'Absalom, Absalom' Is Published

Absalom, Absalom! details the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen, a white man born into poverty in Western Virginia who comes to Mississippi with the complementary aims of becoming rich and a powerful family patriarch.

The story is told entirely in flashbacks narrated mostly by Quentin Compson and his roommate at Harvard University, Shreve. The narration of Rosa Coldfield, and Quentin's father and grandfather, are also included and re-interpreted by Shreve and Quentin, with the total events of the story unfolding in non-chronological order and often with differing details, resulting in a peeling-back-the-onion way of revealing the true story of the Sutpens to the reader.

When he completed Absalom, Absalom! in May 1936, Faulkner said, “I think it’s the best novel yet written by an American.” He described it as “the story of a man who wanted a son through pride, and got too many of them and they destroyed him.” It is the epic tale of Thomas Sutpen, who grows up as a dirt-poor boy in backwoods Appalachia and has his first glimpse of social hierarchy when his family moves to a plantation in Tidewater Virginia. One day he goes to the mansion’s front door, carrying a message, and is told by a slave wearing the master’s livery that he must go around to the back door. This experience has a searing effect on the boy’s consciousness. From that moment forward, he sets in motion his grand design: to become, at any cost, a man of wealth and power.