|Cover artist||George Salter|
|Followed by||The Unvanquished|
Absalom, Absalom! is a novel by the American author William Faulkner, first published in 1936. Taking place before, during, and after the American Civil War, it is a story about three families of the American South, with a focus on the life of Thomas Sutpen.
Absalom, Absalom! details the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen, a white man born into poverty in western Virginia who moves to Mississippi with the dual aims of gaining wealth and becoming a powerful family patriarch. The story is told entirely in flashbacks narrated mostly by Quentin Compson to his roommate at Harvard College, Shreve, who frequently contributes his own suggestions and surmises. The narration of Rosa Coldfield, and Quentin's father and grandfather, are also included and re-interpreted by Shreve and Quentin, with the total events of the story unfolding in nonchronological order and often with differing details. This results in a peeling-back-the-onion revelation of the true story of the Sutpens. Rosa initially narrates the story, with long digressions and a biased memory, to Quentin Compson, whose grandfather was a friend of Sutpen's. Quentin's father then fills in some of the details to Quentin. Finally, Quentin relates the story to his roommate Shreve, and in each retelling, the reader receives more details as the parties flesh out the story by adding layers. The final effect leaves the reader more certain about the attitudes and biases of the characters than about the facts of Sutpen's story.
Thomas Sutpen arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi, with some slaves and a French architect who has been somehow forced into working for him. Sutpen obtains one hundred square miles of land from a local Native American tribe and immediately begins building a large plantation called Sutpen's Hundred, including an ostentatious mansion. All he needs to complete his plan is a wife to bear him a few children (particularly a son to be his heir), so he ingratiates himself with a local merchant and marries the man's daughter, Ellen Coldfield. Ellen bears Sutpen two children, a son named Henry and a daughter named Judith, both of whom are destined for tragedy.
Henry goes to the University of Mississippi and meets fellow student Charles Bon, who is ten years his senior. Henry brings Charles home for Christmas, and Charles and Judith begin a quiet romance that leads to a presumed engagement. However, Thomas Sutpen realizes that Charles Bon is his son from an earlier marriage and moves to stop the proposed union.
Sutpen had worked on a plantation in the French West Indies as overseer and, after subduing a slave uprising, was offered the hand of the plantation owner's daughter, Eulalia Bon. She bore him a son, Charles. Sutpen did not know that Eulalia was of mixed race until after the marriage and birth of Charles, but when he discovered that he had been deceived, he renounced the marriage as void and left his wife and child (though leaving them his fortune as part of his own moral recompense). The reader also later learns of Sutpen's childhood, when young Thomas learned that society could base human worth on material worth. It is this episode that sets into motion Thomas' plan to start a dynasty.
When Sutpen tells Henry that Charles is his half-brother and that Judith must not be allowed to marry him, Henry refuses to believe it, repudiates his birthright, and accompanies Charles to his home in New Orleans. They then return to Mississippi to enlist in their University company, joining the Confederate Army to fight in the Civil War. During the war, Henry wrestles with his conscience until he presumably resolves to allow the marriage of half-brother and sister; this resolution changes, however, when Sutpen reveals to Henry that Charles is part black. At the conclusion of the war, Henry enforces his father's interdiction of marriage between Charles and Judith, killing Charles at the gates to the mansion and then fleeing into self-exile.
Thomas Sutpen returns from the war and begins to repair his dynasty and his home, whose hundred square miles have been reduced by carpetbaggers and punitive northern action to one square mile. He proposes to Rosa Coldfield, his dead wife's younger sister, and she accepts. However, Sutpen insults Rosa by demanding that she bear him a son before the wedding takes place, prompting her to leave Sutpen's Hundred. Sutpen then begins an affair with Milly, the 15-year-old granddaughter of Wash Jones, a squatter who lives on the Sutpen property. The affair continues until Milly becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter. Sutpen is terribly disappointed, because the last hope of repairing his Sutpen dynasty rested on Milly giving birth to a son. Sutpen casts Milly and the child aside, telling them that they are not worthy of sleeping in the stables with his horse, who had just sired a male. An enraged Wash Jones kills Thomas, Milly, Milly's newborn daughter, and finally himself by resisting arrest.
The story of Thomas Sutpen's legacy ends with Quentin taking Rosa back to the seemingly abandoned Sutpen's Hundred plantation, where they find Henry Sutpen and Clytemnestra (Clytie), the daughter of Thomas Sutpen by a slave woman. Henry has returned to the estate to die. Three months later, when Rosa returns with medical help for Henry, Clytie mistakes them for law enforcement and starts a fire that consumes the plantation and kills Henry and herself. The only remaining Sutpen is Jim Bon, Charles Bon's black grandson, a young man with severe mental handicaps, who remains on Sutpen's Hundred.
