物言えぬ「白痴」と黒人の声 : 『響きと怒り』におけるベンジーの「黒さ」 [in Japanese] The Mute White Man-Child and Voices of Black People : Reading Benjy's "Blackness" in The Sound and the Fury [in Japanese]
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The question of racial blackness in white writers' works, which is still a moot point in the field of literary studies, arises when we consider William Faulkner's description of Reverend Shegog's sermon in The Sound and the Fury. Though some critics argue that the representation of black speech and accent assumes the character of Afro-American traditional counter-culture, it holds the possibility of arousing criticism for the white artist's appropriation of black linguistics. With this problem in mind, John N. Duvall evaluates Faulkner's use of the figures of racial blackness as markers of white writers' embodiment of "blackness" that afford a critical clue to the question of whiteness. According to Duvall, Faulkner figuratively becomes black in search for his artistic identity as he writes his main male characters as "black Caucasians," men who are racially white but embody the quality of racial blackness. In this view, Shegog, as well as Faulkner's "black" white men, figures the possibility of "an artistic identity that is black." This paper aims to examine the question of these conflicting critical attitudes toward Faulkner's "blackness" by reading racial connotations into Benjy Compson and his inability to speak. In the first section of the novel, Benjy assumes the image of black masculinity when his yearning for Caddy is implied with the episodes concerning his verbal difficulties. When he remembers the day of his sister's loss of virginity, Benjy tries to avoid the anguishing memory by performing the imaginary play of incestuous miscegenation. The association between the white man-child and the black conjurer is established by the fact that Benjy is mentally handicapped and unable to speak. His verbal inability and incestual yearning for Caddy take another shape of racial blackness when he is castrated after he was "trying to say." Suspected of sexual assault, the white man with the mental age of a three-years-old child embodies the racial stereotypes of "black rapist" and submissive and childish "Sambo." In addition, castration serves to elicit the patriarchal nature of the white South that caused feminization of black male southerners. What allows us to read Benjy as a "black Caucasian," however, turns into markers of his whiteness when he is juxtaposed with black characters in the fourth section. A conversation between Dilsey and Frony indicates that Benjy is alienated from the white community due to his "black" qualities but cannot wholly assimilate into the black community due to the fact that he is a white. The vague description of Benjy's response to Shegog's sermon makes it ambiguous how deeply he gets immersed in both the power of his linguistic performance and the wordless communication to which it leads the black congregation. The nature of Benjy's whiteness can be also found in his final cry, which represents the difficulties of articulating the inbetween character of his racial status. Benjy's inbetween whiteness leads us to examine the racial aspect of Faulkner's artistry that is neither appropriation of racial blackness nor dependence on ambiguous blackness. It is based on the history of racial division and his creative imagination with self-critical reference to its own whiteness.
- The American Literature Society of Japan
The American Literature Society of Japan 47(0), 37-52, 2011
The American Literature Society of Japan