The American South
In Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner openly criticizes the ethical and moral practices of the American South. The story of Sutpen is analogous to the story of the South, and Faulkner suggests that they ultimately fail for the same reasons. By building its success and comfort on the enslavement of another race, the South is doomed to fail because an immoral design is not sustainable. Both Sutpen and the South believe that it is possible to set aside morality at times to pursue a larger social goal. Rosa comments to Quentin that the South was doomed to lose the war because it was led by men like Sutpen, whom she perceives as dishonest, cruel, and manipulative. She remarks in chapter one:
Oh he was brave. I have never gainsaid that. But that our cause, our very life and future hopes and past pride, would have been thrown into the balance with men like that to buttress it—men with valor and strength but without pity or honor. Is it any wonder that Heaven saw fit to let us lose?
The novel contains references to the Civil War and the destruction of the South in the war’s aftermath. Rosa tells Quentin that she suspects that after he graduates from Harvard, he will practice law somewhere besides in his hometown of Jefferson because “Northern people have already seen to it that there is little left in the South for a young man.” Mr. Compson explains to Quentin that he should...
(The entire section is 929 words.)
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