Summary of April Sixth, 1928:
Beginning with the statement "once a bitch always a bitch," this section reads as if Jason is telling the reader the story of his day; it is more chronological and less choppy than Quentin's or Benjy's sections, but still unconventional in tone. Jason and his mother in her room waiting for Quentin to finish putting on her makeup and go down to breakfast. Mother is concerned that Quentin often skips school and asks Jason to take care of it. Both Jason and his mother are manipulative and passive-aggressive, mother complaining about the ailments she suffers and the way her children betrayed her, Jason countering with statements like "I never had time to go to Harvard or drink myself into the ground. I had to work. But of course if you want me to follow her around and see what she does, I can quit the store and get a job where I can work at night" (181). Jason goes down to the kitchen, where Quentin is begging Dilsey for another cup of coffee. Dilsey tells her she will be late for school, and Jason says he will fix that, grabbing her by the arm. Her bathrobe comes unfastened and she pulls it closed around her. He begins to take off his belt, but Dilsey stops him from hitting her. Mother comes in, and Jason puts down the belt. Quentin runs out of the house. In the car on the way to town, Quentin and Jason fight about who paid for her schoolbooks - Caddy or Jason. Jason claims that Mother has been burning all of the checks Caddy sends. Quentin tells Jason that she would tear off any dress that he paid for and grabs the neck of her dress as if she will tear it. Jason has to stop the car and grab her wrists to stop her. He tells her that she is a slut and a bad girl, and she replies that she would rather be in hell than in his house. He drops her off at school and drives on to his job at the farm goods store.
At the store, old Job, a black worker, is unloading cultivators, and Jason accuses of him of doing it as slowly as he possibly can. He has mail; he opens a letter with a check from Caddy. The letter asks if Quentin is sick and states that she knows that Jason reads all her letters. He goes out to the front of the store and engages in a conversation with a farmer about the cotton crop. He tells him that cotton is a "speculator's crop" that "a bunch of damn eastern jews" get farmers to grow so that they can control the stock market (191). He goes to the telegraph office, where a stock report has just come in (Jason has invested in the cotton crop) - the cotton stock is up four points. He tells the telegraph operator to send a collect message to Caddy saying "Q writing today" (193).
He goes back to the store and sits at his desk, reading a letter from his girlfriend Lorraine, who is basically a prostitute he keeps in Memphis. She calls Jason her "daddy." He burns her letter, commenting "I make it a rule never to keep a scrap of paper bearing a woman's hand, and I never write them at all" (193). Then he takes out Caddy's letter to Quentin, but before he can open it some business interrupts him. He recalls the day of his father's funeral; he remembers saying that Quentin wasted his chance at Harvard, learning only "how to go for a swim at night without knowing how to swim," Benjy is nothing but a "gelding" that should be rented out as a circus sideshow, Father was a drunk who should have had a "one-armed strait jacket," and Caddy is a whore (196-197). Uncle Maury patted Mother's arm with expensive black gloves at the funeral, and Jason noted that the flowers on the grave must have cost fifty dollars. He also remembers the day that Father brought baby Quentin home; Mother would not let her sleep in Caddy's old room, afraid she will be contaminated by the atmosphere in there. She also declares that nobody in the house must ever say Caddy's name again. On the day of the funeral, Caddy appeared in the cemetery and begged Jason to let her see the baby for just one minute, and she would pay him fifty dollars; later she changes this to one hundred dollars. Jason smugly remembers how he took the baby in a carriage and held her up to the window as he drove past Caddy; this fulfilled his agreement to the letter. Later she showed up in the kitchen, accusing him of backing out of their agreement. He threatened her and told her to leave town immediately. She made him promise to treat Quentin well and to give her the money that she sends for her.
Jason's boss, Earl, comes up to the front of the store and tells Jason he is going out for a snack because they won't have time to go home for lunch; a show is in town and there will be too much business. Jason finally opens Caddy's letter to Quentin, and inside is a money order for fifty dollars, not a check. He looks around in the office for a blank check; every month he takes a fake check home to mother to burn and cashes the real check. But the blank checks are all gone. Quentin comes in and asks if a letter has come for her. He taunts her, then finally gives her the letter, without the money in it. She reaches out for the money order, but he will not give it to her. He tells her she has to sign it without looking at it. She asks how much it is for, and he tells her it is for ten dollars. She says he is lying, but he will not give it to her until she agrees to take ten dollars for it. She takes the money and leaves, upset.
