William Faulkner is most famous for bringing such complicated situations to his characters. In fact, it is only Faulkner who has the ability to put the gory and the eerie to such heights of beauty that people will love it and consider it a classic. Absalom! Absalom! is such example. The novel is rather unusual that it uses many narrators in telling one single story—the story of Thomas Sutpen and his family. The story takes a different turn as the point of view shifts from Rosa Coldfield, daughter of Mr. Coldfield, and the sister of Thomas’s bride; and to Mr.
Compson, the son of General Compson, who was Thomas’s first friend in Yoknapatawpha County. The two stories have different tones: Rosa portrays Thomas as a savage beast, and Mr. Compson portrays Thomas as a man who is concerned with his linage. Both of them relays the story to Quintin Compson, son of Mr. Compson, who was about to go to the University. Before he leaves, Rosa and Mr. Compson tries their best to relay the story. Mr. Compson knows a lot of things that Rosa didn’t have the privilege to understand or to hear.
For one, he knows that Thomas Sutpen is not a savage man, but is rather a rich gentleman from the West Indies. He was engaged to the landowner’s daughter and together, they have a son, whom he calls Charles Bon. Later however, he realizes that his wife has negro blood, and so does their child. Sutpen, who is obsessed with pure linage, renounces her and the boy, and leaves for America , taking slaves with him. When he arrives at Jefferson, Mississippi , he buys land and builds a mansion on it for the next two years.
When the mansion was finished, he asked for the hand of a prominent Methodist in marriage, in exchange of shady business offers. Sutpen has two children: Henry and Judith, who grows up in a rich upbringing. Henry goes to college, and then befriends a dazzling man of admirable upbringing, a Charles Bon. When Charles saw Judith, an engagement was immediately assumed between them. However, when Sutpen realizes that Charles is his own child, he tries to tell Henry that Charles is his half-brother, but Henry, raging and fuming, denounces his birthright and flees with Charles.
Months later, and they enlist themselves when the war breaks out. When the war abated, Sutpen informs Henry that Charles has black blood, which deeply disgusted Henry. When the wedding day of Charles and Judith arrived, Henry murders Charles in front of the gates of the Sutpen’s plantation. Sutpen arrives to see his destroyed house, and his heir, Henry, missing. Slowly he rebuilds his fortune, and he flirts with the idea of marrying in order to keep his lineage, and his eyes settled upon Rosa. The engagement was not continued however.
He begins an affair with Milly, a fifteen-year-old white girl, but turns back his back when the child was born. Decades later, when Quentin shows up in Mississippi, he goes to Sutpen’s house with Ms. Rosa to find Henry. Three months later, Miss Rosa calls an ambulance to see to Henry’s welfare, but Clytie, Sutpen’s daughter from a servant, sets the fire on house. The summary above does not really justify how well the narrators told the novel. Each narrator gives his and her own version and point of view in telling the story that makes the re-telling different from each other.
Rosa Coldfield, the first story-teller narrates the story with such anger and vehemence that Thomas Sutpen’s character is brutalized and destroyed in terms or morality and loyalty. Mr. Compson however, tells the story to his son Quentin, that almost all of Quentin’s life he is consumed with the knowledge of Thomas, his history and the life that he has lead. Unlike Rosa Coldfield though, Mr. Compson has the abilities and sensibilities of being emotional and sympathetic to Thomas Sutpen’s character. An example would be the time when Mr.
Compson describes the scene where Thomas Sutpen first arrives in their Yoknapatawpha County and he describes the man and his emotions and actions (Faulkner, Chapter 2). This way of story telling is of course different from Rosa Coldfield’s and differentiates their characters in many ways. It could be said that Mr. Compson even has a certain naivete within him that neither makes him stupid or innocent. This can also be said about how he viewed the Civil War. He recalls the Civil War as if it was a natural thing and yet it brings horrifying things, “Then the War came and made the ladies into ghosts” (Faulkner, 7).
It is certain that there are a lot of ways of describing how war changes a person but certainly, War does not come and go like a mere pet or person and definitely it does not change people into ghosts. In conclusion, Mr. Compson’s character is neither really that deep as to other of Faulkner’s complicated characters (as of A Rose For Emily or The Sound and The Fury) but neither does he (Mr. Composon) contain the rigidity of being a flat character that is well present in fairy tales or shallow short stories. Mr. Compson is just as he is—a sentimental story teller. Works Cited Faulkner, William. Absalom! Absalom! Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1935