The moment Dale (very poorly) paraphrased William Faulker's opening paragraph to the Quentin Compson section of The Sound and the Fury, I knew he had uttered his death sentence. Interestingly enough, in later episodes, he is not a character to choose suicide, as Quentin did (to escape time, more or less). It is also apt that they made such an emphasis on sisters in this specific episode (Andrea and Amy), but that was probably more of a coincidence, because although Dale has complicated feelings for Andrea, she ain't his sister, like Caddy was to Quentin (for those of you who haven't read it). And..I can't really blame Dale for slaughtering Faulkner, under the circumstances, but a true Faulknerian like myself would probably have grabbed this novel for the end of the world (good choice).
Can I get a Shane = Jason Compson comparison, Faulkner fans in the house? what, what?
I decided to type, verbatim (he misspells Reductio ad Absurdum on purpose, mind you) the brilliance on page 76 of the vintage international paper back version of The Sound and the Fury.
"June Second, 1910
When the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtains it was between seven and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather's and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it's rather excruciating-ly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father's. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools."
Now, having properly given the quote its due, let us use it to frame the entire episode. The group argues to Dale that it is silly he should wind his watch daily when time for them no longer matters. Dale poorly paraphrases the above quote as a rebuttal which is dismissed because he's a weird old man with odd ideas. The point of winding the watch is so that Dale can have a daily reminder that he is STILL mortal in a world of walking dead. And life is what happens to us when we forget that we are stuck to this social idea of "time." The reminder of time is so that he can enjoy moments "out of time" when he forgets about the watch.
Time is one of the basic symbols of civilization. To become "unstuck in time" or "outside of time" for Quentin Compson would be to b
e asleep/unconscious/or dead, as the first sentence of the quote implies that Quentin was just waking up and was "in time again." Time is important to Dale because it shows him that he is given this whole day to make the best of it. In this environment, it's to keep watch over everyone and keep them safe. Quentin is a bit neurotic and obsessed by the ticking clock, but we won't go there to much. Dale thinks he's just got a habit.
The second part of the quote is extremely apt, and although Dale omitted it, I believe the writers implied its use in this episode because clearly they read The Sound and the Fury if they wanted the wisest member of the group to paraphrase one of the most interesting passages from it (it would have been funnier if he started bellowing some Benjy speak, but whatever). It begins with "Because no battle is ever won (scroll up and reread)" In this episode, our group has their first run-in with another group from society, which reveals to both sides their own folly and despair; and shows immediately that victory is indeed an illusion through the enormity of the mistakes they both would have committed had they opened fire on each other.
On their way back to Atlanta to rescue Merle, recover the bag of guns, and pick up an RV part for Dale, they inadvertently start a fight with a group of Vatos over possession of the bag of guns. It results in each group kidnapping one member of the other group. Glenn was the one kidnapped from our group.
They decide to exchange hostages and each side plans on killing all of the men over the bag of guns. It is quickly revealed when a little grandmother walks out in front of all the armed men and tells "G," the leader of the Vatos, that someone needs help. Both sides discover that neither are real criminals, and in fact, "G" is taking care of lots of old people who were abandoned in a nursing home after the zombie take-over.
Rick asks G what his position was before the outbreak and G tells him that he was the custodian. I thought the word choice was interesting, because it literally means care-taker. He could have said janitor and meant the same thing, but it showed that his role was so much more powerful. Rick decides that a good man like G should get half of the guns. They exchange prisoners and share the weapons and return to camp without Merle or parts for the RV.
So, you put the rest together: "They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools."
But this episode does not have a happy ending. By the time they get back to camp with half of the guns, the camp is being attacked by Walkers. There are multiple deaths, including Amy (which really sucks because I would have paid so much money for Andrea to have died instead) and the group is further divided.