Like other Faulkner novels, Absalom, Absalom! allegorizes Southern history; the title itself is an allusion to the Biblical story of King David and Absalom, a wayward son fighting the empire his father built.
The history of Thomas Sutpen mirrors the rise and fall of Southern plantation culture. Sutpen's failures necessarily reflect the weaknesses of an idealistic South. Rigidly committed to his "design", Sutpen proves unwilling to honor his marriage to a part-black woman, setting in motion his own destruction.
Discussing Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner stated that the curse under which the South labors is slavery, and that Thomas Sutpen's personal curse, or flaw, was his belief that he was too strong to need to be a part of the human family.
Absalom, Absalom! juxtaposes ostensible fact, informed guesswork, and outright speculation—with the implication that reconstructions of the past remain irretrievable and therefore imaginative.[ citation needed ] Faulkner stated that, although none of the narrators got the facts right since "no one individual can look at truth", a truth exists and that the reader can ultimately know it. Most critics have tried to reconstruct this truth behind the shifting narratives, or to show that such a reconstruction cannot be done with certainty or even to prove that there are factual and logical inconsistencies that cannot be overcome. But some critics have stated that, fictional truth being an oxymoron, it is best to take the story as a given, and regard it on the level of myth and archetype, a fable that allows us to glimpse the deepest levels of the unconscious and thus better understand the people who accept (and are ruled by) that myth—Southerners in general and Quentin Compson in particular.
By using various narrators expressing their interpretations, the novel alludes to the historical cultural zeitgeist of Faulkner's South, where the past is always present and constantly in states of revision by the people who tell and retell the story over time; it thus also explores the process of myth-making and the questioning of truth.
The use of Quentin Compson as the primary perspective (if not exactly the focus) of the novel makes it something of a companion piece to Faulkner's earlier work The Sound and the Fury , which tells the story of the Compson Family, with Quentin as a main character. Although the action of that novel is never explicitly referenced, the Sutpen family's struggle with dynasty, downfall, and potential incest parallel the familial events and obsessions that drive Quentin and Miss Rosa Coldfield to witness the burning of Sutpen's Hundred.
Absalom, Absalom!, along with The Sound and the Fury , helped Faulkner win the Nobel Prize in Literature for the year 1949.In 2009, a panel of judges called Absalom, Absalom! the best Southern novel of all time.
The title refers to the Biblical story of Absalom, a son of David who rebelled against his father (then King of the Kingdom of Israel) and was killed by David's general Joab in violation of David's order to deal gently with his son, thus causing heartbreak to David.
The 1983 Guinness Book of World Records says the "Longest Sentence in Literature" is a sentence from Absalom, Absalom! containing 1,288 words.The sentence can be found in Chapter 6; it begins with the words "Just exactly like father", and ends with "the eye could not see from any point". The passage is entirely italicized and incomplete.
The final lyric of Distant Early Warning, a single released by the Canadian rock band Rush, is the word 'Absalom' repeated three times. Drummer Neil Peart, the band's lyricist, said he "loved the sound of" the title of Faulkner's novel and was inspired to look up the Biblical story of Absalom after reading the novel. "Since one of the main themes of the song was compassion, it occurred to me that the Biblical story was applicable."
Absalom was the third son of David, King of Israel with Maacah, daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur.
David was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the third king of the United Kingdom of Israel. In the Books of Samuel, he is described as a young shepherd and harpist who gains fame by slaying Goliath, a champion of the Philistines, in southern Canaan. David becomes a favourite of Saul, the first king of Israel; he also forges a notably close friendship with Jonathan, a son of Saul. However, under the paranoia that David is seeking to usurp the throne, Saul attempts to kill David, forcing the latter to go into hiding and effectively operate as a fugitive for several years. After Saul and Jonathan are both killed in battle against the Philistines, a 30-year-old David is anointed king over all of Israel and Judah. Following his rise to power, David conquers the city of Jerusalem and establishes it as Israel's capital, subsequently taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city to be the central point of worship in the Israelite religion.
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer known for his novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where Faulkner spent most of his life. A Nobel Prize laureate, Faulkner is one of the most celebrated writers of American literature and is considered the greatest writer of Southern literature.
In Greek mythology, Niobe was a daughter of Tantalus and of either Dione, the most frequently cited, or of Eurythemista or Euryanassa, the wife of Amphion and the sister of Pelops and Broteas.
The Sound and the Fury is a novel by the American author William Faulkner. It employs several narrative styles, including stream of consciousness. Published in 1929, The Sound and the Fury was Faulkner's fourth novel, and was not immediately successful. In 1931, however, when Faulkner's sixth novel, Sanctuary, was published—a sensationalist story, which Faulkner later said was written only for money—The Sound and the Fury also became commercially successful, and Faulkner began to receive critical attention.
