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Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom!


by William Faulkner

Thomas Sutpen Timeline and Summary

This character timeline is in chronological order. This isn't how things go down in the book, but we wanted to make it a little easier to follow. Even Faulkner wanted it that way (he includes a chronology in the book itself), so we feel okay about it.

  • 1807: Sutpen is born in West Virginia; he's one of seven children (well, we can't blame things on him being an only child).
  • 1817: His family moves to tidewater Virginia. This is a big deal, folks.
  • 1823: Sutpen delivers a message to the front door of the "big house" on Pettibone's plantation. When he's spurned by the black butler, Sutpen initiates his "design" – essentially, his plan for world (or at least local) domination.
  • 1827: Our guy quells a slave uprising in Haiti and marries Eulalia Bon, the plantation owner's daughter.
  • 1831: He has a son, Charles Bon, with Eulalia. Only after having the child does he discover that his wife has black blood. This is not cool with him, so he picks up and abandons them. Strike one… of many.
  • 1833: Sutpen arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi and lays claim to a hundred square miles of land acquired through a shady deal with a Chickasaw Indian chief. This is the start of his big plan.
  • 1835: He tells General Compson about his childhood while they're off together looking for the French architect. You know, just some guy talk.
  • 1838: Sutpen gets engaged to Ellen Coldfield, is arrested for shady dealings, and then marries Ellen Coldfield. (Not the ideal engagement period, that's for sure.)
  • 1839: Their daughter Judith is born.
  • 1841: Their son Henry is born. (Keep your eye on this little one.)
  • 1858: Sutpen becomes the "biggest single landowner and cotton-planter in the county." That plan seems to be working out just fine.
  • 1859: Henry brings Charles Bon home (to Sutpen's Hundred) for Christmas.
  • 1860: Sutpen travels to New Orleans to investigate Charles Bon, and tells Henry something about Bon. We're left in the dark, but we can only imagine that it's scandalous.
  • 1864: He tells the rest of his story to General Compson.
  • c. 1860: Sutpen joins the war as second in command to General Sartoris and soon becomes a colonel. Not bad.
  • 1865: He finally tells Henry about Charles Bon's parental and racial heritage. (Read: Charles Bon is part black. This is – like everything else in this story – super scandalous.)
  • January 1866: Sutpen returns home from the Civil War and starts to rebuild his life.
  • 1866: Our sketchy ladies' man proposes to Rosa, and then outrages her with his contingency plan for their eventual marriage (i.e. they need to have a son together).
  • August 12, 1869: The final straw: Sutpen angers Wash Jones by spurning his granddaughter, Milly, for bearing a daughter and not a son; Wash takes him down with a scythe and the infamous Sutpen dies.