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Absalom, Absalom! - Ghosts of the Old South

Uploaded by Quest4Glory on Jun 19, 2005

Faulkner is notoriously cruel to his readers for making them scrape and dig for details in his almost incomprehensibly dense chronicles of the fictional families of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, but not for nothing is he one of the greatest of American writers. A story is not a collection of cold hard facts but of ideas and images designed to make us exercise the remotest faculties of our minds, and Faulkner's fiction presses the buttons and turns the dials that set our mental mechanisms in motion.
"Absalom, Absalom!" is a particularly intricate machine that links the Old South with the New and features a family tree whose branches are gnarled beyond all reasonable efforts at traceability. The trunk is a man named Thomas Sutpen, who, after an adventurous youth in Virginia and the West Indies, arrives in YoCo in the 1830's with a large supply of money and black slaves, builds a plantation, marries a local girl, Ellen Coldfield, and fathers two children, Henry and Judith, envisioning a fruitful dynasty.

In Faulkner's characteristically confusing style, the story is narrated through a few different viewpoints. The closest to the Sutpen family is Ellen's sister Rosa Coldfield, who happens to be younger than Henry and Judith. She has suffered some unhappy experiences as a result of being associated with Sutpen, but she retains a certain pride as she recounts her history to Quentin Compson, the morose young man who, we know from "The Sound and the Fury," is later to drown himself in the Charles River. Quentin also gets information from his father, whose own father was a close friend of Sutpen's, and in turn discusses the Sutpen saga with his Harvard roommate Shreve, to whom Quentin insists, as the novel ends, that he doesn't hate the South.

As in "Light in August," race consciousness is a major subject in "A, A!" Thomas Sutpen is revealed to have fathered a boy named Charles Bon by a Haitian woman he thought was "pure" white, but he abandons her and the baby when he learns of her mixed ancestry. Later, he has a daughter named Clytemnestra (oh, the implications) by one of his slave women, proving himself to be a rather lecherous sort of hypocrite. Trouble begins when Henry meets his half-brother Charles at the University of Mississippi and brings him home, where he and Judith fall in love; Quentin's ultimate lesson about the Sutpens is...

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Uploaded by:   Quest4Glory

Date:   06/19/2005

Category:   Literature

Length:   2 pages (507 words)

Views:   4775

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