Absalom, Absalom!

William Faulkner - Published 1936
William Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897, in Albany, Mississippi. His family had roots in Mississippi, and Faulkner remained in the state for most of his life and became a renowned writer of Southern literature. Faulkner was not much of a student, however, and dropped out of high school. He then worked in various clerical positions and as a painter, a carpenter, and a coal shoveler. He attended the University of Mississippi for just one year, from 1919-1920, then launched into the writing career that he pursued for the rest of his life. Faulkner wrote poetry and held positions as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and for Warner Bros. before becoming widely acclaimed for his novels. When Faulkner’s third novel, The Sound and the Fury, was published in 1929, it established his reputation and he enjoyed a prolific career during the 1930s and 1940s. He won numerous literary awards, including the Nobel Prize for literature in 1949, the National Book Award for Collected Stories in 1951, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for A Fable in 1955, and the gold medal for fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1962. Today Faulkner is hailed as one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century. Volumes of literary criticism exist on his works. Much of Faulkner’s work, however, has received negative criticism, not for literary style but for appearing to promote immorality. He covers such themes as racism and incest, and his characters are often thought to condone such acts as well as to represent the thoughts and actions of Southerners in general. Faulkner died on July 6, 1962, after producing eighteen novels, many of which have been made into movies. Absalom, Absalom!, published in 1936, has been labeled one of the greatest novels ever written.


Absalom, Absalom! is both a legend of the South and a historical novel that chronicles the rise and fall of a man named Thomas Sutpen. Faulkner tells the story of the Sutpen family from different perspectives, and in so doing, he sheds light on Southern culture while detailing Sutpen’s motivations for starting a dynasty in Mississippi. The title of Faulkner’s novel alludes to David and Absalom of the Old Testament, a father and son who face incest and murder, as do Thomas Sutpen and his son Henry. But Faulkner’s story chronicles the relationships of many people in Yoknapatawpha County, all of whose lives have been affected by Sutpen and his dynasty in some way. The novel not only emerges as a family history and the history of a Southern county but also as a commentary on the South and on the deterioration of the ideals the Confederacy fought for in the Civil War.

Thomas Sutpen’s need to establish himself as a “Southern gentleman” stems from an experience he had living in poverty and being turned away by a Negro servant years before he moved to Mississippi. Sutpen becomes obsessed with establishing a plantation, amassing wealth, and owning both land and Negro slaves. Sutpen establishes his plantation, but in his drive for social position he sacrifices personal relationships and alienates everyone close to him. Because Sutpen’s drive clouds his vision, he never achieves his dream, and the injustices he committed in the past trigger events that lead to the collapse of his dynasty.


Absalom, Absalom! is set in the fictional city of Jefferson, Mississippi, and in Yoknapatawpha County, the setting of fourteen other novels by Faulkner as well as for many of his short stories. Faulkner knew the setting well because he fashioned Jefferson after the Mississippi town of Oxford where he grew up. He thus provides detailed descriptions of the plantation houses, the run-down shacks of the tenant farmers, the rivers, the railroads, and the dirt roads. By the time Faulkner wrote Absalom, Absalom!, his vision of this mythic world he created was complete. He includes a map of the county as well as a chronology of historical events and a genealogy of the characters, all of which bring the county to life as a real place in the American South and an appropriate setting for Faulkner’s analysis of Southern culture and ideals.

Faulkner’s realism is convincing because he details the county’s past as well as its present to give his story historical perspective. Readers know the roads the characters traveled and the houses in which they lived, but they also know the history of those roads and those houses. Faulkner details the setting so well that readers become immersed in Yoknapatawpha County; they can almost feel the muggy weather and see the run-down plantation houses. The map of the county gives locations to the events that occur in all the books in his Yoknapatawpha series. True to Faulkner’s vision of making his story a living legend, Yoknapatawpha County epitomizes the mythical South.


The story of Thomas Sutpen so captivated the people of Yoknapatawpha County that it took on the character of a living legend. The story is full of love and hate, terror and tragedy. It reveals human strengths and frailties so believable that Sutpen’s life becomes a legacy. To the people of Yoknapatawpha County, the legacy began in 1833, when Sutpen arrived in Jefferson, Mississippi, as a mysterious stranger with no intent to reveal his past. No one in the town knows anything about this man for a long time, and when he disappears from Jefferson and then returns with a group of slaves and sets his sights on building a plantation, the townspeople begin to see their own lives change irrevocably in numerous ways.

