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In his thesis “That Damn Looney: Illuminating Benjy and his Narrative with Objects and Autism,” Evan Chaloupka argues that “given Benjy’s unique characteristics, his object obsession, his social relationships, and his limited language, ‘person with autism’ is a far more accurate label to apply to Benjy” (53).
is a mythic and Christ-like figure with the divine gift of prophecy rather than the retarded man-child that the other characters in the novel view him to be.
To see the world through Benjy’s eyes, you must be part of a very exclusive club with a two prong membership: that of autism and that of synesthesia.
Davis writes that disability like normalcy is a social construct.
That the “problem” is not the person with disabilities; the “problem is the way that normalcy is constructed to create the “problem” of the disabled person” (Davis 3).
For example: being able to taste numbers or feel colors.
Faulkner uses Benjy Compson, a character who lives outside man-made constructs such as time, race, and morality in order to show that these constructs are just that: man-made theories that have no impact on the natural occurrences of the world and its day to day movements.In addition to displaying autistic symptoms, Benjy exhibits symptoms of synesthesia.His whole life experience is based on smells, shapes, and sounds.As a result of their inability to listen to Benjy, the fall of the Compson family was inevitable.Due to having a deeper sensitivity to order and chaos than the average person, Benjy could instantly sense the presence of anything bad or out of place, especially in regards to his family.Autism is a developmental disorder most often characterized by impairments in forming normal social relationships and impairments in being able to communicate with others.Synesthesia itself is also a disorder, caused by a neuropsychological trait where the stimulation of one sense causes the automatic experience of another.In other words, our own prejudices and discrimination are the issue. Labeling Benjy as “mentally ill” is the epitome of using social constructs in order to justify the perpetuation of our own so called “normalcy.” He is not actually ill or an idiot, he just experiences the world in a non-traditional, non-linear way.In order to understand the importance of Benjy’s presence in the novel, the reader cannot perceive him as an “idiot,” and instead must view his autism and synesthesia as divine gifts, which let him see the fall of the Compson family when no one else could or would.No one wanted to hear him, and those that did hear him wished that they did not have to acknowledge him, wishing that Benjy were “normal.” In other words, they wanted Benjy to be just like them so that they did not have to be forced to face their own mundaneness or the fact that their way of experiencing life is not the only way.Benjy reminded them all too strongly of their own humanity.