Brain Pain discussion

Absalom, Absalom!
This topic is about Absalom, Absalom!
45 views
Cluster Headache Two - 2012 > Discussion - Week Two - Absalom, Absalom! - Chapter 4 & 5

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
This discussion covers Chapter 4 & 5, pp. 70 – 140


Chapter 4 introduces us to the main conflict of the novel: the incestuous love triangle between Sutpen’s children that leaves one of them dead, one a spinster, and one in self-imposed exile. Quentin’s father tells a story of how the conflict unfolded between Sutpen, Henry, and Charles Bon, and the letter entrusted to Quentin’s grandmother by Judith Sutpen.

Chapter 5 is Rosa Coldfield’s story of how she ended up at Sutpen’s Hundred, her life with Judith and Clytie during the war years, and Sutpen’s return. She explains, as best she can, how Sutpen proposed marriage, then disgraced her. Both chapters are told in long, repetitive, almost rhythmic sentences, as though the long years of memory come back to the tellers in waves of angry, emotional repetition.

What do you think of this technique of multiple narrators, overlapping time frames, and repetition of events and judgments about the dead characters?

To avoid spoilers, please limit your comments to Chapter 4 & 5, pp. 70 – 140 (and the earlier chapters)


message 2: by Machiba (new) - added it

Machiba | 5 comments Place a pen on the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Make a tiny circle and stop at the starting point. Now make a bigger circle and stop at the same starting point. Repeat this process over and over and you will have a visual representation of the plot as it pertains to Chapter 4. He kept going back to the start and building, then back again. It was worth it at the end, but it is frustrating to endure in the middle of the chapter.


message 3: by Machiba (last edited Nov 25, 2012 11:44PM) (new) - added it

Machiba | 5 comments I don't know that I like the repetition or that it adds to the story. His writing is beautiful, but the descriptions are always the same and he uses the same words over and over. Perhaps it is a comment on how the South has told these same stories over and over since the war. Like he mentions, the characters are interchangeable with all Southeners; the outcomes might change, but the situations seem to be a common straw.


message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
Machiba wrote: "I don't know that I like the repetition or that it adds to the story. His writing is beautiful, but the descriptions are always the same and he uses the same words over and over. Perhaps it is a co..."

I always attribute the repetition to Rosa, who has spent more than 40 years reliving these events that led to her pain and loneliness. A mantra of disappointment and anger repeated endlessly, to some day be relieved by the sleep of death, but still so important to her, she seeks out Quentin to tell her story of Sutpen's Hundred to future generations. A rather nasty obsession, no? With that in mind, does the repetition seem appropriate to the subject matter?


message 5: by Machiba (new) - added it

Machiba | 5 comments Jim wrote: "Machiba wrote: "I don't know that I like the repetition or that it adds to the story. His writing is beautiful, but the descriptions are always the same and he uses the same words over and over. Pe..."

I thought about that, too. I have definitely sat around with my grandmother listening to stories that were slow to develop, but I don't feel that it is intensifying my experience of the story. The repetition only confuses the progression and lends itself to a wandering mind. I was reading late last night and had to stop myself. This is not a book I could read in one sitting or late into the night because it requires too much attention. I say this though not know the full story. I do, however, appreciate the style and his ability to do it well


message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
J Frederick wrote: "Jim, since you were so astute at decoding the last passage, I present another:

"Because he was not articulated in this world. He was a walking shadow. He was the light-blinded bat-like image of h..."


Can you post the page # to save me some searching time? merci!!

BTW, if you don't already know it, Faulkner was very much impressed and influenced by James Joyce. I always thought of Quentin Compson as being Faulkner's answer to Stephen Dedalus.


message 7: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3032 comments Mod
J Frederick wrote: "Jim, since you were so astute at decoding the last passage, I present another:

"Because he was not articulated in this world. He was a walking shadow. He was the light-blinded bat-like image of h..."


Faulkner does seem to have thrown us a curve in this sentence. It's simple enough to imagine the arc (ellipse) of Sutpen's story - came from nothing, "prospered", ended in nothing. But the specific meaning of "ellipsis" of course, is the words omitted or missing. Maybe what is implied is that there is much that is missing from Sutpen in human terms - conscience, justice, compassion, empathy - and what is left is this demon man-child who operates primarily from the Id, with occasional outbursts of Ego, but seldom any of the civilizing effects of the Super-ego. (Sorry for the Freud, but it seems applicable here).

It really is the penultimate sentence of that famous 30-page passage where Rosa Coldfield pulls out all the stops and leaves Quentin reeling with images of insult, betrayal, incest, and murder. Amazing stuff and quite the concluding sentence for summing up Sutpen's essence.


back to top