Sutpen is an enigma in Jefferson, Mississippi, because he reveals nothing of his past life nor anything about how he acquired his wealth. For this reason the people of Jefferson view him with skepticism and even contempt for quite some time, which appears to reveal Faulkner’s belief that Southerners are set in their ways and have difficulty accepting what goes against convention. But once Sutpen establishes his mansion, he marries Ellen Coldfield, the daughter of a respected citizen of Jefferson, and this gains him respect in the county. Sutpen and his wife raise two children, Henry and Judith, and before long gossip about this family and about Sutpen’s Hundred, their ostentatious one-hundred-square-mile plantation, seems to dominate the town.

Sutpen’s Hundred continues to be a topic of county gossip for years, and Faulkner uses it as a microcosm of Southern society. Southern society placed a high value on land ownership. In the nineteenth century, plantation owners ruled the South, and ownership of both land and people gave them license to do so. Thomas Sutpen built his plantation and worked toward creating his design for a perfect world. Then he attempted to make everything and everyone fit that design. The nature of ownership, as defined by Sutpen’s dynasty, leaves no room for human emotion. Sutpen amasses a great deal of wealth, but in the process he comes to disregard the very values that led him to create his plantation in the first place.

The truth behind Sutpen’s motivations remains buried in the past, and Faulkner uncovers it over the course of the novel. One of the primary themes in the novel is man’s relationship to the past, a theme that emerges early as the mystery of Sutpen’s life captivates the people of Yoknapatawpha County and sets the novel’s tone. As the narrators of the story reveal more and more of Sutpen’s story and delve further into history for explanations, the reader learns that Sutpen left Haiti and his wife Eulalia and child Charles Bon to come to Mississippi and start a new life. Sutpen abandoned his son when he learned that the boy’s mother was part African. But this son, Charles Bon, eventually came to Mississippi to haunt his father and force him to acknowledge his past life and family. But Thomas Sutpen refuses and turns his son away at the door. Charles courted Judith, his half sister, and intended to force an acknowledgment of his birthright by making Thomas prevent the incest that would occur once his children married.

The facts of this story are disclosed in the first chapter of the book, and from there Faulkner proceeds to embellish the story with few factual details. The first five chapters of the novel take place one day in September 1909, just before Quentin Compson, one of Faulkner’s four narrators, leaves for Harvard. The next four chapters take place later on, when Quentin and his roommate, Shreve McCannon, are in their dorm room at Harvard attempting to decipher the Sutpen story. It is not until the eighth chapter, when the novel reaches a climax, and the reader discovers the reason Thomas Sutpen is driven to establish his grand design: Sutpen was devastated by an experience he had as a child in Haiti when he was turned away by the Negro servant of a wealthy plantation owner. It was then Sutpen vowed to change his life, become an owner himself, and start a dynasty of his own.

This incident leads to an understanding of Faulkner’s rejected child theme which he juxtaposes with the theme of retribution and the theme of the interconnectedness between past and present. Sutpen was born poor, and he was indeed devastated by being sent to the back door of the planter’s house by a “monkey nigger.” This incident makes him vow to amass great wealth and create his own dynasty, and to devote his life to his own design, though at the expense of everyone else. But if he seeks retribution for the injustice done to him by the servant of the black plantation owner, then he fails to see how his rejection of his son years later dooms his life to failure. Sutpen cannot make sense of his past because he is blinded by ambition and determined to become a member of the Southern aristocracy.

Parallel to Sutpen’s drive for retribution, Charles Bon comes to Mississippi with a similar drive. It is Bon who is now rejected, when Sutpen dismisses his own son. Bon comes to Mississippi with the intention of marrying Judith, his half sister, so he befriends Henry, his half brother, and then begins to court Judith, pretending not to know of the relationship between them. Thomas Sutpen sees that the impending marriage will ruin his dynasty, yet he is a coward and can do nothing to rectify the situation without himself disrupting his perfect world. He refuses to recognize Bon, but tells his son Henry about his secret and lets Henry determine what course of action to follow. Henry kills Charles Bon to prevent incest and the miscegenation (the belief that whites should not marry or have children with members of another race).

