Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
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 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...
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The Civil War Aftermath
Almost one-third of the southern men who went to fight in the Civil War (1861–1865) died, and almost as many suffered serious injuries. Because slaves were available to perform work, nearly eighty percent of eligible (by age and health status) white southern men were able to fight in the Civil War. They all brought home emotional, if not physical, scars. During the war, thousands of refugees in the South, black and white, lost everything they owned and faced uncertainty and terror about the future. Many families were forced to seek ways to get by without their fathers, husbands, and brothers to support them. Children who grew up without men in their families felt incomplete, and they often grew up thinking that they could never achieve the bravery and nobility of their fallen relatives.
To make matters worse, the South was in financial ruin at the end of the war. Railroads, manufacturing equipment, farm machinery, and livestock were destroyed. The destruction was so severe that industry in the South was set back a full generation. During Reconstruction (1865–1877), the North and South struggled to come to terms with the new legal and social parameters of the nation. The central concerns of the Reconstruction Period were: defining the relationship between the former North and the former South; determining who was responsible for the Confederate rebellion and whether punishment was in order; deciding which rights...
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Absalom, Absalom! is set in the fictional city of Jefferson, Mississippi, and in Yoknapatawpha County, the setting of fourteen other novels by Faulkner as well as for many of his short stories. Faulkner knew the setting well because he fashioned Jefferson after the Mississippi town of Oxford where he grew up. He thus provides detailed descriptions of the plantation houses, the run-down shacks of the tenant farmers, the rivers, the railroads, and the dirt roads. By the time Faulkner wrote Absalom, Absalom!, his vision of this mythic world he created was complete. He includes a map of the county as well as a chronology of historical events and a genealogy of the characters, all of which bring the county to life as a real place in the American South and an appropriate setting for Faulkner's analysis of Southern culture and ideals.
Faulkner's realism is convincing because he details the county's past as well as its present to give his story historical perspective. Readers know the roads the characters traveled and the houses in which they lived, but they also know the history of those roads and those houses. Faulkner details the setting so well that readers become immersed in Yoknapatawpha County; they can almost feel the muggy weather and see the run-down plantation houses. The map of the county gives locations to the events that occur in all the books in his Yoknapatawpha series. True to Faulkner's vision of making his story a living legend,...
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Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. Who is the main narrator of Absalom, Absalom!?
2. Who is the main character in Absalom, Absalom!?
3. How is Miss Rosa related to Thomas Sutpen?
4. Why did Thomas Sutpen marry Ellen Coldfield?
5. How many children does Thomas Sutpen have in Jefferson?
6. Explain the biblical allusion in the title Absalom, Absalom!
7. Describe the literary style Absalom, Absalom! is written in.
8. What historical event parallels the rise and the fall of the Sutpen dynasty?
9. What historical time-period is Faulkner writing about?
10. What is the name of the town in which Faulkner’s story takes place?
1. Quentin Compson, a young college student, is the narrator.
2. Thomas Sutpen, a frontiersman turned plantation owner, is the main character.
3. Thomas Sutpen married Miss Rosa’s older sister, Ellen.
4. Thomas Sutpen married Ellen Coldfield to gain respectability and beget a dynasty.
5. Thomas Sutpen has three children in Jefferson: Henry and Judith, by his wife, and Clytie, by a slave.
6. Absalom is the favorite son of King David who rebels against him and is killed by an uncle.
7. Absalom, Absalom! is written in the literary style of high modern¬ism. It breaks many of the standard rules of grammar....
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Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. What type of land did Thomas Sutpen buy from Ikkemotubbe?
2. Why was Ellen Coldfield crying during her wedding ceremony?
3. In what month and year were Thomas and Ellen Sutpen married?
4. Is Thomas Sutpen a moral character?
5. How many years did the French architect work on the mansion at Sutpen’s Hundred?
6. Why did the French architect live in a tent and eat venison for two years in the wild?
7. The slaves (called “wild negroes”) that Thomas Sutpen owned came from what country?
8. From what viewpoint is Chapter Two narrated?
9. What happened to Thomas Sutpen just before he got married?
10. Why was Sutpen arrested?
1. The land that Thomas Sutpen bought from Ikkemotubbe is “a hundred square miles of the best virgin bottom land in the country.”
