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Several events in this chapter have great significance, but the impact is clearest only after a full reading of the novel. After getting down from the streetcar Quentin walks to a bridge and stands there for a while looking at his shadow. He wants to get rid of his shadow and for the next two or three hours, he makes several useless efforts to trample upon his shadow in order to obliterate it. Standing on the bridge he sees his college-mate Gerald Bland rowing in a boat just for practice and his mother watching him. Later, for no apparent reason, Quentin strikes Gerald and engages him in a fight. There are two obvious reasons why Quentin may have done this. First, Gerald has a mother. She sees him off when he goes on boat rides. She takes him on picnics. Quentin may hate Gerald for the simple reason that Gerald has a mother and he, Quentin, never did. Mrs. Compson was always too fragile, too sick. And her incompetence as a parent is the primary reason Caddy fell from grace and Quentin feels so bereft. . Once he says, "If I could say Mother Mother" and a little later he says "If I'd just had a mother, so I could say Mother Mother". At the root of his problems is his aching need for a mother. The second reason he dislikes Gerald is that Gerald simply reminds him of Dalton Ames, the man who took Caddy's virginity. Quentin asks Gerald the same question he asked Dalton, as to whether he has a sister. Dalton says, "No they're all bitches". Gerald is simply the embodiment of everything Quentin hates--the source of all the disorder in his life.
Quentin is obsessed with his own impotence. He loves Caddy but fails to either run away with her or kill himself with her. He never has a sexual relationship with her and simply watches while other men do. He challenges Dalton to a fight and loses. He cannot defeat Herbert in a battle of wills. He loses pitifully to Gerald Bland. He inadvertently expresses his own sense of impotence perfectly when he thinks he would be better if he just did as some other man did and cut his sexual organ off. He could never make Caddy give up her flings with young boys, nor can he make his father care about anything or make his mother be well. Benjy has to be castrated in a literal sense in order to keep him from doing possible harm to passing girls. Quentin is emasculated by his unfulfilled desire for Caddy, by his defeat at the hands of those whom he imagines as his rivals in his love for Caddy. Quentin's idealism, his hypersensitivity, his puritanical outlook on life and his obsession with Caddy's lost virtue are just examples of the messy world he does not quite know how to straighten and the impotence that threatens to wear him away.
Quentin has an obsession with shadows, which could figuratively be an obsession with the past (or things out behind). He watches shadows - in particularly his own as he is standing on the bridge. His body wants to live but mentally he wants to die. The shadow represents his body, which wants to live. He tries to get rid of his shadow in an effort to suppress his desire to live. He stamps on his shadow to obliterate it. His shadow falls on the water in the river. Quentin wants to blot it out and drown his shadow. Finally his shadow drowns before him.
Quentin's chapter ends with increasingly horrible memories of the disorder at home that haunts him. He goes back to his dorm room bloodied from fighting time and the past and the shadows of his life. He cleans up, brushes his teeth, makes a meticulous effort to restore order in his life, and then goes out to end it.