The fact that Faulkner weaves the theme of man’s relationship to the past with the theme of injustice reveals an essential truth about Southern culture. Past injustices continue to haunt Thomas Sutpen just as past injustices continue to haunt Southerners today; the crimes committed against the slaves can never be erased from Southern history. Guilt emerges as a primary theme in Faulkner’s story and as a prominent emotion among the residents of Jefferson, Mississippi. Most of the characters in the novel suffer from guilt of some sort, partly as a result of their own evil doings and partly from the guilt they “inherited” from their ancestors who first became slaveholders.

Faulkner supports his theme of guilt by emphasizing the cruel treatment Southern plantation owners inflicted on their slaves. Slavery cannot help but be a big theme in a Southern novel because slavery does, in fact, characterize the nature of Southern ownership. Ownership, in the antebellum South, meant owning people as well as land. It meant exploiting people as well as the earth. Faulkner devotes much attention to the evils that result from the dehumanization of black people, and he creates in Thomas Sutpen a character who cannot recognize humanity because of his blind dedication to an abstract design. Sutpen is a cruel slaveholder who condones racism and thus dooms his design to failure. Readers are left to decipher the complex reasons why Sutpen’s design fails, as well as to answer other questions that arise during the course of the novel.

Questions arise during the retelling of Sutpen’s story because each of the four narrators, like everyone in Yoknapatawpha County, has their own take on what happened and why. Nothing is concrete because personal prejudices influence the townspeople’s thoughts and feelings. Sutpen’s mystery captivates the county, and gossip surrounds Judith and Henry as they grow up. By the time Charles Bon enters the picture and his life with Judith falls apart, each of the narrators has a different understanding of why Judith and Bon never married. They offer answers to this key question and to other questions that emerge, such as why Sutpen forbade the marriage, and why Henry killed Bon after appearing to stand up for him.

What readers must do as they read Absalom, Absalom!, and what the narrators must do as the novel progresses, is to order events and make sense of random pieces of information. The stories the narrators tell are to be considered but not taken as fact. This does not mean that the basic story these people tell is untrue, but simply that they each reveal a different side of the tale. The narrators of Faulkner’s novel are Rosa Coldfield, the younger sister of Sutpen’s wife Ellen; Jason Compson, an older, respected man in the county; Quentin Compson, Rosa Coldfield’s young friend; and Shreve McCannon, a Northerner and Quentin’s roommate at Harvard. Each of them has different reasons for arriving at the conclusions they do because Thomas Sutpen affected each of their lives in different ways. The structure of the narratives makes the book a psychological novel as well as a historical one, and it sheds light on the motivations of people as well as on the nature of Southern gossip. Because the accounts given by all of the narrators are biased and unreliable, Faulkner demonstrates that people’s personal stories largely mold the course of history, and thus the reader must question whether it is ever possible to get a truly accurate account of history in the first place.

One of the questions that emerges in the novel is why Rosa Coldfield agrees to marry Sutpen and then later refuses. As the reader learns more about the circumstances surrounding her decision, there is the realization that Rosa’s narration is unreliable because her view is tainted by Sutpen’s proposal that they have a child before they marry. For Thomas Sutpen, Rosa Coldfield is simply a means to obtaining his goal, providing an heir to carry on the dynasty. It is with Miss Rosa’s narration that readers begin to see an analogy between Sutpen’s rise and fall with that of the South. Miss Rosa believes that with men like Sutpen in control, the South is bound to fail. She considers Sutpen lacking in honor and compassion. He exploits people like he exploits the land and thus has to suffer the consequences of the collapse of his dynasty.

The theme of exploitation molds Faulkner’s characterization of Sutpen and defines his condemnation of Southern morals. Essentially, Sutpen puts the abstract notion of a perfect design before the concrete needs of the people around him. He chooses the life of a planter and thus becomes a natural exploiter, adopting the philosophy of production for profit and personal benefit. Thomas Sutpen exploits Rosa just as he exploited Milly Jones. He got Milly pregnant but abandoned her when she could not produce an heir for him. But he fails to see the consequences of his actions. Thomas Sutpen is unfeeling and unthinking and blind to the feelings of others. He has no imagination and remains so focused on his design that he cannot recognize how his actions will affect those around him. When Sutpen proposes to Rosa that they produce an heir before they marry, he does not foresee that this will cause her to reject him. When he rejects Milly Jones, Sutpen does not foresee that Walsh Jones will kill him in anger because of this. Charles Sutpen also fails to see the inevitability of the collapse of his dynasty and how his own failure to come to terms with the past can bring nothing but doom. With the killing of Charles, Henry disappears and the dynasty collapses. There will be no more heirs.

