Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on March 27, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 720

In their ice-cold bedroom at Harvard, Quentin and Shreve have gone to bed but continue to talk in the dark. Shreve says that he wants to understand the South and asks Quentin if he understands it. Quentin replies that he does not know, then says that he does, then repeats: “I don’t know.” He remembers going to Sutpen’s Hundred with Miss Rosa in September of the previous year; when they reached the gate, Miss Rosa said that she did not know what to do and asked Quentin if he had brought a gun with him. Quentin said that he had not and suggested returning to Jefferson. Miss Rosa gave him a hatchet, telling him that he would probably need it to get into the house as well as for protection. When they reached the mansion, however, Quentin found that there was no glass in the windows, so he had only to step through one to enter. 

It was pitch dark inside the house. Quentin heard the sound of a match scraping, then saw a “tiny gnomelike creature in head-rag and voluminous skirts.” This creature was Clytie, who did not ask what Quentin was doing there but stepped back when she saw Miss Rosa and asked Quentin not to let her go upstairs. When Miss Rosa ignored her, Clytie caught hold of her arm, but Rosa struck Clytie to the floor “with a full armed blow like a man would have” and continued up the stairs. Quentin helped Clytie to her feet, and when he told her his name, Clytie said that she remembered his grandfather. She asked him to take Miss Rosa away, saying that whatever Sutpen did, she and Judith and “him” (presumably Wash Jones) have “paid it out” long ago.

A hulking young black man, Jim Bond, appeared in the hall, and Clytie told him to take Miss Rosa back to the buggy at the gate. When Miss Rosa was outside, Quentin went upstairs and entered a bare room where a lamp was burning. On the bed lay a sick man with a wasted yellow face, whose hands were crossed over his chest like a corpse. Quentin asked the man his name, and he said he was Henry Sutpen. He had come home to Sutpen’s Hundred to die and had been there for four years.

Three months after this incident, Miss Rosa decided to try to save Henry’s life. Shreve asks Quentin why she would have waited three months after discovering his presence in the house, but Quentin does not answer. Shreve then speculates that Miss Rosa had become addicted to her own hatred of Thomas Sutpen and his family and realized that she would have to give it up if she took any practical steps to help Henry. Miss Rosa procured an ambulance and sat beside the driver on the journey to Sutpen’s Hundred. As the ambulance came slowly up the driveway, Miss Rosa saw that the house was on fire. 

When Miss Rosa and Quentin had come to the house three months before, Clytie had assumed that Henry would soon be arrested and hanged for the murder of Charles Bon more than forty years ago. Quentin thinks that she had posted Jim Bond to watch for any sign of trouble and had filled a closet with tinder and kerosene so that she could start a fire at a moment’s notice. When she saw the ambulance coming, she assumed the sheriff was coming and burned the house down to prevent Henry’s arrest. Clytie and Henry died in the fire, leaving only “Jim Bond, the scion, the last of his race.”

Shreve thinks that there is a neatness in the way that the deaths of Thomas Sutpen, Judith Sutpen, Henry Sutpen, and Charles Bon took place. It took two black people to cancel out each Sutpen. However, this balance is upset by the survival of Jim Bond. Shreve adds that he thinks “that in time the Jim Bonds are going to conquer the western hemisphere,” though not for many years, and concludes by asking Quentin why he hates the South. Quentin immediately replies that he does not hate the South and keeps repeating to himself: “I don’t. I don’t. I don’t hate it. I don’t hate it.” 

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Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis