Author: William Faulkner
Publication Date: 1936
Genre: Southern Gothic Novel
Page Length: Approximately 320
Absalom! is a novel written by American author William Faulkner and was published in 1936. Set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, the story explores the decline and fall of the Compson family, focusing on the character of Thomas Sutpen and his impact on the lives of those around him. This concise summary aims to provide an objective academic overview of the plot, characters, themes, and significance of this renowned classic.
Section 1: Quentin's Compson's Narrative
Absalom! opens with Quentin Compson, the troubled son of the Compson family, reflecting on his family's tragic history and agonizing over his sister, Caddy's, relationship with the enigmatic Thomas Sutpen. Quentin recalls significant events from his family's past, including his grandfather's anticipation of the Civil War, and Thomas Sutpen's arrival in Jefferson, Mississippi.
Section 2: Quentin's Reflections Continued
Quentin delves deeper into the story of Thomas Sutpen, recounting his rise from a poor plantation owner to a wealthy landowner in Jefferson. Quentin reveals Sutpen's dark and mysterious motivations, his marriage to Eulalia Bon, and his establishment of the grand plantation known as Sutpen's Hundred. Quentin is haunted by the knowledge that Sutpen is determined to restore his family's honor, even if it means causing great pain and destruction.
Section 3: The Quentin-Jason Narrative
While Quentin continues to struggle with his own tormented thoughts, his brother Jason narrates his experiences and observations regarding their family's decline. Jason resents Caddy for her promiscuity, which he believes is the cause of their family's downfall. He also harbors resentment towards his own mother and treats his niece Miss Quentin cruelly, especially after he learns of her secret relationship with Dalton Ames.
Section 4: The Dilsey Narrative
The final section of Absalom! shifts the focus to Dilsey, an African-American servant of the Compson family. Dilsey offers a unique perspective on the declining Compsons, juxtaposing their decay with her own steadfast commitment to her family and values. Through Dilsey's eyes, Faulkner highlights the complexities of race, class, and morality within the Southern society of that era.
1. Decline and Decay: Absalom! delves into the theme of decline, exploring the disintegration of the Compson family and the larger implications it has on the society they inhabit. Faulkner portrays the inevitable decline of old Southern aristocracy and the shifting societal landscape in the aftermath of the Civil War.
2. Legacy and the Past: The characters in the novel are haunted by their past, carrying the burdens of preceding generations and struggling to escape their family's history. This theme emphasizes the inescapability of one's origins and the indelible impact they have on personal growth.
3. Judgment and Morality: Faulkner explores different moral perspectives, reflecting the moral decay and hypocrisy prevalent in the characters' actions. The novel raises questions about the nature of good and evil, societal judgment, and the repercussions of immoral actions.
Absalom! holds a significant place in American literature due to its innovative narrative structure, captivating prose, and exploration of complex themes. Faulkner's use of multiple narrators, stream-of-consciousness technique, and nonlinear storytelling challenge conventional literary forms, making it a seminal work of the Southern Gothic genre.
This novel showcases Faulkner's exploration of the human condition, particularly in relation to race, class, and morality during a pivotal era in American history. It serves as a profound examination of the decline of the old South and its lasting consequences, providing readers with a deep understanding of the complexities of human nature and the interconnectedness of personal and societal destruction.
In conclusion, Absalom! by William Faulkner is a masterful, complex literary work that explores the decline of the Compson family and the repercussions of their actions. Through a multi-narrative structure, the novel delves into themes of decline, legacy, judgment, and morality. Faulkner's innovative storytelling and profound examination of the human condition have cemented Absalom! as a milestone in American literature and an essential read for those seeking a deeper understanding of the Southern Gothic genre and the complexities of the human experience.