Throughout the novel, Quentin hints that the story of Thomas Sutpen is really the story of the South in general. How could this be so? In what ways does the history of Sutpen's life mirror the history of the Old South?
Virtually all of the white characters in Absalom, Absalom! partake of a kind of vicious racism—not only in Sutpen's story but also in Quentin's time. What is the effect of racism on the novel as a whole? Does it weaken the book's claim to validity, or does it strengthen it?
One of Faulkner's projects in this novel is to explore the ways in which human beings recreate and understand the past. What are some of these ways? With particular reference to Miss Rosa, Mr. Compson, and Quentin, does Faulkner show any way of satisfactorily dealing with the past in one's own life?
Compare Charles Bon and Henry Sutpen. In what ways are the brothers alike? In what ways are they different? Which of the characteristics that they have in common seem to come from their father?
The character of Thomas Sutpen dominates Absalom, Absalom! from the first page to the last. What can we make of his character? Is he the rapacious demon Miss Rosa thinks he is? Or the willful, confused man Mr. Compson sees? With particular reference to the depiction of Sutpen's past in Chapter 7, how do you understand him as a character?
At the end of the book, Shreve says that Jim Bond and his like will end up overrunning the world. Given that Jim Bond is Sutpen's great- grandson, is there any victory for Sutpen in that thought?
Think about the roles of landscape and place in the novel. How does Quentin seem different in the "iron New England dark" of Massachusetts than in the summer in Mississippi? From New England, how does the South seem different to him?
What do you make of the novel’s final question—when Shreve asks Quentin, "Why do you hate the South?"—and Quentin's frantic, defensive response? Does Quentin hate the South? Why or why not, and how can you tell?
I think this is William Faulkner's magnum opus and ought to be on every relevant syllabus. This is the novel Americans should have been reading when they were reading Gone With the Wind. More accomplished technically than The Sound and the Fury, its statement is also more devastating. Sutpen's crimes reflect the culture's, and the consequences reflect the culture's abiding flaws.
Thanks for the spoiler alert on The Sound and the Fury.
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