Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Yoknapatawpha County

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 that he mirrors the flaws of their society.

Sutpen’s Hundred

Sutpen’s Hundred (SUHT-penz). Plantation built by Thomas Sutpen on a “hundred square miles of some of the best virgin bottom land in the country.” Having failed in an earlier attempt in the West Indies to achieve his “design,” Sutpen purchases land from a local Chickasaw chief. With the help of a French architect and slave labor, he ruthlessly sets out to establish a dynasty in Yoknapatawpha County. He spends two years building his...

(The entire section is 817 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

The Civil War Aftermath
Almost one-third of the southern men who went to fight in the Civil War (1861–1865) died, and almost...

(The entire section is 778 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Absalom, Absalom! is set in the fictional city of Jefferson, Mississippi, and in Yoknapatawpha County, the setting of fourteen other...

(The entire section is 251 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Narrative Structure
Absalom, Absalom! is considered to be one of Faulkner’s most difficult novels because of its complex...

(The entire section is 1004 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Absalom, Absalom! is a difficult book for some readers because Faulkner uses a technique called circumlocution to convey his story....

(The entire section is 914 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The plot of Absalom, Absalom! focuses on so many sensitive situations that the story seems almost too sensational to be true. However,...

(The entire section is 413 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1800s: Heroes are drawn from legends and from stories of people (usually men) demonstrating great bravery and wisdom.


(The entire section is 354 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 154 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Define the nature of a legend, and discuss the mythic elements in the novel that help characterize Faulkner's story as a legend.


(The entire section is 250 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 338 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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...

(The entire section is 266 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Audio adaptations of Absalom, Absalom! have been made by Everett/Edwards in 1977 and Books on Tape in 1993.

(The entire section is 17 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) is tangentially related to Absalom, Absalom! because it shares several characters....

(The entire section is 163 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974. In addition to presenting detailed coverage of...

(The entire section is 201 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Brooks, Cleanth, William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country, Yale University Press, 1963.


(The entire section is 396 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Suggested Readings

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.


(The entire section is 326 words.)