Sutpen's white women in W. Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!"

Term Paper, 2007

17 Pages, Grade: 2,7


List of Contents

1 Introduction

2 What perhaps might be true in Absalom, Absalom!

3 Sutpen’s White Women
3.1 Rosa Coldfield
3.1.1 Question of Objectivity
3.1.2 Alienation
3.1.3 ‘Un-Feminine’
3.2 Ellen Coldfield
3.2.1 Ellen as Sutpen’s Status Symbol
3.3 Judith Sutpen
3.3.1 Strong Fiancée without Engagement

4 Conclusion

5 Bibliography

1 Introduction

William Faulkner’s novel Absalom, Absalom! is often proclaimed to be one of his best writings no matter how hard and difficult the first glance seems to be.

After I had finished Faulkner’s “masterwork” (Dimino 181), I decided at once to choose it for my term paper. For me, the novel is not a difficult one: It is demanding and gives you, as a reader, the opportunity to activate all of your background information and ideas concerning a story about the South. Of course, it is not a kind of book you can ‘look through’ at one day on your vacation, but it is hugely eventful that you could read it again and again without loosing interest. The more often you spend some time with Absalom, Absalom!, the more you will find out about the plot’s hints and ideas.

This term paper concentrates on Thomas Sutpen’s three white women, namely Rosa Coldfield, Ellen Coldfield Sutpen and Judith Sutpen. To be examined are their roles in the novel, their relationship to Sutpen and their femininity or gender respectively. The interpretation of Rosa will be the largest one, because she gives the reader as a narrator more information than the other females.

After a short overview of Absalom, Absalom!, I begin every analysis of the single white female characters with a short introduction of their biography and status, before I describe more detailed aspects and facets of their functions in the story.

Because the novel itself is full of useful passages that have to be interpreted and questioned, I have decided to limit the secondary literature for this term paper in order to stay close to the book as much as possible. My research in the internet did not turn out to be useful for this term paper.

2 What perhaps might be true in Absalom, Absalom!

One absolute important aspect which should be kept in mind during entire the novel is the fact that nothing actually is a fact. When you think you are done with Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, you suddenly realize that every detail of the plot has to be questioned and rethought.

In Absalom, Absalom!, the reader comes across three or rather four narrators:

Starting with Rosa Coldfield, Faulkner introduces furthermore Mr. Compson who passes over his father’s stories about his friend Thomas Sutpen in Yoknapatawpha County and the roommates at the Harvard dormitory, Quentin Compson and Shrevlin McCannon. As it would not be enough, two totally different settings move the detailed hints about the plot even more apart from each other:

Whereas the novel begins in Jefferson, Mississippi on a “hot weary dead September afternoon” (Faulkner 3), it ends in Cambridge, Massachusetts where “this strange iron New England snow” (Faulkner 141) makes the air cold and dead.

Every single narrator in Absalom, Absalom! manipulates and interprets the story of the plantation owner Thomas Sutpen in his or her own way and adds hints and guesses to the remaining questions or unclear actions within the novel. “[…] each voice speaks differently in relation to Sutpen.” (Robinson 103). The problem is that none of them has experienced the whole Sutpen saga personally and that they discuss it among each other:

Quentin and Shreve only put together the pieces which seem to be important and interesting for them; Rosa Coldfield was too young and lived during her childhood too far away from the plantation to be totally engaged in the story and Mr. Compson hands it down from his father to his son Quentin. “These details had come to Quentin’s father through the friendship of General Compson and Thomas Sutpen” (Everett 2). Consequently, “each character-narrator is limited by his own knowledge” (Everett 4) and every single sentence in the novel could be started with phrases like ‘maybe’ ‘it could be’ or ‘perhaps’. A passage in chapter 3 of Absalom, Absalom! underlines this idea of actually unaware narrators who do not know anything for sure:


Excerpt out of 17 pages


Sutpen's white women in W. Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!"
University of Wuppertal
American Historical Novels
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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459 KB
Sutpen, Faulkner, Absalom, American, Historical, Novels
Quote paper
Julia Klewin (Author), 2007, Sutpen's white women in W. Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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