Quentin lets thoughts of envelop his life”.  Her post along with the interactions on Caitlin’s comments helped me out on this one.

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  1. good job–and generous with and to your collaborators