Absalom, Absalom! Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Yoknapatawpha County

Yoknapatawpha County (YOK-nuh-puh-TAW-fuh). Fictional county in northwestern Mississippi that Faulkner called his “little postage stamp of native soil.” By the time Faulkner wrote Absalom, Absalom! he had used this setting in five novels. For this novel, however, he drew a map of the county on which he identified places used in both this and the earlier novels. Faulkner gave the county an area of 2,400 square miles and a population of 6,298 white residents and 9,313 black residents. With the Tallahatchie River serving as the northern boundary, the Yoknapatawpha River—an old name for the actual Yocona River—as the southern boundary, Yoknapatawpha bears a remarkable resemblance to, but is not identical with, Mississippi’s real Lafayette County.

Jefferson

Jefferson Yoknapatawpha’s fictional county seat, is likewise patterned after Oxford; however, Faulkner also includes a town called “Oxford” in the novel. A rural, agricultural county with a large number of plantations, including Sutpen’s Hundred, Yoknapatawpha is a miniature of the South during the nineteenth century. Amid a society permeated with racial prejudice and class consciousness, the character Thomas Sutpen is both spurred toward his goal and denied the opportunity for success. Despite his efforts to achieve respectability, most members of Jefferson’s aristocracy regard him as an outsider and fail to recognize that he mirrors the flaws of their society.

Sutpen’s Hundred

Sutpen’s Hundred (SUHT-penz). Plantation built by Thomas Sutpen on a “hundred square miles of some of the best virgin bottom land in the country.” Having failed in an earlier attempt in the West Indies to achieve his “design,” Sutpen purchases land from a local Chickasaw chief. With the help of a French architect and slave labor, he ruthlessly sets out to establish a dynasty in Yoknapatawpha County. He spends two years building his...

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Absalom, Absalom! Historical Context

The Civil War Aftermath
Almost one-third of the southern men who went to fight in the Civil War (1861–1865) died, and almost...

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Absalom, Absalom! Setting

Absalom, Absalom! is set in the fictional city of Jefferson, Mississippi, and in Yoknapatawpha County, the setting of fourteen other...

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Absalom, Absalom! Literary Style

Narrative Structure
Absalom, Absalom! is considered to be one of Faulkner’s most difficult novels because of its complex...

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Absalom, Absalom! Literary Qualities

Absalom, Absalom! is a difficult book for some readers because Faulkner uses a technique called circumlocution to convey his story....

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Absalom, Absalom! Social Sensitivity

The plot of Absalom, Absalom! focuses on so many sensitive situations that the story seems almost too sensational to be true. However,...

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Absalom, Absalom! Compare and Contrast

1800s: Heroes are drawn from legends and from stories of people (usually men) demonstrating great bravery and wisdom.

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Absalom, Absalom! Topics for Discussion

1. Do you think Faulkner liked women? Why or why not?

2. To what extent do you believe Faulkner used this novel to voice his own...

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Absalom, Absalom! Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Define the nature of a legend, and discuss the mythic elements in the novel that help characterize Faulkner's story as a legend.

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Absalom, Absalom! Topics for Further Study

Think of a story that is told in your family, especially by the older members. Write three versions of the story as told by three very...

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Absalom, Absalom! Related Titles / Adaptations

Anyone wishing to gain insight into Faulkner's story should read the biblical story of David and Absalom. This can be a crucial aid in...

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Absalom, Absalom! Media Adaptations

Audio adaptations of Absalom, Absalom! have been made by Everett/Edwards in 1977 and Books on Tape in 1993.

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Absalom, Absalom! What Do I Read Next?

Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) is tangentially related to Absalom, Absalom! because it shares several characters....

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Absalom, Absalom! For Further Reference

Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974. In addition to presenting detailed coverage of...

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Absalom, Absalom! Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Brooks, Cleanth, William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country, Yale University Press, 1963.

Caesar,...

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Absalom, Absalom! Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Suggested Readings

Backman, Melvin. Faulkner, the Major Years: A Critical Study. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966.

Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974. A lengthy biography of William Faulkner’s life and work. Shows how Absalom, Absalom! evolved to become what Blotner considers Faulkner’s most important and ambitious contribution to American literature.

Brooks, Cleanth. “History and the Sense of the Tragic.” In William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1963.

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