Absalom, Absalom! gives insight into the exploitation that defines the aristocratic South and which makes stories like Sutpen’s living legends. The book is very much an analysis of Southern myths and their roots: for example, the myth of Southern hospitality, the myth of Southerners as aristocracy, and the myth of white supremacy. The roots of these myths are embedded in history, and thus Faulkner makes the construction of these myths a primary theme. He uses all four of his narrators in the construction process, but the process becomes most noticeable as Quentin and Shreve tell their stories.

In the process of reconstructing the truths of the Sutpen story, Quentin and Shreve go through a laborious process. Not only does this process parallel the recreation of history and the birth of legend, it parallels the construction of a work of fiction. Quentin is a romantic figure, for Faulkner continually refers to his romantic nature. He knows some facts, but he romanticizes them, so as he and Shreve attempt to assimilate the facts, they use their imagination to draw conclusions. The process by which these boys arrive at their conclusion is crucial to understanding Faulkner’s message. He wishes to convey the process of recreating history as an imaginative act, one colored by personal bias. Though the truths are there, locked in the past, these truths are not easily discovered and any meaning derived from them is subject to personal interpretation. The fact that all of the narrators’ accounts are biased conveys the notion of historical materialism. For the historical materialist, reality is not learned but created. Sutpen and the other characters in the book create their own realities and thus see only a narrow view of the world.

Absalom, Absalom! is a book of such complexity that re-reading may be necessary in order to fully grasp Faulkner’s themes. But Faulkner succeeds in creating a vibrant cast of characters whose lives have been ruined by their historical materialism and their heritage of slavery and racism. Thomas Sutpen is a legacy as the South itself is a legacy; and even in Rosa’s view of Sutpen as a demon, he assumes heroic proportions. But there is nothing honorable about Sutpen’s legacy, or, Faulkner seems to say, that of the South. Sutpen’s honor is embodied in his design, and his design is doomed to failure. When, in chapter six, the reader learns of Sutpen’s motive for moving to Mississippi and of his vows to rise above poverty, the reader also discovers that he intended to right the injustice done to him by the planters of Haiti by becoming an “upstanding” member of the Southern aristocracy. He planned to value humanity above personal prejudice. But Sutpen falls prey to the abject materialism of the aristocratic culture and can only fail in his pursuit of it. General Compson sees Sutpen’s innocence as his weakness. Sutpen cannot assimilate his past experiences into his present life; therefore, he cannot understand how history has betrayed him. In this sense, he embodies the ideals of the Confederacy, attempting to move forward without looking back.


Absalom, Absalom! is a difficult book for some readers because Faulkner uses a technique called circumlocution to convey his story. Rather than tell his story from beginning to end in chronological order, he relates each event piecemeal and at different points in time. When a plot structure is circular rather than linear, readers often have a difficult time piecing together the entire story, and in this novel Faulkner makes this piecing together more difficult by using four separate narrators. In order for each narrator to tell their side of the tale, each must return to the same parts of the story the other narrators have already related.

The use of multiple viewpoints adds complexity to a story that is full of complexities itself. Because each narrator injects their personal opinions and prejudices into their story, none of them can be considered reliable, and readers must therefore distinguish fact from opinion. Readers must also understand that none of the narrators has all of the information pertinent to the story available to them, and that much of the information they do have is simply hearsay. Though readers gradually become aware of facts and events, they must take the emotions of each narrator into account as well as attempt to understand their motivation for telling the tale as they do. Faulkner’s use of multiple narrators certainly adds depth to his characters, but it disrupts the chronology of the Sutpen story. While Faulkner’s lengthy sentences serve to further complicate the story, it has been suggested that these lengthy sentences also help establish the time continuum as well as convey the complex nature of re-creating true accounts of times past.

