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SECTION Summaries and Notes
SECTION I: Benjy's Monologue, 7th April 1928
This chapter is a monologue by Benjy, the youngest of the Compson children. Benjy is mentally disabled; the members of his family refer to him as an idiot. His chapter consists of a complex and incoherent stream of thoughts randomly connected to each other by phrases, images, sounds and sights. His thoughts skip around in time and space depending on what random connection has suddenly caught his attention.
The novel begins on April 7, 1928. It is Benjy's 33rd birthday. Luster, his attendant, is walking with Benjy across a golf course that used to be Benjy's field. That is, Benjy's father used to own the field and Benjy used to wander in it, till it was sold it to the men who made it a golf course. Luster and Benjy's journey across the golf course to their home is the frame for this first chapter. All Benjy's randomly connected memories result from things he sees and hears on this journey and at his home. As the two walk across the field, Luster is searching for a quarter he lost. The quarter was supposed to be his money for the show that night. Benjy, for his part, does a lot of moaning which Luster neither understands nor tolerates very well. The moaning is generally associated with Benjy's memories, specifically of his sister Caddy, who is gone, but also of his dead brother Quentin, his dead father, his ailing mother, and his dead grandmother. Luster spends a lot of time talking about the birthday cake his mother Dilsey (the Negro cook) bought for Benjy's birthday, and about Benjy's moaning. He grows easily impatient with Benjy and threatens to slap him if he is not quiet.
The memory of the cold brings to mind another memory, suddenly and without warning. This new memory takes place on the same day as the first, only earlier in the day. In this memory, Benjy runs outside to meet Caddy at the gate as she comes home from school. It is something he always does. Caddy is his favorite. Caddy takes him inside and Uncle Maury asks her to deliver the letter. She takes Benjy with her. This memory is interrupted by the present twice. First Luster asks Benjy to quit moaning. Then, he tells him to quit slobbering and moaning and reminds him they already passed the carriage house.
The mention of the carriage house prompts a new memory for Benjy, this one probably taking place in 1912. In this memory, Dilsey (the Negro cook) tells Benjy to get in the carriage and be quiet. He is going with his mother to the cemetery to visit the graves of Quentin (dead for two years) and his father (very recently passed away). This memory must cause Benjy to start crying, because Luster interrupts him in the present to call him a crybaby. They have just passed through the barn and Luster reminds Benjy of his pony. The mention of the pony makes Benjy remember the cold walk with Caddy to Mrs. Patterson's, long ago. In the memory, Caddy says to him, "If it wasn't so cold, we'd ride Fancy..." When they reach Mrs. Patterson's, Caddy leaves Benjy in the yard and sneaks the letter to Mrs. Patterson. The memory segues to another delivery; in this memory, Benjy delivers a letter by himself to Mrs. Patterson, but Mr. Patterson intercepts it. Mrs. Patterson calls him an idiot and he runs away, leaving her and Mr. Patterson to figure out the mess of their marriage.