Absalom, Absalom! Book Report and Analysis
Uploaded by Quest4Glory on Jun 19, 2005
Faulkner is not for everyone, and this book is exhibit number one. I read half of it a year ago before going back and starting over, determined to finish it. I am certainly glad I did, and I will say without doubt I will read it several more times in my life, for this book is at the same time one of the most difficult I've ever read, and one of the most rewarding.
First, the cons: vocabulary that continually drives you to a dictionary; long, run-on sentences, with digression piled on top of digression, parenthesis within parenthesis within parenthesis; multiple telling of the same story. The reading is not easy, in other words.
But the pros: Faulkner is a master of "showing, not telling." He writes poetry without line breaks. For example:
** "a creature cloistered now by deliberate choice and still in the throes of enforced apprenticeship to, rather than voluntary or even acquiescent participation in, breathing"
** "battles lost not alone because of superior numbers and failing ammunition and stores, but because of generals who should not have been generals, who were generals not through training in contemporary methods or aptitude for learning them, but by the divine right to say 'Go there' conferred upon them by an absolute caste system."
** "and maybe they never had time to talk about wounds and besides to talk about wounds in the Confederate army in 1865 would be like coal miners talking about soot."
From these three examples alone, one can see that it's unfair to say that Faulkner's book is one run-on sentence without any differentiation in style or voice. Instead, they show a mastery of language, which Faulkner admittedly gets a little carried away with from time to time, but generally uses much like we use our lungs - without seeming to think about it.
What is most striking about the book is the similarity it has to the human experience. Walter Allen said this is the book in which Faulkner "most profoundly and completely says what he has to say about . . . the human condition." And what is that? That humans are weak and prone to lying, and more dangerously, prone to believing lies that are more comfortable than the truth. When we finish the book, we're still not sure about the details of the story. We don't know who twisted what in his/her narrative, and because the story is told...