“Female Silence in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and “A Rose for Emily”: Crossing the Borders of the Speakable”

Mourad Romdhani


In William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929), Caddy Compson moves outside the borders of language and resides in silence. In “Hearing Caddy’s Voice” (1990), Minrose Gwin admits that despite her disbelief in Caddy’s silence, she does not fully understand what she is saying, for “she is something more than we can say” (36). Likewise, in her single monologue, in As I Lay Dying (1930), Addie Bundren reveals a skeptical standpoint about language, stating that “words are no good. [. . .] Words don’t even fit what they are trying to say at” (159-60) and dreaming of “the dark land talking the voiceless speech” (163). Caddy’s and Addie’s silence is indeed an experience that crosses the confines of a masculine-biased linguistic system and that can arguably be read in Sociocultural feminist theories that question ethnocentric assumptions which privilege voice as the only medium of intelligible communication and try to draw attention to the silences spoken words are preloaded with. Tillie Oslen’s ‘natural silences’, Adrienne Rich’s conception of silence as a ‘historic presence’, bell hook’s silence as a ‘talking back’ process, Suzan Gubar’s and Sandra Gilbert’s ‘exclusionary silence’ and ‘palimpsest’ stories, Elaine Showalter’s ‘silent plots’, highlight silence as a border crossing medium of expression that overcomes the confines of a patriarchal language and celebrates ‘female zones of experience’.


Overcoming the borders of a dominant language and moving toward silence, Caddy’s, as well as Addie’s act, can readily be reiterated in Julia Kriesteva’s notion of the semiotic being ‘unspeakable’ and ‘unavailable to conscious verbalization’ and Hélène Cixous’s feminine voice that “can only keep going without ever inscribing or discerning contours” (Cixous 89). Similarly, the women’s silence may be read in Luce Irigaray’s language of their own that “asserts women’s difference and names her identity as not-man” (Roberts 15) and Monique Wittig’s ‘pre-gendered’ new expressive identity that ‘crosses back’ toward the mirror stage as a way of articulating the multiplicity of female desire.


The present paper reads the matriarch’s movement from the speakable to the unspeakable in Faulkner’s texts and studies the motives of this mobility regarding sociocultural and psychoanalytical feminist theories. 


Myth, politics, poetics, postmodernism, centre, intertextuality, linguistic experimentation.

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2023 Mourad Romdhani