Monday, April 19, 2010

Characterization in Absalom, Absalom!

I have a wandering eye with Faulkner. Any time I put the book down for a day or two I start to lust after more interesting covers, more involving plots, more exuberant characters. The man takes a lot of discipline for me, and I'm trying to figure out why.

Here's what I've come up with so far (I have about a hundred pages to go): After reading Brede and having so many characters that I felt like I understood completely, Faulkner's characters are all kept at a distance. He uses a short-hand to describe them, for instance, Sutpen is the "devil himself" and always drawn from Rosa's point of view, which I'm not certain is a reliable point of view. Sutpen had a friend in Quentin's grandfather, which would suggest otherwise, as Q's grandfather seemed like a decent man. Of course there are such scant details about any of them. What we know if Judith, is that she has a calm unmoving face--that's it. Always calm. Well so what?

MOst of what I believe I know about the characters, I have learned from the time line and geneology at the back of my book. I think I cheated though by looking at it.

S. Riddle, has much to say on Absalom and I think he's right in suggesting one might need to work up to it by reading some of Faulkner's other works.


Emily J. said...

I think Sutpen's friendship with Q's grandfather is based on some underhanded deal,and he really is a rotten guy, which would mean Q's grandfather has a dark secret, but I'm only about 60 pages in. And although I "read" this book in high school, I know I didn't get it then, because I can't remember a thing about it. I've been trying not to read the back pages, because when I was reading Sound and the Fury, I kept looking at the geneaology and I think it prejudiced me. Also, this book is earlier in the chronology than S and F, which has caused me to disconnect more with Quentin. But I have a sort of prurient imagination about Sutpen, trying to figure out what dastardly deeds he's done, and sometimes the actuality is less interesting. What I can't figure out is why Ellen and Rosa felt doomed to marry him. I'm hoping to find out...

Melanie B said...

I'm definitely lacking the necessary discipline for Faulkner right now. Absalom came in at the same time as a slew of other books I'd put on hold at the library and can't compete. My attention span is too short, this isn't a book that works in ten minute gulps. I'd need some sustained reading time to get past the beginning and need to not be short on sleep. Get back to me when I don't have two teething children.

BettyDuffy said...

I absolutely understand, Melanie. We'll catch you when we can.

I, on the other hand, have renewed interest as my reading last night brought me into a deeper investigation of Sutpen's origins. The incredible description of his family rolling out of the mountains--and the startling idea that it was his innocence that was his problem, his innocence that people were born, out of no fault or effort of their own into different classes.

mrsdarwin said...

Sutpen sounds like a fairly bad guy, but I can't buy Rosa Coldfield's "demon out of hell" hyperbole. Obviously the guy has major faults, but I almost can't see that he's any worse than anyone else in the book. Charles Bon is no rose in the garden either, and frankly, I didn't care for either of the Coldfield sisters.

What I found interesting (though again, it's still a slog through the prose sometimes) is Quentin's Harvard roommate trying to make sense out of this Southern Gothic saga. Quentin feels like a complete alien in this Northern setting, and hearing the story told against the backdrop of the New England snow makes it sound as foreign and out-of-place as Greek tragedy.