Earl returns and again tells Jason not to go home to lunch; Jason agrees and leaves. First he goes to a print shop to get a blank check. The print shop doesn't have any, and finally Jason finds a checkbook that was a prop at an old theater. He goes back to the store and puts the check in the letter, gluing the envelope back to look unopened. As he leaves again, Earl tells him not to take too much time. He goes to the telegraph office and checks up on the stock market, then goes home for lunch. He goes up to Mother's room and gives her the doctored letter. Instead of burning it right away she looks at it for a while. She notices that it is drawn on a different bank than the others have been, but then burns it. Dilsey is not ready with lunch yet because she is waiting for Quentin to come home; finally she puts it on the table and they eat. Jason hands Mother a letter from Uncle Maury; it is a letter asking her to lend him some money for an investment he would like to make.
Jason takes Mother's bankbook with him and returns to town. He goes to the bank and deposits the money from Caddy and his paycheck, then returns to the telegraph office for an update; the stock is down thirteen points. He goes back to the store, where Earl asks him if he went home to dinner. Jason tells him that he had to go to the dentist's. A while later he hears the band from the show start playing. He argues with Job about spending money to go to a show like that. Suddenly he sees Quentin in an alley with a stranger with a red bow tie. It is still 45 minutes before school should let out. He follows them up the street, but they disappear. A boy comes up and gives Jason a telegram: the market day closed with cotton stocks down. He goes back to the store and tells Earl that he has to go out for a while.
He gets in his car and goes home. Gasoline gives him headaches, and he thinks about having to bring some camphor with him when he goes back to the store. He goes into his room and hides the money from Caddy in a strongbox in his room. Mother tells him to take some aspirin, but he doesn't. He gets back in his car and is almost to town when he passes a Ford driven by a man with a red bow tie. He looks closer and sees Quentin inside. He chases the Ford through the countryside, his headache growing by the second. Finally he sees the Ford parked near a field and gets out to look for them; he is sure they are hiding in the bushes somewhere having sex. The sun slants directly into his eyes, and his headache is pounding so hard he can't think straight. He reaches the place where he thinks they are, then hears a car start up behind him and drive off, the horn honking. He returns to his own car and sees that they have let the air out of one of his tires. He has to walk to the nearest farm to borrow a pump to blow it back up.
He returns to town, stopping in a drugstore to get a shot for his headache and the telegraph office; he has lost $200 on the stock market. Then he goes back to the store. A telegram has arrived from his stockbroker, advising him to sell. Instead he writes back to the broker, telling him he will buy. The store closes, and he drives home to the sounds of the band playing. At home, Quentin and Mother are fighting upstairs, and Luster asks him for a quarter to go to the show. Jason replies that he has two tickets already that he won't be using. Luster begs him for one, but he tells him he will only sell it to him for a nickel. Luster replies that he has no money, and Jason burns the tickets in the fireplace. Dilsey puts supper on the table for him and tells him that Quentin and Mother won't be coming to dinner. Jason insists that they come unless they are actually sick. They come down. At dinner, he offers Quentin an extra piece of meat and tells her and Mother that he lent his car to a stranger who needed to chase around one of his relatives who was running around with a town woman. Quentin looks guilty. Finally she stands up and says that if she is bad, it is only because Jason made her bad. She runs off and slams the door. Mother comments that she got all of Caddy's bad traits and all of Quentin's too; Jason takes this to mean that Mother thinks Quentin is the child of Caddy and her brother's incestuous relationship. They finish dinner, and Mother locks Quentin into her room for the night. Jason retires to his room for the night, still ruminating on the "dam New York jew" that is taking all of his money (263).
Analysis of April Sixth, 1928:
Jason's section appears more readable and more conventional; its style, while still stream-of-consciousness, is more chronological in progression, with very few jumps in time. It reads more like a monologue than a string of loosely connected events, like Benjy's and Quentin's sections were. Critics have claimed that the book progresses from chaos to order, from timelessness to chronology, from pure sensation to logical order, and from interiority to exteriority as it travels from Benjy's world of bright shapes and confused time through Jason's rigorously ordered universe to the third-person narrative of the fourth section. This third section represents a shift into the public world from the anguished interiority of Benjy and Quentin, and a shift into "normal" novelistic narrative as Jason recounts the story of the events of the day.
The first sentence of each section reveals a lot about the tone and themes of that particular part; this is especially true with Quentin's and Jason's section. In Quentin's section, the first sentence draws the reader into his obsession with being caught "in time" and includes two of the most common symbols in the section: time and shadows. Jason's section begins "once a bitch always a bitch, what I say," introducing both Jason's irrational anger not only toward his sister and her daughter, but toward the world in general, and also the rigorous logic that runs through this section (180). Jason's world is dominated by logic. Once a bitch, always a bitch; like mother, like daughter. Caddy was a whore, so is her daughter. He is furious at Caddy for ruining his chances at getting a job, and the way she ruined his chances was to bear an illegitimate daughter; therefore the way he will get revenge on her and simultaneously recoup the money he lost is through this same daughter. Caddy should have gotten him a job, but instead she had Quentin; therefore it is his right to embezzle the money she sends to Quentin in order to make up for the money he lost when he lost the job.
Jason's logic takes the form of literalism. Caddy is responsible for getting him money, no matter where it comes from. She sends money each month for Quentin's upkeep; he keeps Quentin clothed, housed and fed, so the money should go to him. He himself claims that he "make[s] it a rule never to keep a scrap of paper bearing a woman's hand," and yet he keeps the money from the checks Caddy sends him; this act fits into his system of logic because he cashes the checks, literally getting rid of her handwriting while keeping the money. He allows his mother to literally burn the checks she sends, but only after he has cashed them in secret. When Caddy gives him 100 dollars to "see [Quentin] a minute" he grants her request to the letter, holding the baby up to the carriage window as he drives by, literally allowing Caddy only a minute's glimpse (203-205). When Luster can't pay him a nickel for tickets to the show, he burns the tickets rather than give then to him (255). All of these acts fit into a rigid and literally defined logical order with which Jason structures his life.
Some readers see Jason's logic as a sign that he is more "sane" than the rest of his family. He is not retarded like Benjy or irrationally distraught like Quentin. He is able to live his life in a relatively normal way, with a logical order to both his narrative and his daily activities. However, Jason is just as blind, just as divorced from reality as his brothers. Like them, he tries to control his life through a strictly defined order, and when this is disrupted he collapses into irrationality. Benjy's system of order is the routine of everyday life, disrupted on a grand scale when Caddy leaves and on a small scale when Luster turns the horses the wrong way or changes the arrangement of his "graveyard." Quentin's system of order is the honor and purity he saw in himself and Caddy when they were young, disrupted when Caddy loses her virginity and leaves him. Jason's system of order is the rigidity of his logic, most of which has to do with money, and with this he tries to control the world around him. This system is disrupted when he loses his job opportunity (Quentin gets a career boost in going to Harvard, so should Jason get a career boost from Herbert Head), and again when Quentin refuses to come to dinner, skips school, or runs away with his money. For each brother, the systems he has established help to control everyday life, and the way they do so is by controlling Caddy. As long as she is motherly to Benjy, virginal to Quentin, and profitable to Jason, their worlds are in order. But these controlling mechanisms are inflexible, breaking down entirely as soon as Caddy or her daughter defies them.
Each brother remains irrationally connected with the past, particularly with memories of Caddy. Benjy relives his memories of Caddy all the time, making no distinction between the present and the past. Quentin goes through the routines of life washed in a sea of memories of Caddy. And Jason, for all he seems to have cut himself off from her entirely by refusing to mention her name, is perhaps the closest of all to her. Not only is he surrounded by reminders of her in the shape of her daughter and her money, but he is also constantly reminded of her in his anger. It has been eighteen years since she lost him his job opportunity, and yet he remains as angry with her as he ever was. Certainly this is no way to forget her, nor is it any more "sane" than his brothers.
Nor is Jason even a particularly good businessman, for all he obsesses about money. In the course of this one day he loses $200 in the stock market, for example; he has been warned that the market is in a state of flux and yet he leaves town on a wild goose chase when he should be watching the market and deliberately defies his broker's advice by buying when he should sell. He is rude and spiteful to his boss, which is certainly not the best way to succeed in business. He buys a car even though he knows that gasoline gives him headaches. And perhaps the clearest indication of his bad business sense is the fact that when Quentin steals his savings in the fourth section, she steals $7000. This is the money that he has been embezzling from Caddy and Quentin, and Caddy has been sending him $200 a month for fifteen years. By this point he should have amassed upwards of $30,000; where did it all go? Even though he thinks of little else besides money, he is not capable of handling it properly.
Mrs. Compson spends much of the novel telling Jason that he is different from Quentin and Benjy, that he is a Bascomb at heart. And yet, underneath the sadism, money-grubbing and isolation, Jason is surprisingly similar to his brothers. He is just as obsessed with Caddy as they are, and her sexuality shatters his world just as much as theirs.