The concept of time assumes primary importance in the novel, for Faulkner believed it was essential to create a vivid picture of the past. Because the Sutpen story so absorbed the people of Yoknapatawpha County, Faulkner wanted to establish the story as legend, and in order to do so he had to give his story a strong historical perspective. One way Faulkner accomplishes this is by telling the entire tale in the first chapter. This placed the story in the past right away and gave it credibility as an established myth. None of the narrators knows all of the facts of the Sutpen story because the events happened long ago and because each of them is affected by events in different ways. Only Faulkner, as author, knows the facts, so he uses omniscient narration in the first chapter to reveal them. He outlines the events as they happened, then allows the four narrators to embellish the events and thus establish a mythic tone. It is only after the story is told and the basic facts of the story are revealed that Faulkner allows his four narrators to repeat the tale and inject their own interpretations into the telling. This repetition and interpretation of the story helps characterize it as legend. Readers understand that, in Yoknapatawpha County, the Sutpen story has been accepted as true, ingrained in the minds of the people, and reinterpreted over time in many ways.

Faulkner’s frequent use of literary references also helps to establish a mythic tone. The title Absalom, Absalom! refers to the biblical story of David and Absalom, related in the Book of Samuel, which, like Faulkner’s story, deals with the themes of incest and murder and relates the moralistic message that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Biblical references permeate the novel, as do age-old themes such as guilt and injustice, which are critical to the literary interpretation of the novel as a legend from the South. But the fact that Faulkner uses the story as a complex metaphor is just as significant to its literary interpretation; for the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen is analogous to the rise and fall of the South.

The history of the Sutpen family is analogous to the history of the South in that Thomas Sutpen pretends to uphold the values of the South, yet he epitomizes its moral degeneration. Sutpen dedicates himself to his “design” and creates a dynasty based on his obsession with creating a perfect, ordered world. This clearly parallels the dedication of the Confederacy to create a perfect, ordered South. Both Sutpen and the Confederacy strove to establish their own sense of greatness, yet both sacrificed human concerns in the process. Sutpen’s design, by nature, dooms its creator to failure. Working to preserve his own honor and his own freedom, Sutpen, like the Confederacy, winds up epitomizing the dishonorable slaveholder and symbolizing the injustices carried out in the Antebellum South.

In the volumes of criticism that have been written about Absalom, Absalom!, the Sutpen story emerges not only as a metaphor for the Southern experience but as a metaphor for the process of writing fiction. Faulkner pieces together fragments of gossip and creates a viable tale. The fact that Faulkner uses bits and pieces of information, most of them hearsay, makes readers question the possibility of interpreting history and producing a viable account of the past. Indeed, the job of any author or storyteller involves the tasks of interpreting information and ordering facts. Faulkner seems to challenge his narrators, and his readers, to do this as well. Then, too, by challenging them to create something believable out of things they do not know to be true, Faulkner not only challenges them to assign meaning to a sequence of events but to question the reliability of history in the first place.


The plot of Absalom, Absalom! focuses on so many sensitive situations that the story seems almost too sensational to be true. However, each of the themes in Faulkner’s masterpiece have existed in human societies throughout history. Faulkner deals with lust, greed, incest, miscegenation, discrimination, slavery, and murder, all of which have been considered sins and have caused societal upheavals. Faulkner’s characters profess to uphold the ideals set forth for a Southern society, yet they expose Southern society as a place of hypocrisy. Jefferson, Mississippi, as a representative of the South in general, emerges as a place where those who fought to create a grand society did so by committing heinous crimes against humanity and thus betrayed the very values they strove to uphold.

One of the hypocrisies Faulkner reveals is that Southern societies profess to value a strong sense of family, yet they forfeit family readily in favor of upholding some predetermined social structure. They let community values rule their thinking and undermine their regard for human feelings. The fact that Henry was willing to condone incest, yet killed to prevent miscegenation, reveals the nature of this social structure as one based on hatred and illustrates Faulkner’s staunch criticism of the segregation and discrimination that permeated Southern society during the Civil War era. Even more telling is the fact that Sutpen, who claims to be a “Southern gentleman,” denies his own blood in order to carry forth his design. Charles Bon did not fit into the design because he was part black, even though he was one of Sutpen’s sons. Image was more important than family, and morality, tolerance, and even human kindness simply got in the way of creating a “perfect” society or a perfect design.

