William Faulkner’s novel entitled Absalom, Absalom! is a book which systematically utilizes the concept of discovering the past in the present. Faulkner’s use of the past in the present is pertinent in both the construction of the plot of Absalom, Absalom! as well as the extension of its interpreted meanings. Furthermore, Faulkner’s writing of Absalom, Absalom! appears to have been motivated by the great ills and conflicts of the American South, which was most poignant during the American Civil War, while the title, as well as its implications, was simultaneously conceived in Faulkner’s mind. The fact that the story of Absalom in the Old Testament and the plot of Absalom, Absalom! are so strikingly similar suggests that, in Faulkner’s mind, there is no separation between the past and the present. For Faulkner, time is a continuum in which there is no past, so the only time in which people and things exist is either in the present or in the projected future. In fact, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! demonstrates how the tribulations of the past are often the ills of the present, and, when people, including readers, are able to understand and depart from the failures of human nature, the future holds the possibility of truth and insight.
Considering that, for Faulkner, the past is never just the past, there are recognizable parallels betwixt the caricatures of Faulkner in Absalom, Absalom! and the story of Absalom in the Old Testament. For instance, Faulkner’s character Thomas Sutpen absorbs certain traits of both Absalom and his father King David from the Old Testament. Because Thomas Sutpen has the characteristics of both, he is powerful and rules a dynasty like King...
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...alid insight into the affairs of the prejudicial and slave stained South. In fact, as Wallace Steven’s suggests in his poem “Thirteen Ways to of Looking at a Blackbird,” it is the fourteenth view which is the truthful and insightful interpretation, causing a cathartic experience in the individual who perceives it (class notes). However, for those related to and descended from Sutpen, they have similar views of the world, which is embittered by the South’s intolerance for blacks, and they, including Henry, Judith, and Clytemnestra, have grown to abhor the South’s past and, therefore, themselves. As Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! proves, the inhibitions of the past are often inherited into the present.
Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! New York: Vintage, 1986.
Spoto, Dr. Mary T. Class Notes. ENG 433. 28 March 2006.
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