2. Ellen Coldfield was crying because only a few of the 100 guests she had invited attended the wedding.
3. Thomas and Ellen Sutpen were married in June of 1938, five years after Thomas rode into town.
4. Thomas Sutpen is not a moral character because he has no conscience.
5. The French architect worked on the mansion at Sutpen’s Hundred for two years.
6. The architect did not leave because Sutpen did not pay him until it was finished.
7. Thomas Sutpen’s slaves were from...
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Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
1. What was the final result of Sutpen’s dealings and interaction with Mr. Coldfield?
2. How did Miss Rosa take care of her father during the Civil War?
3. How did Miss Rosa discover that Mr. Coldfield had died?
4. Who sewed Judith’s trousseau?
5. Where was the material for the trousseau from?
6. Did Ellen Sutpen approve of Judith’s betrothal?
7. What insect does Ellen Sutpen resemble?
8. Who narrates Chapter Three?
9. Why is the narration in Chapter Three suspect in authenticity?
10. How is the future foreshadowed at the end of this chapter?
1. The end result of the interaction between Thomas Sutpen and Mr. Coldfield was that Mr. Coldfield shut himself in the attic for an unknown reason.
2. Miss Rosa fed her father during the Civil War years by taking food from their closed grocery store and placing it in a basket which he then pulled up through a window in the attic.
3. “One morning the hand did not come out to draw up the basket”. The neighbors broke in and found three days’ uneaten food by his bed.
4. Miss Rosa sewed the trousseau.
5. Miss Rosa stole the linen from her father’s store to sew the trousseau.
6. Ellen Sutpen is very happy about her daughter’s wedding.
7. Ellen Sutpen is likened to a butterfly at...
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Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
1. How does Henry feel about Charles Bon when he first brings him home?
2. Who is more sophisticated, Henry Sutpen or Charles Bon?
3. Why do Henry and Charles leave Jefferson suddenly?
4. What does Ellen do after Henry and Charles leave?
5. Who is the letter from that Mr. Compson is showing Quentin?
6. Who is the letter to?
7. What is the letter about?
8. Who brought the news of the murder to Miss Rosa?
9. What is a good way to read and understand this novel?
10. What is the name of the literary style in which Absalom, Absalom! was written?
1. When Henry Sutpen first brings Charles Bon home at Christmas vacation, they are the best of friends.
2. Charles Bon, from New Orleans, is more sophisticated. Henry Sutpen, who never before left Jefferson, is provincial in clothes, manner, and speech.
3. Henry and Charles leave Jefferson suddenly because Thomas Sutpen has confessed that Charles is his son and can therefore not marry Judith. In their anger, they join the Civil War.
4. After Henry and Charles leave Sutpen’s Hundred, Ellen Sutpen retires to a dark room, in which she eventually dies.
5. The letter that Mr. Compson is showing Quentin is from Charles Bon.
6. The letter is to Judith Sutpen.
7. The letter describes the...
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Chapter 5 Questions and Answers
1. How far is Sutpen’s Hundred from the town of Jefferson?
2. What happened to Ellen Sutpen during the Civil War?
3. What happened to Ellen Sutpen’s flower beds during the Civil War?
4. Why does Miss Rosa choose to live at Sutpen’s Hundred?
5. Who else is living at Sutpen’s Hundred?
6. Why does Thomas Sutpen propose marriage to Miss Rosa?
7. Why does Miss Rosa refuse him?
8. From what cloth did Judith sew her wedding dress?
9. What is the purpose of the use of italics in this chapter?
10. Who is the main narrator of Chapter Five?
1. Thomas Sutpen’s plantation, Sutpen’s Hundred, is located 12 miles from the town of Jefferson.
2. Ellen Sutpen retired to her room after learning that Charles Bon was her husband’s son, and gradually faded away until she died in her darkened bedroom.
3. Ellen Sutpen’s flower gardens became ruined and weed-choked.
4. Miss Rosa chooses to live at Sutpen’s Hundred for the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, and company. Also, she was asked by Ellen Sutpen, on her deathbed, to take care of her niece Judith.