An examination of the significance of “Sutpen’s design” forces an evaluation of humanitarian ethics. The controversy surrounding slavery dominated the South and Faulkner outlines the evils that result from the Southerners’ inhumane treatment of black people. The slave owners in the novel are particularly cruel. Thomas Sutpen engages in savage fights with his slaves, and thus he not only condones racism but treats his black slaves as beasts. If the act of denying Charles Bon is viewed as an analogy for the act of denying Southern Negroes, then this one incident serves as the pivotal incident that illustrates Faulkner’s condemnation of Southern morals. Thomas Sutpen, as the stereotypical “Southern gentleman,” violated the very structure he claimed to create, and thus Sutpen’s design was doomed to failure.


1. Do you think Faulkner liked women? Why or why not?

2. To what extent do you believe Faulkner used this novel to voice his own political views?

3. Discuss the narrators’ prejudices and how they interfere with their ability to give credible accounts of Sutpen’s story. Do you believe any one narrator has more credibility than the others? Why or why not?

4. Explain the meaning of “A house divided against itself cannot stand” as this saying relates to Sutpen’s story.

5. What is the essential irony of Sutpen’s design?

6. What factors influence Miss Rosa’s judgment of Thomas Sutpen as a “demon?”

7. How does Shreve McCannon’s understanding of Sutpen’s story differ from that of the other narrators?

8. How does the gossip in the tale contribute to Faulkner’s structuring of the novel?

9. What characterizes Sutpen’s Hundred as a legendary setting?

10. How is Thomas Sutpen’s treatment of both Rosa and Milly indicative of his misguided obsession with creating his design?


1. Define the nature of a legend, and discuss the mythic elements in the novel that help characterize Faulkner’s story as a legend.

2. Determine the various ways Faulkner gave his novel historical perspective. What stylistic elements can authors use to bring the past to life?

3. Consider the role women play in Faulkner’s story, particularly Rosa, Ellen, and Judith. Do you think these women are exploited by men? Discuss the different kinds of exploitation that occurred in the South during the Civil War era.

4. Create a character who epitomizes the stereotypical image of the “Southern gentleman.”

5. Discuss the idea of capitalism and materialism as viewed by the residents of Yoknapatawpha County. Did these ideas prevail during the Civil War era, and do they prevail today?

6. Explain the notion of possession as it fits into the mode of thinking in nineteenth-century Southern society.

7. Exploitation occurs in different forms in Absalom, Absalom! Discuss the exploitation that occurred in the Antebellum South as it applied to blacks, to women, and to the earth.

8. Discuss the importance of how Quentin and Shreve come to the conclusions they do about Sutpen’s story. Discuss how they arrive at this conclusion, and illustrate how this process parallels the construction of a literary work of fiction.

9. After reading Absalom, Absalom!, the reader understands that the rift between blacks and whites so permeated Southern culture that miscegenation became a crime worse than incest. Recount the details from the novel, and particularly from Henry’s murder of Charles Bon, that support this statement.


Anyone wishing to gain insight into Faulkner’s story should read the biblical story of David and Absalom. This can be a crucial aid in understanding Faulkner’s themes and deciphering his message. Anyone wishing to gain further insight into the characters’ thoughts and actions, and thus obtain a better understanding of the South that Faulkner created, should read the other books set in Yoknapatawpha County, which, when read in relation to one another, constitute a saga of mythic proportions. The Yoknapatawpha books begin with Sartoris, Faulkner’s third novel. Of particular interest to those studying Absalom, Absalom! are The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, and A Light in August, all of which cover events Faulkner identifies in the chronology included in Absalom, Absalom!

Like Faulkner, numerous other American writers gained fame by creating vivid chronicles of life in the South. William Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness is another moralistic, structurally complex saga of a Southern family. It resembles Faulkner’s novel in both style and technique, moving from present to past to give readers a strong historical perspective and to convey the importance of the past in explaining the events that occur in the present day.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, also bears a striking resemblance to Absalom, Absalom!, both in its literary style and in its message. Hurston relates the black Southern experience of Janie Crawford, a woman who lives in poverty, and who embraces black folk culture and rejects white bourgeois attitudes. Like Absalom, Absalom!, storytelling shapes Hurston’s novel, and a condemnation of white, aristocratic values defines the themes.

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