Absalom! Absalom! Copy


Faulkner was known for the novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on the real Lafayette County, Mississippi.

Modernist fiction characterised by:

  • Experiments with the stream-of-consciousness narrative technique;
  • Use of language that mimics thought and eliminates conventional grammar and formal sentence structure in favour of creative modes;
  • Long and complex sentences;
  • Stream of consciousness technique is applied through both first- and third-person narrative points of view;
  • Moral themes related to the ruins of the Deep South in the post-Civil War era.
  • Original style:
    • Long sentences with long strings of adjectives;
    • Changes in narration;
    • Recursive asides;
    • Objective stream-of-consciousness (the inner experience of a character is contrasted with the outward scene).

ABSALOM, ABSALOM! (published 1936)


  • Genre: Southern Gothic Fiction

The novel has a permanent sense of dread, with frightening moments and characters who behave obsessively. The central gothic element is Sutpen’s Hundred, the mannor on which each character projects his or her feelings (it’s perceived as a dream, a nightmare, a person, and a haven). The house was built by slaves, with death and suffering, so it has something like an evil spirit.

  • Genre: tragedy

The main character, Sutpen, loses everything and dies a violent death. Although he is an unlikeable person, his tragic flaw is arrogance, which will lead to his death.


Sutpen’s family history (told by people in the other periods)Before, during, and after the Civil WarJefferson, Mississippi Yoknapatawpha Haiti
Rosa and QuentinSeptember 1909Yoknapatawpha  
Quentin and ShreveJanuary 1910Harvard


  • Main theme: Family

Sutpen’s family history has a very complicated genealogy which includes incest and blatant racism. Furthermore, the conflicts between children and parents and between brothers add to the tragedy of the family, which the main character uses to build his dynasty, only to find a violent ending.

            Related theme: the home. Many characters in the novel are seeking a place to live and a sense of belonging, a source of food, and a source of support. Sutpen believes that by building a huge mansion he can create a feeling of home. He builds the house but never manages to turn it into a home because he is egotistical. The grand house ends up being destroyed because it was never invested with sentimental value.

  • Hopes and plans;
  • The past;
  • Race;
  • Society;
  • The South.


The story of Thomas Sutpen, a man who tries to build a dynasty in the American South is told by several characters, including his former fiancée and the grandson of one of his friends. An ambitious man who lacks morals, he leaves his first wife and child when he finds out that his wife is of African descent. Years later, after he becomes a rich plantation owner, his repudiated son befriends his son from his second marriage and becomes his daughter’s fiancée. The two half-brothers fight together in the war, but, when the younger one finds out that the other is half-African, he kills him. The father loses his fortune and family and tries to re-establish his dynasty by having a child with a much younger woman. He is murdered by her grandfather. Years later, Sutpen’s daughter by a slave woman sets fire to the mansion, killing herself and Henry, the son who had murdered his half-brother.


Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.

  • Thomas Sutpen – the owner and founder of Sutpen’s Hundred, the plantation in Yoknapatawpha County. He has several children from two marriages and by a slave woman and shows no true feelings towards any of them. He is willful, powerful, and extremely ambitious, but lacks any kind of compassion.
  • Charles Bon – Sutpen’s part-African son. His father leaves him and his mother when he understands that they are part African. He is sophisticated, ironic, and admired by his fellow students. As his story is told by characters living years later than him, the reader never gets to understand his perspective and if he was aware of the implication of his incestuous engagement or his father’s hatred of him
  • Henry Sutpen – Thomas Sutpen’s son by Ellen (the second wife). He befriends Charles Bon at university, finds out that he is his half-brother, then finds out that he is part black and kills him. Henry is a good-natured and romantic young man, with a keen sense of purpose, but lacking shrewdness.


  • Multiple narrators (Rosa, Mr. Compson, Quentin, and Shreve);
  • Third-person omniscient narration;
  • All narrators are unreliable because they do a lot of guesswork.


  • Curious, bitter, guilt-ridden;
  • The author, like his characters, is fascinated by the South, but also bitter and guilt-ridden by the fact that the South failed humanity in the treatment of slaves.


  • Complex, non-linear stream of consciousness;

It was a summer of wisteria. The twilight was full of it and of the smell of father’s cigar as they sat on the front gallery after supper until it would be time for Quentin to start, while in the deep shaggy lawn below the veranda the fireflies blew and drifted in soft random – the odor, the scent, which five months later Mr. Compson’s letter would carry up from Mississippi and over the long iron New England snow and into Quentin’s sitting room at Harvard.”

  • Confiding narrative and characters;
  • Flashbacks;
  • Embedded narrative;
  • Multiple narrators;
  • Very long sentences, the style reflects the complexity of the characters;
  • Allusions of mythology, the Bible, and literary works.