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Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom!

by William Faulkner

Family Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

Because he [Henry] loved Bon. I can imagine him and Sutpen in the library that Christmas eve, the father and the brother, percussion and repercussion like a thunderclap and its echo as close; the statement and the giving of the lie, the decision instantaneous and irrevocable between father and friend, between (so Henry must have believed) that where honor and love lay and this where blood and profit ran, even though at the instant of giving the lie he knew that it was the truth. (4.3)

That fateful encounter in the library on Christmas Eve changes everything. Through his actions, Henry demonstrates that he loves Charles Bon more than his own father – even though he knows Sutpen is telling the truth about Bon being his son. Is this a comment on the importance of friendship over family? Or is Sutpen just not to be trusted?

Quote #8

In fact, perhaps this is the pure and perfect incest: the brother realizing that the sister's virginity must be destroyed in order to have existed at all, taking that virginity in the person of the brother-in-law, the man whom he would be if he could become, metamorphose into, the lover, the husband […] (4.5)

Things are a little too close for comfort in the Henry-Charles-Judith triangle. Faulkner implies that Henry loves his sister too much and hopes to seduce her through Charles Bon: that means this is a sort of double incest. As if one level weren't enough.

Quote #9

[…] Bon, who for a year and a half now had been watching Henry ape his clothing and speech, who for a year and a half now had seen himself as the object of that complete and abnegant devotion which only a youth, never a woman, gives to another youth or a man; who for exactly a year now had seen the sister succumb to that same spell which the brother had already succumbed to, and this with no volition on the seducer's part, without so much as a lifting of a finger, as though it actually were the brother who had put the spell on the sister, seduced her to his own vicarious image which walked and breathed with Bon's body. (4.10)

Charles Bon has seen how eager Henry is both to be like him and to hook him up with his sister. Charles Bon doesn't have to do any of the work – Henry will do the seducing for him. What's the deal with this relationship? Is it familial? Erotic? Something totally different?

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