The Sound and The Fury: Caddy Compson &; Honeysuckles

honeysuckle

I fooled you all,the time it was me you thought I was in the house where that damn honeysuckle trying not to think the swing the cedars the secret surges the breathing locked drinking the wild breath the the Yes Yes yes

The second section of The Sound and the Fury is told from Quentin Compson’s perspective. Quentin is currently at Harvard, quietly obsessed with the loss of his sister Caddy’s purity. He associates the suffocating smell of honeysuckle with her sexuality.

I could hear her heart going firm and slow now not hammering and the water gurgling among the willows in the dark and waves of honeysuckle coming up the air my arm and shoulder were twisted under me    

I thought this was such a smart, beautifully written contrast to the first section where Benjy equates Caddy with the smell of trees. If you’ve ever taken a walk in the South during the summer, you will instantly recognize the heavy and fragrant smell of honeysuckles. It’s an overwhelming smell that mirrors Quentin’s obsession. There’s a lot of discussion out there about whether Quentin actually wanted to sleep with his sister, but what interested me more is the way that Faulkner uses scents to evoke a certain feeling.

damn that honeysuckle I wish it would stop

I started looking into the symbolism of flowers and trees, and I thought I’d share some of my favorite finds with you.

There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.

–The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

white heather

White Heather – protection and all of your wishes coming true. It was often used to stuff mattresses and thatch roofs, because people believed it would protect them from harm.

hyacinth

Hyacinths – sadness, grief, and asking for forgiveness. Greek Legend has it the Hyacinth was once a boy who was loved by both Apollo and Zephyr, the god of the west wind. Zephyr kills Hyacinth in a jealous rage, and Apollo created the flower out of Hyacinth’s blood. The flower can also represent constancy, sports, and sincerity. Hyacinths always remind me of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.

jonquil

Jonquil – In the Victorian era, the Jonquil symbolized a desire to have your affections returned, sympathy, and requited love. The ancient Greeks believed that it was a flower that grew in the Underworld and symbolized the dead.

What are some of your favorite uses of flowers and scents in books that you’ve read? What do your favorite flowers mean?

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Additional Reading:

The Sound and the Fury: Caddy Smelled Like Trees

the sound and the fury

I’m currently reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, which is proving to be the most difficult book that I’ve picked up all year. It’s a slow-going but rewarding trek so far – it has taken me a week to get through the first section. From what I can tell so far, the book follows the Compson family who live in Faulkner’s famous Yoknapatawpha County. Each section is narrated by a different family member, and I am slowly piecing together the family’s history as I go.

The first section is narrated by Benjy, who is mentally handicapped and has no distinction between past and present, so everything is told as if it were happening in the present. He is dependent on and very affectionate of his older sister Caddy. He equates her with the smell of trees, a sentiment which is repeated throughout the first section.

“Caddy smelled like trees in the rain.”

Inspired by Kimberly’s earlier post on the smell of hometowns, I thought I would look into perfumes that smell like trees to get a better understanding of how Caddie smelled to Benjy. Here are two that I think would suit Caddie well.

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memoirs of a trespasserMemoirs of a Trespasser, by Imaginary Authors – I love the name of this perfume. I think it would suit Caddy’s descent into adulthood and promiscuity. It has notes of Madagascar Vanilla, Guaiac Wood, Myrrh, Benzoin Resin, Ambrette Seeds & Oak Barrels.

Guaiac Wood is one of the hardest and most resilient woods in the world and has been used for many medicinal purposes. From what I can tell so far, Caddy is a head-strong and resilient girl, so this would be fitting for her!

 

 

 

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siennaSienna, by DSH perfumes – this one is described as “redolent, distinctive and tempting. Cinnamon leaf, curry leaf and pink pepper are at the top, followed by basmati, cinnamon bark, honey and white oak. Civet, labdanum, leather, peru balm and tolu balm form the base.”

Maybe ironically, one of the sweetest scenes in the first section occurs when Caddy wears perfume. Benjy has a meltdown because she no longer smells like trees, and when she realizes what is bothering him, she washes off her perfume, and they give the bottle away to Dilsey, their family’s housekeeper. So maybe Caddy wouldn’t need either perfume that I’ve picked out after all!

Have you read The Sound and the Fury? Do you have any helpful hints for me?

The Girls from Corona del Mar — the scent of a hometown

But when Lorrie Ann and I were girls, Corona del Mar was half empty, somewhat decayed, beautifully perfumed. Always there was jasmine on the wind, or the subtler, greener scent of potato vine, or the almost hostile peppery scent of bougainvillea. — Rufi Thorpe

I love passages about scents, which are after all closely linked to memory, and, having recently moved just one hour north of Corona del Mar myself, was interested in this description. From my experience, I have seen a lot of jasmine, lavender, and rosemary planted around neighborhoods and corporate buildings alike. I also think that southern California has a lot of “greener” scents that don’t trespass into the floral scents. Where I disagree with Thorpe is the bougainvillea, which I have never thought of as having a strong scent let alone a hostile one. Most species, including the one I’ve seen most abundantly in LA, are almost odorless. I have also recently been getting interested in perfumes and how they are made.

Naturally, I tried to imagine how this scent might smell as a perfume and to find a similar, already existing product. Perfumes have three chords that relate to the volatility of the molecules. The top notes (“head”) of a perfume are what you smell first and thus gives the first impression of the perfume. The middle notes (“heart”) appear after the top notes have dissipated. These notes last for a few minutes and give a fullness to the perfume. The base notes (“body”) are the scents to emerge last and which stay the longest. They are typically richer and add complexity to the perfume. With that in mind, I think a perfume to capture Corona del Mar based on Thorpe’s description would open with very sweet top notes, such as jasmine and lavender, and maybe just a touch of citrus, which is pretty abundant in southern California. For the middle notes, I would introduce a light touch of spices such as cardamom and cloves as a substitute for bougainvillea along with some wood aromas like teak. I think the base note of California would be the smell of dirt, but I guess that’s not really common in perfumes. Maybe something like sandalwood or rosewood or vetiver?

Since I don’t have a lot of experience with perfumes (in fact I just bought my third bottle ever recently), I relied heavily on the community at Fragrantica to find a perfume that matched my idea of Corona del Mar.

trendlei

Trend Lei by Les Copains for Women
This perfume from 2001 opens with bergamot, peach, cardamom, and violet leaf. The middle notes are jasmine, iris, lily, and cinnamon. The base notes are sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, and musk. It is a little spicy, a tiny bit floral, and woody fragrance. One reviewer calls it “good for youths, very optimistic.”

boum

Boum Pour Homme by Jeanne Arthes for Men
Described as a woody spicy fragrance, it has top notes of rosemary and lemon. Middle notes are nutmeg, lily, tea, jasmine, cloves, and cardamom. Base notes are sandalwood, patchouli, musk, vanilla, and cedar. Reviewers say it is “perfect for the summer daytime” and “refreshing, comfortable… simple.”

nio

Nio by Xerjoff for Men
Part of the Shooting Stars Collection, this perfume is meant to be elegant and romantic. It opens with neroli, bergamot and green notes, has delicate middle notes of nutmeg, cardamom, jasmine, and pink pepper, and has base notes of vetiver, amber, Virginia cedar, patchouli, and Guaiac wood. Reviewers describe it as “simple,” “natural,” and evokes memories of “the sun on a bright spring day.”

I want to end this post with these questions: if you designed a perfume to capture the happy scents of your hometown, what would be in it? How would you want it to smell? What images would you want it to evoke? Comment or message me your thoughts!