5. Judith Sutpen and Clytie are also living at Sutpen’s Hundred with Miss Rosa.
6. Thomas Sutpen wants to continue building a patriarchy, and sees Miss Rosa as a possible wife who could bear him...
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Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
1. Who are the main narrators of this chapter?
2. What is their verbal relationship?
3. How does Faulkner bring the reader’s perceptions and expectations back into a “present”?
4. What is the letter that Quentin is holding in his hand about?
5. Which character freely uses colloquial language like “this old gal” and “this old dame”?
6. Who does Quentin think Shreve sounds like?
7. What scene does Quentin remember?
8. Which character is often referred to as “the demon”?
9. Who does the demon drink moonshine with while laying on a hammock?
10. How is Charles Etienne Bon related to Judith and to Clytie?
1. Quentin Compson and Shreve McCannon, two students at Harvard, are the two main narrators of this chapter.
2. Shreve is telling the story as a series of questions directed at Quentin, and Quentin is answering “yes.”
3. When Faulkner wants to shift the time setting of the narrative to the present, he provides some concrete details, such as dust on the blinds or snow on a sleeve.
4. The letter that Quentin is holding is a letter from his father, announcing the death of Miss Rosa.
5. Shreve McCannon uses colloquial language like “this old gal” and “this old dame.”
6. Quentin thinks Shreve sounds like his father, Mr....
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Chapter 7 Questions and Answers
1. What are the “dragons’ teeth” to which Shreve refers?
2. What further information in Chapter Seven is given about Mr. Coldfield’s relationship to Thomas Sutpen?
3. What is Thomas Sutpen’s “grand design”?
4. Why won’t Thomas Sutpen eat sugar?
5. What was the main event that precipitated Thomas Sutpen’s grand design?
6. Why doesn’t Thomas Sutpen ever tell the date or the place of his birth?
7. Why was it so difficult for Sutpen’s family to follow the pioneer trail west?
8. Why does Thomas Sutpen repudiate his first wife?
9. Where does Thomas Sutpen make his fortune?
10. How does Thomas Sutpen make his fortune?
1. The “dragons’ teeth” that Shreve refers to are the metaphor Mr. Compson uses for Thomas Sutpen’s children.
2. Thomas Sutpen persuaded Mr. Coldfield to use his credit in an unethical way to make money, and when the scheme failed, he locked himself in the attic.
3. Thomas Sutpen’s grand design is to become a rich plantation owner who sires an empire.
4. Thomas Sutpen won’t eat sugar because of the smell of burn¬ing sugar in Haiti which was in the air when he defended the Frenchman’s plantation against the rebelling slaves.
5. The main event that precipitated Thomas Sutpen’s grand design was being turned...
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Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
1. Where is the most contemporary action of Absalom, Absalom! taking place?
2. To whom do these words refer: “the two of them creating between them, out of the rag-tag and bob-ends of old tales and talking, people who perhaps had never existed at all anywhere….”?
3. At what university did Henry Sutpen meet Charles Bon?
4. What are the major differences between Henry Sutpen and Charles Bon?
5. How does Quentin further confuse his identity with that of the characters in the story?
6. How does Quentin describe the atmosphere in the Harvard sitting room?
7. How does Shreve describe the Harvard sitting room?
8. Who stopped Quentin from entering the mansion at Sutpen’s Hundred?
9. What is the major cause of the fall of the Sutpen empire?
10. Why does Faulkner think the American South is perverse?
1. The most contemporary action of Absalom, Absalom! is taking place in a New England sitting room.
2. These words refer to Quentin and Shreve talking in their sitting room.
3. Henry Sutpen met Charles Bon at the University of Missis¬sippi at Oxford.
4. Henry Sutpen is ten years younger than Charles Bon, and much more naive.
5. Quentin further confuses his identity with the character of Henry; he often notes it was “not two but four of...
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Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
1. Where was Thomas Sutpen born?
2. Where was Faulkner’s great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner, born?
3. How old was Thomas Sutpen when he set off to complete his “grand design”?
4. How old was William Clark Falkner when he left his family to make his fortune?
5. In what state of the Union did Thomas Sutpen and William Clark Falkner settle?
6. What role did Thomas Sutpen and William Clark Falkner play in the Civil War?
7. How did Thomas Sutpen and William Clark Falkner finally die?
8. How many children did Thomas Sutpen have?
9. Who is the only surviving member of the Sutpen clan?
10. What is the moral of this story?
1. Thomas Sutpen was born in the West Virginia mountains.
2. William Clark Falkner was born in the West Virginia mountains.
3. Thomas Sutpen was 14 or 15 when he set off to complete his “grand design.”
4. William Clark Falkner was 15 when he left his family to make his fortune.
5. Both Thomas Sutpen and William Clark Falkner settled in Mississippi.
6. Thomas Sutpen and William Clark Falkner were both colonels in the Confederate Army.
7. Thomas Sutpen and William Clark Falkner were both murdered by men who bore them a grudge.
8. Thomas Sutpen had at least five children: Henry, Judith, Charles,...
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Absalom, Absalom! is considered to be one of Faulkner’s most difficult novels because of its complex narrative structure. In a sense, the story becomes part of an oral tradition among the residents of Jefferson and, as Shreve becomes involved, people living beyond Jefferson. Many of Faulkner’s characteristic structural innovations are employed in Absalom, Absalom!, such as long sentences, flashbacks, and multiple points-ofview describing the same events. Because the narrative structure is so unusual, the reader is kept off balance from the opening pages to the end of the novel and must learn how to read it as the book unfolds.
There are four characters narrating the story, and a fifth omniscient narrator also occasionally speaks to the reader. The challenge is often determining who is speaking at any given time because Faulkner switches from narrator to narrator without always signifying the change. The reader must be particularly adept in chapter five when the narration switches between Quentin and Shreve and then back to Quentin as he tries imagining how Shreve would tell the story. Further, the novel’s overall design is not clear until the end of the book. There is no introductory paragraph to provide a framework for the reader. Instead, the book begins with Rosa talking to Quentin with Quentin wondering why she called for him. This lack of context is very perplexing to readers, and navigating the...
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Absalom, Absalom! is a difficult book for some readers because Faulkner uses a technique called circumlocution to convey his story. Rather than tell his story from beginning to end in chronological order, he relates each event piecemeal and at different points in time. When a plot structure is circular rather than linear, readers often have a difficult time piecing together the entire story, and in this novel Faulkner makes this piecing together more difficult by using four separate narrators. In order for each narrator to tell their side of the tale, each must return to the same parts of the story the other narrators have already related.
The use of multiple viewpoints adds complexity to a story that is full of complexities itself. Because each narrator injects their personal opinions and prejudices into their story, none of them can be considered reliable, and readers must therefore distinguish fact from opinion. Readers must also understand that none of the narrators has all of the information pertinent to the story available to them, and that much of the information they do have is simply hearsay. Though readers gradually become aware of facts and events, they must take the emotions of each narrator into account as well as attempt to understand their motivation for telling the tale as they do. Faulkner's use of multiple narrators certainly adds depth to his characters, but it disrupts the chronology of the Sutpen story. While Faulkner's lengthy...
(The entire section is 914 words.)
The plot of Absalom, Absalom! focuses on so many sensitive situations that the story seems almost too sensational to be true. However, each of the themes in Faulkner's masterpiece have existed in human societies throughout history. Faulkner deals with lust, greed, incest, miscegenation, discrimination, slavery, and murder, all of which have been considered sins and have caused societal upheavals. Faulkner's characters profess to uphold the ideals set forth for a Southern society, yet they expose Southern society as a place of hypocrisy. Jefferson, Mississippi, as a representative of the South in general, emerges as a place where those who fought to create a grand society did so by committing heinous crimes against humanity and thus betrayed the very values they strove to uphold.
One of the hypocrisies Faulkner reveals is that Southern societies profess to value a strong sense of family, yet they forfeit family readily in favor of upholding some predetermined social structure. They let community values rule their thinking and undermine their regard for human feelings. The fact that Henry was willing to condone incest, yet killed to prevent miscegenation, reveals the nature of this social structure as one based on hatred and illustrates Faulkner's staunch criticism of the segregation and discrimination that permeated Southern society during the Civil War era. Even more telling is the fact that Sutpen, who claims to be a "Southern gentleman," denies...
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Compare and Contrast
1800s: Heroes are drawn from legends and from stories of people (usually men) demonstrating great bravery and wisdom.
1900s: Heroes are often men who figured prominently in the Civil War, such as Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Often, soldiers, returning to their hometowns after the war, become local heroes.
Today: Heroes are more often celebrities than historical figures, and hero status is more a product of success than of bravery. Professional athletes, captains of industry, and entertainers are most often named as heroes. A person who commits an act of courage is often a hero for a short while, usually because of press coverage. The effect of the media on hero status is profound; few people who remain out of the public eye are idolized as heroes.
1800s: Social status is primarily the product of lineage. In early America, social status often dictates marriage choices, occupational decisions, and political affiliation.
1900s: Social status is the product of lineage and wealth. In the South, where many “respectable” families fall on hard economic times, the ability to build wealth brings more social influence.
Today: Social status is primarily the product of wealth. While there are privileged “dynasties” in some major cities, anyone who can acquire enough wealth can move up in society. Social status, however, is less a determining factor in people’s...
(The entire section is 354 words.)
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 political views?
3. Discuss the narrators' prejudices and how they interfere with their ability to give credible accounts of Sutpen's story. Do you believe any one narrator has more credibility than the others? Why or why not?
4. Explain the meaning of "A house divided against itself cannot stand" as this saying relates to Sutpen's story.
5. What is the essential irony of Sutpen's design?
6. What factors influence Miss Rosa's judgment of Thomas Sutpen as a "demon?"
7. How does Shreve McCannon's understanding of Sutpen's story differ from that of the other narrators?
8. How does the gossip in the tale contribute to Faulkner's structuring of the novel?
9. What characterizes Sutpen's Hundred as a legendary setting?
10. How is Thomas Sutpen's treatment of both Rosa and Milly indicative of his misguided obsession with creating his design?
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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.
2. Determine the various ways Faulkner gave his novel historical perspective. What stylistic elements can authors use to bring the past to life?
3. Consider the role women play in Faulkner's story, particularly Rosa, Ellen, and Judith. Do you think these women are exploited by men? Discuss the different kinds of exploitation that occurred in the South during the Civil War era.
4. Create a character who epitomizes the stereotypical image of the "Southern gentleman."
5. Discuss the idea of capitalism and materialism as viewed by the residents of Yoknapatawpha County. Did these ideas prevail during the Civil War era, and do they prevail today?
6. Explain the notion of possession as it fits into the mode of thinking in nineteenth-century Southern society.
7. Exploitation occurs in different forms in Absalom, Absalom! Discuss the exploitation that occurred in the Antebellum South as it applied to blacks, to women, and to the earth.
8. Discuss the importance of how Quentin and Shreve come to the conclusions they do about Sutpen's story. Discuss how they arrive at this conclusion, and illustrate how this process parallels the construction of a literary work of fiction.
9. After reading Absalom, Absalom!, the reader understands that the...
(The entire section is 250 words.)
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 different members of your family.
Faulkner died in 1962, just as the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Evaluate the modern-day South and prepare a speech or essay containing what you believe would be Faulkner’s views on the results of the civil rights movement.
Create a multimedia character study of either Thomas Sutpen or Rosa Coldfield from a psychological perspective. To complete this project, you will need to conduct basic research on psychological theories of personality and behavior.
Research the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Prepare a comparison of his relationship to Ireland and Faulkner’s relationship to the South. Be sure to explore how these relationships are expressed in the men’s writing and to pay particular attention to each writer’s attempts to create a mythology for his land.
Examine the various mythic elements of the Sutpen story. In what ways does Faulkner create a mythical setting and characters? Look for allusions, themes, techniques, and other connections to myth. Present your findings in an essay.
Faulkner originally planned to entitle the book Dark House. Why would this have been a good title, and how would it have altered your reading of the novel? Also consider why Absalom, Absalom! is a good title. Review the...
(The entire section is 338 words.)
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 understanding Faulkner's themes and deciphering his message. Anyone wishing to gain further insight into the characters' thoughts and actions, and thus obtain a better understanding of the South that Faulkner created, should read the other books set in Yoknapatawpha County, which, when read in relation to one another, constitute a saga of mythic proportions. The Yoknapatawpha books begin with Sartoris, Faulkner's third novel. Of particular interest to those studying Absalom, Absalom! are The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, and A Light in August, all of which cover events Faulkner identifies in the chronology included in Absalom, Absalom!
