On this day 97 years ago a young Harvard College student from Mississippi committed suicide by jumping into the Charles River with heavy flatirons in his pockets, drowning himself. The young man was the wholly fictional Quentin Compson a character in the William Faulkner novels The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom. I pass over the Anderson Memorial Bridge, built on the site of Quentin Compson’s bridge in 1915, in my daily perambulations and thus have a regular literary reminder.
Allegedly some book lovers placed a plaque on the bridge commemorating Quentin Compson that read:
Drowned in the odour of honeysuckle.
I went looking for it under the bridge near the Weld Boathouse, but couldn’t find it. I took this picture though capturing the lush greenery of June around the bridge.
Faulkner is known for capturing the spirit of the South in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi but in Quentin Compson’s chapter of The Sound and the Fury Faulkner also does a great job of getting the gritty flavor of the industrial northeast. On his last day, Quentin wanders the streets of Cambridge ruminating on his sister Caddy’s virtue, his father’s nihilism, and the contradictions of the Southern ideals of honor. Quentin follows an immigrant Italian girl around, gets beaten up by her brother, and is fined by the police before finally deciding to throw himself off the bridge. If I could ever make sense of the stream of consciousness narrative, I would create a Quentin Compson walking tour of Cambridge (sans jumping off the bridge).
Resources on Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: