Download Absalom, Absalom! Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Jim Bond: “idiot” son of Charles Etienne St. Velery Bon and his African-American wife

Summary
The narration of the story is concluded. Quentin tells Shreve how Miss Rosa brought him out to Sutpen’s Hundred one September and they found Henry still alive, but in hiding. In December, Miss Rosa sends an ambulance, but Clytie thinks that it is a police car and she sets the house on fire, killing herself and Henry.

Now the entire Sutpen clan is destroyed, except for Jim Bond, the “idiot” (who, like Faulkner, gained an extra letter in his last name). Jim Bond stands outside the burning mansion, howling, and then he soon disappears into the woods, still howling. Jim Bond continues to inhabit the woods, and, from time to time, the townspeople of Jefferson can hear him howling.

This is the end result of Thomas Sutpen’s “grand design”—a developmentally disabled person howling in the woods. Clearly, it was a design built on faulty premises.

The conclusion of the story prompts Shreve to say that “in time the Jim Bonds are going to conquer the Western Hemisphere.” He continues with a philosophical conclusion:

“Of course it wont quite be in our time and of course as they spread toward the poles they will bleach out again like the rabbits and the birds do, so they wont show up so sharp against the snow. But it will still be Jim Bond; and so in a few thousand years, I who regard you now will also have sprung from the loins of the African kings.”

Then Shreve asks Quentin why he hates the South, and Faulkner ends Absalom, Absalom! with Quentin shouting to himself “I dont hate it! I dont hate it!”

Analysis
In Faulkner’s novels, the endings are often very significant to the novel as a whole. Chapter Nine is the final chapter, and Faulkner provides the reader with a revelation and a perverse resolution.
Absalom, Absalom! is the quintessential, if difficult to understand, story of the American South. In it, Thomas Sutpen sets out to create a dynasty for himself, buying slaves and setting himself up as a patriarch. Events take their natural course, and Sutpen’s dynasty fails—Quentin, like other young Southerners, is left to pick up the pieces.

In his Nobel-prize acceptance address, Faulkner describes his philosophical understanding of the role of humankind. He sees man as singularly possessing the medium of language, and more specifically, the tirade, with which to immortalize his affairs. He said:

“It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny, inexhaustible voice, still talking.”

In Faulkner’s philosophy, language makes man immortal. However, in Absalom, Absalom!, the final heir of the Sutpen clan, Jim Bond, is a man without language. Faulkner’s message goes further than this. He continues:

“I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he...

(The entire section is 830 words.)