Summary – Chapter Three – April Sixth 1928
This chapter has Jason as the first-person narrator and begins with the following sentence: ‘Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say.’ This is Jason talking to his mother and it becomes clear later that he is talking about Quentin, the daughter of Caddy. His mother is worried about her not going to school. He says she has no control over her and has never tried. He asks how she can expect to begin now when ‘she’ is 17. His mother starts crying again and says how ‘her own flesh and blood rose up to curse her’, all except Jason. He says he never had time to and never had time to go to Harvard like Quentin (male) or drink himself into the ground like his father. He says he will try to control her (Quentin) if she does not interfere: ‘When people act like niggers, no matter who they are the only thing to do is treat them like a nigger.’
He then goes into the kitchen and drags Quentin into the dining room. He asks what she means by missing school and lying to her grandmother. They argue further and he goes to pull out his belt to hit her and Dilsey tries to stop him. He lets go of Quentin when he hears his mother on the stairs, but warns her it is not over and calls her a ‘damn little slut’. She tells Dilsey she wants her mother and Dilsey says she will not let him touch her. She puts her hand on Quentin and Quentin knocks it down and says ‘you damn old nigger,’ and runs up the stairs past her grandmother.
Jason gets the car and says to Luster that he thought he had told him to put the tyre on the back of it. Luster explains he has not had time as he has been watching him (Benjy). Jason complains he feeds ‘a whole damn kitchenful of niggers to follow around after him, but if I want an automobile tyre changed, I have to do it myself’.
When Quentin comes out, they continue arguing. She says her mother buys her books and if she thought his or her grandmother’s money paid for her dress she would rip it off. She tries to tear at it and he stops her and is so angry he is blinded for a moment. He says she will be sorry she ever drew breath if she does that again and when it looks like she will cry he threatens to whip her. They are in the car, in town, and she says she is sorry now and does not see why she was ever born. He says he knows at least one other person ‘that don’t understand all he knows about that’. He drops her off at school and warns her to stay there. She tells him she knows she is bad and would rather be in hell than anywhere he is.
When he gets to the store where he works, he opens his post. He opens ‘her’ (Caddy’s) letter first and takes the check out. The letter asks about Quentin’s Easter dress and says she has had no reply from the last two letters. She also says she knows he is opening his letters to Quentin ‘as well as if I were looking at you’. She asks him to send her a wire at once.
He goes to the telegraph office and looks at the telegram again and notices ‘it was up two points’ (and has just been talking about the price of cotton). He is critical of the idea that ‘any damn foreigner’ cannot make a living at home, but can take money out of an American’s pockets. He sends a telegram saying ‘All well. Q writing today.’.
Back at the store, he reads a letter from Lorraine and thinks how he never promises a woman anything: ‘Always keep them guessing. If you can’t think of any other way to surprise them, give them a bust in the jaw.’ He is about to open Quentin’s letter (from Caddy) when he gets called into the front. He is stopped from doing this several times as it is busy with the show in town. His bitterness about working and supporting others arises yet again as he remembers ‘her’ (Caddy) sending Quentin ‘to be fed too’ and the time of a funeral (which becomes clear was his father’s).
He also remembers his father bringing baby Quentin home and his mother saying about her daughter being cast off by her husband. She then looks at Quentin and says she will never know the suffering she has caused. She does not want her to sleep in Caddy’s room as she thinks she will be contaminated by it, but Dilsey prevails. His mother also does not want Caddy’s name ever mentioned in Quentin’s hearing, and if this happens either she or Quentin would have to leave.
His memory loops back again to his father’s funeral and how when the others leave he finds ‘her’ (Caddy) afterwards looking at the flowers. He asks what she is doing back as she promised ‘her’ she would not return. She says she does not want anything and learned of the death from seeing it in the newspapers. She offers him 50 dollars to see her (Quentin), then raises it to 100. She will not give him it before he lets her see her, as she says she knows him, but starts to walk away so she gives him the money and tries to make him promise.
He says she will have to do it his way now and she agrees. He shows her Quentin briefly from the window of a moving carriage and they pass her like ‘a fire engine’. He counts the money later and thinks it serves her right from doing him out of a job. Caddy does not leave then as she promised and comes in the store the next day. He accuses her of losing him one job already and does not want to lose another one. He tells her to leave that day or he will tell mother and Uncle Maury.
Jason decides to fix it so Dilsey does not give into Caddy, and tells her Caddy has leprosy. One day, though, Ben (Benjy) bellows and it comes out that Caddy has visited. Jason tells Caddy that if she tries Dilsey again their mother would fire her, send Ben to Jackson and take Quentin away. She asks ‘how much?’ and after this ‘she behaved pretty well’.
Analysis – Chapter Three
This is the most ordered of the first three chapters and it is perhaps telling that this narrated by Jason. As with the previous two, this is colored by the perspective of the narrator and, consequently, his hate seeps through his perspective. The first line, ‘once a bitch always a bitch’, is a telling affirmation of the bitterness we have seen in him via Benjy’s memories, but here it is more fully revealed. His racism and sexism are indicative of his loathing for others and his desire for power is made apparent in the way he wishes to control events and steal from Caddy.
The influence of his mother and the belief that Caddy is to blame for not getting the job in the bank as Herbert Head promised appear to be driving motives. It is also of note that he abuses the power invested in him as white, relatively affluent man in the South. It should also be clarified – although it has not been fully explained as such – that because Head discovered Caddy’s pregnancy to another man he threw her out of his home and Jason blames Caddy for him not being given the job he had earlier been promised.
Summary – Chapter Three continued
She now wants to see a statement of the bank account (of the money she has sent for Quentin), but he tells her this is his mother’s private business. In the present, he opens Quentin’s letter and sees there is a 50 dollar money order in it. At this point, Quentin comes and asks if she has a letter from her mother. He prevaricates, then goes to serve someone and returns to see her at his desk. He gives her the letter but not the order. He tells her she has been sent 10 dollars but she does not believe him. He insists she signs the back without letting her see how much it is for.
At lunch, he searches for a blank check. He goes home and gives his mother the fake one and encourages her to burn it (as she has the others) and she notices it is from a different bank (and different to the ones he usually uses). She hesitates about burning it, but he says how it is from a fallen woman. He talks about sending Ben to Jackson and she says what a burden she is. He then lets her read his letter from Uncle Maury in which he says he wants to borrow money (from her) and not let her know.
He sorts out these finances at the bank and goes back to the telegraph office where he sees he has lost 13 points. Back in the office, he has an exchange of words with his boss, Earl. Earl says he has protected him and suggests he knows Jason has bought his car with money stolen from his mother. He also knows his mother still believes 1,000 dollars of her money is still invested in the business when it is not.
Jason goes out on the street after spotting Quentin talking to a man wearing a red tie and knows she should be in school. He goes further and thinks how he will look crazy without his hat and considers others will think this is par for the course with his family. He returns home again and his mother says how Quentin has not come back yet. He unlocks the door to his room, takes out a box and counts the money in it. He hides it again and thinks how he has a headache but has just one more round trip to make.
In his car, he sees a Ford and Quentin and the man with the red tie are in it. Jason sees red and forgets everything including his headache. He follows them and gets out when he sees the car and walks out into the woods. His head is pounding and the sun is in his eyes and as he reaches the car he hears it start. They drive off blowing the horn and when he gets in his he realizes the tyre is flat and thinks this was down to them.
He pumps it up and goes back to the telegraph office. He sees it is down by 40 points and the man on the desk gives him a telegram from two hours ago which tells him to sell. He goes to the store and argues with Earl once more. When the store closes, he goes to the drug store and talks with others about baseball and he criticizes Babe Ruth. When asked, he says he has not got anything against him and does not even like looking at his picture. He comes back home and thinks how for once Ben is not hanging on the gate. He thinks of him as ‘a hog for punishment’ and how he would not want to see another one if the same thing had happened to him (he is referring to Benjy’s castration after grabbing a girl passing by).
When he goes in, Dilsey says Miss Quentin has said he has been following her. Luster asks if he can borrow a quarter for the show and Jason takes out his two free tickets. He taunts him by saying he will sell him one for five cents. Dilsey says to stop teasing him as he is bound to use them himself. Jason says he does not want them and has come in to burn them on the stove. He drops one in when Luster says he has no money and Dilsey tells him to do the same with the other one to get it over with. He does so, and Dilsey tells Luster she will get him a quarter tomorrow.
Jason goes in the living room and does not come when Dilsey says supper is ready. He says he has not heard anyone else come down and insists Quentin should eat when they do.
At supper, he tells them he lent his car to someone this afternoon to a man whose sister’s husband was ‘out riding with some town woman’. His mother thanks God that she does not know of such wickedness and Quentin crumbles a biscuit. According to Jason, her eyes ‘looked like they were cornered’ and she started biting her mouth.
She asks her grandmother why he treats her like this and says if he does not want her here ‘why won’t he let me go back to ...’ He cuts her short saying ‘that’s enough’ and ‘not another word’. She says she wishes she were dead and ‘we were all dead’ and if she is bad it is because she has had to be. She runs out then and slams the door and he says, ‘that’s the first sensible thing she ever said’.
His mother responds that she wants them to get along and goes on to claim she sometimes thinks she is ‘a judgement of Caddy and Quentin upon me’. He tells her she has Ben to depend on and to cheer her up. She says how Quentin (her son) and ‘her’ (Caddy) were ‘always conspiring against me’ and him (Jason) and Uncle Maury. She adds that Caddy ‘couldn’t bear for any of you to do anything she couldn’t. It was vanity and false pride.’ She then tells him how she locks Quentin in her room at night while she studies.
She goes up and does this and when he goes up later he looks in the keyhole, but hears nothing. He then goes in his room counts his money again. He hears ‘the Great American Gelding snoring’ and reckons he maybe does not know what ‘they’d’ done to him. He thinks they did not start soon enough with their cutting and did not do it enough, and one of these is not over a mile away (Quentin). He repeats the thought ‘once a bitch always a bitch’ and the chapter ends with him wanting ‘an even chance to get my money back’.
Analysis – Chapter Three continued
Jason’s deception of Caddy, Quentin and his mother become more apparent here and because of this his hypocrisy is also emphasized. His love for power is also made certain in the way he taunts Luster over the free tickets for the show. Knowing that Luster wants one, and also knowing that he has no money, his decision to burn the tickets rather than give them to him demonstrate his cruel yet childish characterization.
As with the earlier chapters, this is from the perspective of the first-person narrator and should be regarded as unreliable (in terms of not giving an objective account). His belief that Quentin looks ‘cornered’, for example, may have some truth to it, but it should also be remembered that it is characteristic of him to see her like this.