"Here’s you a jimson weed"

Though jimson weed is an attractive plant with large whorled flowers, its wide range of dubious monikers — including devil’s trumpet, devil’s cucumber and hells bells — attest to its baneful nature. Even a small amount can induce hypothermia and heart failure if ingested; giving it to someone of limited understanding would have been highly irresponsible.  


Jimson weed
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJimson weed - Credit: Júlio Reis

Despite this, its recreational use is not unheard of. Smoked or made into tea, the plant can induce a delirious state, with visual distortions that cause one’s surroundings to take on a surreal, often threatening, aspect. Though it would be over-literal to suggest that Benjy’s view of the world is the product of ingesting jimson weed, there are certain parts of his narrative which seem to reflect its psychotropic properties. As if under the drug's influence, strange, shifting forms repeatedly manifest themselves, and the borders between dreamt and waking experience are indistinguishable. This line of imagery reaches a kind of clarity at the end of Benjy’s narrative: “Then the dark began to go in smooth, bright shapes, like it always does, even when Caddy says that I have been asleep”. 


Jimson weed also functions on a symbolic level. Edmond Loris Volpe notes that another of its aliases is stink-weed, and that its foul smell is “an ironic symbol of the loss of Caddy who smelt like trees”. He also states that “among hill people it was considered a symbol of the male sex organ”: it therefore serves as a funeral wreath for Benjy’s own eliminated sexuality.