Textual Death and Tangible Plaques

While wandering through the paths of the internet I ended up on the wikipedia page of Quentin Compson. I have grown attached to Quentin after taking a Seminar on Faulkner and Morrison last spring. His suicide by drowning in a river in “The Sound and the Fury” is one of those moments when you wish you could reach out to this fictional character. So, it delighted me (in a morbid way) to discover that in Cambridge, Massachusetts there is a plaque on a bridge over the Charles River:

“Quentin Compson.
Drowned in the odour of honeysuckle.
1891-1910”

This was not created by Faulkner or some piece of legislation. Just some unknown people who brought the fictional death of Quentin Compson into the real world. The sign has been stolen, replaced and photographed by many people. There is nothing extraordinary about the plaque, just a subtle blurring of the lines between the narratives we read and the narratives we live.

I’m not sure what it is about this plaque I find so compelling. Perhaps its “graffiti” nature of the plaque, the fact it was put up by an amateur who wanted to pay homage to a fictional character; a character that so many people have studied (including myself) and have felt a connection with. A bit of the fictional world seeping into reality and leaving its mark; reminding us that the boundaries of reality are permeable and moveable.

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3 Responses to “Textual Death and Tangible Plaques”


  1. 1 Steve November 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    The summer after the book Cold Mountain came out I went on a five day hiking/camping trip (with Porter Blakemore & Sammy Merrill) in the Shining Rock Wilderness of North Carolina where Cold Mountain is located. Near the summit was a wooden plaque nailed to a tree which read “Inman was here.” Inman was the protagonist in the novel.

  2. 2 Panos Constantinides March 5, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    When I was an undergraduate, in 1979 Guy Land took his Junior Tutorial to the Anderson Bridge to see the plaque. At the time it read “Quentin Compson III. June 10, 1910. Drowned in the fading of honeysuckle.”

    This marker was placed there in 1965 and accidentally destroyed in 1983. The current plaque is incorrect and misquotes the passage from the Sound and the Fury using the word “odor” rather than “fading”.

  3. 3 sehauser March 7, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Interesting, strange that it would change. I am having trouble finding any specific passage that would make a difference about whether it was fading or odor. Mostly I find passages of Quentin talking about the odor of honeysuckle. Can you point me somewhere specifically?


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