New Look at ABSALOM, ABSALOM by William Faulkner

New Look at ABSALOM, ABSALOM by William Faulkner

New Look at ABSALOM, ABSALOM by William Faulkner

Absalom, Absalom Plot Summary

“Absalom, Absalom!” was written by William Faulkner. The story is a masterpiece, and it is also a powerful exploration of the relationship between the past and present, and the impact of history on the lives of individuals. The novel is intricately linked to Faulkner’s wider Yoknapatawpha series, and the maps, cast, and sequential time table reinforce this connection.

The story centers on the Sutpen family, and the incestuous relationship between Charles, Judith, and Henry. Faulkner’s use of multiple narrators, including Quentin Compson from “The Sound and the Fury,” adds a sense of unity to the entire Yoknapatawpha series, as well as highlighting the complex relationships between the characters and their past. Faulkner uses the characters’ struggles with the past to explore the consequences of trying to control the lives of others.

Throughout the novel, some characters, like young Bayard Sartoris, struggle to balance their connection to the past with their need to live in the present, while others reject the past completely. Overall, “Absalom, Absalom!” is a complex and thought-provoking novel that showcases Faulkner’s mature powers as a writer. His exploration of the past and its impact on the present is a powerful reminder of the importance of understanding our own history, both as individuals and as a society.

Past in Absalom, Absalom by Faulkner

William Faulkner believes that the past cannot be disregarded entirely, but it should not overshadow one’s present life. He expresses this view in Sartoris, which emphasizes the importance of understanding one’s heritage without blindly following it.

In Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner delves into the causes behind present actions and whether they originate from longstanding virtues or conflicting motives. It is widely regarded as his masterpiece and his most powerful critique of Southern values. The novel recounts a tale of incest, fratricide, ambition, slavery, and lust, culminating in a portrayal of humanity overcome by passions and ambitions that exceed ethical norms. Faulkner condemns the morals, customs, and ethics of the South in the story narrated by Quentin in response to a Northerner’s inquiry about the South. The Sutpen family’s saga represents the South’s history, and Thomas Sutpen embodies the ascent and downfall of the antebellum South. Sutpen believed that he could establish his own great legacy without considering the humanitarian implications of slavery, which ultimately led to the South’s collapse. Faulkner presents this material with impressive control and aesthetic detachment.

How does Faulkner Perceive South in Absalom, Absalom?

Faulkner criticizes the values of the South and their moral foundation. The novel tells the story of the Sutpen family, exploring the relationship between man and the past and the responsibility of modern man for the wrongs of history. Faulkner shows that those who reject the past, like Sutpen, are doomed to failure, while those who are consumed by it, like Miss Rosa, become bitter and hateful. Mr. Compson sees the past as a reflection of human fallibility and becomes cynical, while Quentin sees it as a reflection of his own life and desires and ultimately becomes a suicide. Faulkner does not offer a clear answer to the proper relationship with the past but rather offers a detailed examination of negative responses to the question.

Absalom, Absalom is not an Easy Read

However, Absalom, Absalom! is not an easy read, and Faulkner’s style is one of the major hindrances for inexperienced readers. The Faulknerian diction and the difficulty in identifying which character is narrating certain aspects of the story can pose challenges. Additionally, characters are often referred to only as “he” before being identified, and many small pieces of information are casually mentioned without the reader knowing the full story. Despite these difficulties, many critics consider Absalom, Absalom! to be Faulkner’s greatest achievement.

Understanding the difference between plot and story is key to comprehending the intricacies of Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. The novel presents a unique challenge to readers as much of the story is left untold, requiring them to use their imagination to fill in the gaps. Faulkner’s choice of multiple narrators adds another layer of complexity to the plot, with different perspectives and details being shared. To aid in the reader’s comprehension, Faulkner provides a chronology of central events, a genealogy of characters, and a map of Yoknapatawpha county indicating where key events occurred. The plot consists of the specific elements of the story that the author chooses to narrate, while the story can encompass a broader range of information outside of the plot narration. To illustrate, if one were to attend a play about Abraham Lincoln, the entire story of his life would be known beforehand, but the plot of the drama would focus only on selected episodes dramatized by the playwright. Faulkner’s approach to plot and story in Absalom, Absalom! is distinctive and deserving of attention from literary scholars and enthusiasts.

Absalom, Absalom Literature Analysis

The plot narration in Absalom, Absalom! is a remarkable example of modern fiction and holds a significant place in the reader’s or critic’s attention. To aid the reader’s comprehension, Faulkner included helpful tools at the end of the book, such as a chronology of the central events, a genealogy of the characters, and a map of Yoknapatawpha county that illustrates the locations of the central events. The genealogy note is particularly noteworthy as it highlights that Quentin died the year the novel concluded, making his death a part of the story, even though it is not explicitly stated in the plot of the book.

Chapter 1 Absalom, Absalom Analysis

In the first chapter of Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner reveals the most important events of the entire story, effectively giving the reader a glimpse of the plot. This sets the stage for the rest of the novel, as subsequent chapters only offer subtle modifications to the story presented in the first chapter. Although readers may not initially realize that this first chapter is the germinal of the plot, all the essential facts are present. Faulkner’s intention is to familiarize the reader with the story and eliminate any element of surprise, so that the reader can focus on understanding the causes of the characters’ actions. By the end of the first chapter, Faulkner wants the reader to feel as though they know the story as well as the townspeople of Jefferson, Mississippi, where the story takes place. This method of storytelling makes the story a part of the reader’s heritage, and adds a level of universality to the narrative. Faulkner tells the same events multiple times in the first chapter, each time with a different purpose, which adds depth and complexity to the story.

Miss Rosa in Absalom, Absalom Literary Analysis

Miss Rosa has carried hatred towards Sutpen for 43 years without revealing his betrayal, which has changed the meaning of events that occurred during that time. Her narration is often unreliable as her hatred has affected her interpretation of events. Miss Rosa sees the Coldfield family as being romantic and the Sutpens as cold and calculating. As a result, the children of the Coldfield-Sutpen marriage will have either the Coldfield or Sutpen temperament. Henry represents the romantic Coldfield nature while Judith takes after the Sutpens. Miss Rosa believes that Sutpen was responsible for the downfall of the Coldfield family and sees him as an instrument of God’s injustice. Her narration can be viewed as allegorical for the rise and fall of the entire South. She believes that the South was doomed to fail because of men like Sutpen who have power but lack compassion. However, Miss Rosa’s reasoning differs from that of Mr. Compson and Quentin in regards to the denial of Judith and Bon’s marriage. She believes that Sutpen denied it as an irresponsible and capricious act, without knowing the motivations behind his decision.

Miss Rosa’s account sheds light on an allegorical interpretation of the Sutpen family’s story as representative of the rise and fall of the entire South. She believes that the South was doomed to fail because of men like Sutpen, who had strength, valor, and power but lacked compassion, honor, and pity. This contrasts with Mr. Compson and Quentin’s perspectives on why Judith and Bon’s marriage failed to materialize. According to Miss Rosa, Sutpen denied the marriage as an irresponsible and capricious act, but it is essential to remember that she lacks access to the information that the other narrators possess. She never met Bon, and she has no knowledge of his background or parentage, which means that she cannot fully comprehend Sutpen’s motives for rejecting the union. Additionally, in her account of the almost fratricide, she assumes that Bon was about to become Henry’s brother-in-law, unaware that the murder was an actual fratricide.

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