Yoknapatawpha County is a fictional Mississippi county created by the American author William Faulkner, largely based upon and inspired by Lafayette County, Mississippi, and its county seat of Oxford. Faulkner often referred to Yoknapatawpha County as "my apocryphal county".
The Compson family is a fictional family created by American author William Faulkner for use in his novels and short stories. A once prominent family in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, the family began to fall on hard times in the twentieth century. Principally depicted in The Sound and the Fury and in its appendix, they also make appearances in Absalom, Absalom! and stories such as "That Evening Sun". The family name is also referred to briefly in the opening chapter of Requiem for a Nun. Faulkner traced their genealogy from 1699 to 1945.
Thomas Sutpen is a focal character of William Faulkner's 1936 novel Absalom, Absalom! Sutpen arrives in Faulkner's imaginary Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, in the 1830s and establishes a 64,000-acre (100-square-mile) plantation, Sutpen's Hundred, in an attempt to create his own dynasty. It is eventually revealed that Sutpen was born to a poor white family in what became West Virginia before moving to the Tidewater region of Virginia, where he was the first privy to the aristocratic plantation culture of the Antebellum South.
Absalom and Achitophel is a celebrated satirical poem by John Dryden, written in heroic couplets and first published in 1681. The poem tells the Biblical tale of the rebellion of Absalom against King David; in this context it is an allegory used to represent a story contemporary to Dryden, concerning King Charles II and the Exclusion Crisis (1679–1681). The poem also references the Popish Plot (1678).
Quentin Compson is a fictional character created by William Faulkner. He is an intelligent, neurotic, and introspective son of the Compson family. He is featured in the classic novels The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! as well as the short stories "That Evening Sun" and "A Justice". After moving north to study at Harvard College, he eventually commits suicide by drowning himself in the Charles River.
Go Down, Moses is a 1942 collection of seven related pieces of short fiction by American author William Faulkner, sometimes considered a novel. The most prominent character and unifying voice is that of Isaac McCaslin, "Uncle Ike", who will live to be an old man; "uncle to half a county and father to no one". Though originally published as a short story collection, Faulkner considered the book to be a novel in the same way The Unvanquished is considered a novel. Because of this, most editions no longer print "and other stories" in the title.
Lothario is a male given name that came to suggest an unscrupulous seducer of women, based upon a character in The Impertinent Curious Man, a story within a story in Miguel de Cervantes' 1605 novel, Don Quixote.
"That Evening Sun" is a short story by the American author William Faulkner, published in 1931 in the collection These 13, which included Faulkner's most anthologized story, "A Rose for Emily". The story was originally published, in a slightly different form, as "That Evening Sun Go Down" in The American Mercury in March of the same year.
Quentin is a French male given name from the Latin first name Quintinus, diminutive form of Quintus, that means "the fifth".
William Randolph I was a planter, merchant and politician in colonial Virginia who played an important role in the development of the colony. Born in Moreton Morrell, Warwickshire, Randolph moved to the colony of Virginia sometime between 1669 and 1673, and married Mary Isham a few years later. His descendants include many prominent individuals including Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Paschal Beverly Randolph, Robert E. Lee, Peyton Randolph, Edmund Randolph, John Randolph of Roanoke, George W. Randolph, and Edmund Ruffin. Due to his and Mary's many progeny and marital alliances, they have been referred to as "the Adam and Eve of Virginia".
The Sound and the Fury is a 1959 American drama film directed by Martin Ritt. It is loosely based on the 1929 novel of the same name by William Faulkner.
Thomas Randolph, also known as Thomas Randolph of Tuckahoe, was the first settler at Tuckahoe, a member of the House of Burgesses, and the second child of William Randolph and Mary Isham, daughter of Henry Isham and Katherine Isham (Banks).
The Sound and the Fury is an American drama film directed by James Franco. It is the second film version of the 1929 novel of the same name by William Faulkner. The film was released in a limited release and through video on demand on October 23, 2015, by New Films International.
Thomas Mann Randolph Sr. served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Revolutionary conventions of 1775 and 1776, and the Virginia state legislature. Married twice, he fathered 15 children. One marriage was to a cousin, Anne Cary, with whom they had 13 children. His second marriage, which resulted in two children, caused a dissention among family members. The youngest son, with the same name as his half-brother, Thomas Mann Randolph, inherited the family plantation, Tuckahoe plantation. Randolph expanded upon the house that began to be built during his parents' short marriage. Orphaned as a young boy, Randolph continued work on Tuckahoe when he came of age. He also purchased Salisbury house, which was used during his lifetime as a hunting lodge.