Absalom, Absalom! Characters
by William Faulkner

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Thomas Sutpen

Thomas Sutpen, the owner of Sutpen’s Hundred in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Born of a poor white family in the mountains of Western Virginia, he grows up to become an ambitious man of implacable will. After his arrival in Mississippi, he thinks he can win his neighbors’ respect by building a huge mansion and marrying the daughter of a respectable merchant. When he is not driving his wild African slaves and a kidnapped French architect to finish construction of his magnificent house, he seeks relaxation by fighting his most powerful slaves. Wishing to found a family dynasty, he wants, more than anything else, to have a male heir. When one son is killed and the other disappears, Sutpen, now aging, fathers a child by Milly, the granddaughter of Wash Jones, one of his tenants. After learning that the child is a girl, he rejects and insults Milly. Because of his callous rejection, old Wash Jones kills him.

Ellen Coldfield

Ellen Coldfield, the wife chosen by Thomas Sutpen because he believes she is “adjunctive” to his design of founding a plantation family. A meek, helpless woman, she is completely dominated by her husband.

Henry Sutpen

Henry Sutpen, the son born to Thomas and Ellen Sutpen. Unlike his sister Judith, he faints when he sees his father fighting with slaves. At first, not knowing that Charles Bon is also Sutpen’s son, impressionable Henry idolizes and imitates that suave young man. Later, after their return from the Civil War, he learns Bon’s true identity and kills him to keep Judith from marrying her half brother, who is part black.

Charles Bon

Charles Bon, Thomas Sutpen’s unacknowledged son by his earlier marriage in Haiti. A polished man of the world, he forms a close friendship with the more provincial Henry, whom he meets at college, and he becomes engaged to Judith Sutpen. When the two return from the Civil War, Bon’s charming manner does not prevent him from being killed by Henry, who has learned that his friend and sister’s suitor is part black.

Judith Sutpen

Judith Sutpen, Thomas Sutpen’s daughter. After Charles Bon has been killed and Henry flees, she vows never to marry. She dies of smallpox contracted while nursing Charles Bon’s wife.

Goodhue Coldfield

Goodhue Coldfield, a middle-class storekeeper in the town of Jefferson, the father of Ellen and Rosa Coldfield. When the Civil War begins, he locks himself in his attic and disdainfully refuses to have any part in the conflict. Fed by Rosa, who sends him food that he pulls up in a basket, he dies alone in the attic.

Wash Jones

Wash Jones, a squatter on Thomas Sutpen’s land and, after the Civil War, his drinking companion. While his employer is away during the Civil War, Wash looks after the plantation. Ignorant, unwashed, but more vigorous than others of his type, he serves Sutpen well until the latter rejects Milly and her child. Picking up a scythe, a symbol of time and change, Wash beheads Sutpen.

Rosa Coldfield

Rosa Coldfield, Goodhue Coldfield’s younger daughter. She is an old woman when she tells Quentin Compson that Sutpen, whom she calls a ruthless demon, brought terror and tragedy to all who had dealings with him. A strait-laced person, she recalls the abrupt, insulting fashion in which Sutpen had proposed to her in the hope that she would be able to bear him a son after his wife’s death. Never married, she is obsessed by memories of her brother-in-law.

Clytemnestra Sutpen

Clytemnestra Sutpen, called Clytie, Thomas Sutpen’s former slave, who hides Henry Sutpen in the mansion when he returns, old and sick, years after the murder he committed. Fearing that he will be arrested, she sets fire to the house and burns herself and Henry in the conflagration, which destroys the dilapidated monument to Thomas Sutpen’s pride and folly.

Milly Jones

Milly Jones, the granddaughter of Wash Jones. She and her child are killed by Wash after Sutpen’s murder.

Charles Etienne de Saint Velery Bon

Charles Etienne de Saint Velery Bon, the son...

(The entire section is 4,851 words.)