"Luster had some spools and he and Quentin fought and Quentin had the spools."
Sigmund Freud
Public DomainSigmund Freud - Credit: Max Halberstadt

Faulkner may well be thinking of literature’s most famous account of spool-play: Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920). In one of his most profound essays, the founding father of psychoanalysis describes a boy’s game — which entails flinging a wooden spool away, yelling ‘Fort!’ (‘be gone!’), and then pulling it back with a happy ‘Da!’ (‘there!’) — as a process of reconciliation with his mother’s absences. The child’s sensory experiences bear a strong resemblance to Benjy’s for, when he flings it away, the spool isn’t merely out of sight but is ‘gone’; when he pulls it back it is magically restored. Likewise, Benjy is conscious only of what is immediately available to his senses, experiencing his environment as a giddying series of vanishings and sudden manifestations. The theme of separation is also pertinent as it is his inability to reconcile himself to the loss of Caddy that forms one of the novel’s deepest currents of tragedy. 


Read Beyond the Pleasure Principle here.