Like Faulkner, numerous other American writers gained fame by creating vivid chronicles of life in the South. William Styron's Lie Down in Darkness is another moralistic, structurally complex saga of a Southern family. It resembles Faulkner's novel in both style and technique, moving from present to past to give readers a strong historical perspective and to convey the importance of the past in explaining the events that occur in the present day.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, also bears a striking resemblance to Absalom, Absalom!, both in its literary style and in its message. Hurston relates...
(The entire section is 266 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) is tangentially related to Absalom, Absalom! because it shares several characters. Besides being one of Faulkner’s most widely read books, The Sound and the Fury is one of his many Yoknapatawpha novels, all of which are interrelated to varying degrees.
Roots, Alex Haley’s 1976 masterpiece, tells the story of the author’s ancestors, beginning with the African slave Kunta Kinte. Haley recounts his family’s history in an effort to bring them to life for the reader and to understand his own identity.
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1971) provides a collection of short fiction that continues to reach readers through its universal themes and depictions of black and white relations in the South.
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1980) contains the short fiction of Eudora Welty, one of Mississippi’s most respected authors. Welty is known for her distinctly southern storytelling style, and her work is a must for students of southern literature.
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For Further Reference
Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974. In addition to presenting detailed coverage of Faulkner's career, this biography discusses the production of Absalom, Absalom! and its importance to the body of American literature.
Gray, Richard. The Life of William Faulkner: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. Written by a noted Faulkner scholar, this work contains a detailed discussion of Faulkner's use of setting, his creation of Yoknapatawpha County, and his treatment of historical time.
Minter, David. William Faulkner: His Life and Work. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Minter gives critical insight into Absalom, Absalom! by discussing how the narrators' lives relate to their perceptions of the Sutpen story and how relationships between different races and sexes characterize the novel's themes.
Parker, Robert D. Absalom, Absalom!: The Questioning of Fictions. Hall, G. K. & Company, 1991. This critical study includes a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the novel which helps students understand the complexities of the story. The book also discusses in detail the roles of each of the narrators, the twists in the plot, the role of history in Absalom, Absalom!, and the novel's literary importance. It includes an outline of the novel's narrative structure and a chronology of Faulkner's life.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Brooks, Cleanth, William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country, Yale University Press, 1963.
Caesar, Judith, “Patriarchy, Imperialism, and Knowledge,” in North Dakota Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 4, Fall 1994–1995, pp. 164–74.
“Manners and Etiquette,” in Encyclopedia of American Social History, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993.
Millgate, Michael, The Achievement of William Faulkner, Constable, 1966.
Minter, David, American Writers, Retrospective Supplement, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1998.
Backman, Melvin, Faulkner, The Major Years: A Critical Study, Indiana University Press, 1966. Backman reviews Faulkner’s major writing, both novels and short stories, and provides a critical overview of the author’s development and contribution to American letters.
Brooks, Cleanth, William Faulkner: Toward Yoknapatawpha and Beyond, Yale University Press, 1978. Respected literary critic Cleanth Brooks focuses on Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha stories, exploring why they are important to Faulkner’s writing as a whole and what importance they have in the American literary tradition. Brooks evaluates early influences and innovations made by Faulkner over the course of his writing career.
Cowley, Malcolm, ed., The Portable Faulkner, Viking, 1946. When Cowley, a literary historian and poet,...
(The entire section is 396 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
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.
Brooks, Cleanth. William Faulkner: Toward Yoknapatawpha and Beyond. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1978. The appendices are an especially valuable aid. One essay discusses Brooks’s answer to the question of how typical Thomas Sutpen is of the “Southern planter.” Another focuses on the narrative structure of the novel.
Ladd, Barbara. “The Direction of the Howling’: Nationalism and the Color Line in Absalom, Absalom!” American Literature 66, no. 3 (September, 1994): 525-551.
Leary, Lewis. William Faulkner of Yoknapatawpha County. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973. Chapter 5 describes Absalom, Absalom! as disclosing...
(The entire section is 326 words.)