Study Guide

Absalom, Absalom! What's Up With the Ending?

By William Faulkner

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What's Up With the Ending?

What is up with the ending? It's super dramatic, that's for sure. More importantly, though, it provides a pretty important revelation (spoiler alert!): the ghost of Henry is in fact a flesh-and-blood man, who has been hiding away in the mansion for years.


Though Sutpen's story is finally cleared up at the end, let's be honest: there's still something dissatisfying about the fragmented way in which the story was told. Things are definitely still fuzzy by the end. And to top it off, we never find out what Henry said to Quentin in their confrontation. Faulkner leaves it up to us to imagine what vital information Quentin may have received in those moments in his room.

Then, of course, at the very end, the house burns, Clytie and Henry die, and Jim Bond disappears into the wilderness. Everything breaks down and Sutpen's longed-for dynasty is gone for good. Actually, it's almost as if it never existed: no one connected to the dynasty, not even Miss Rosa, is alive, and the house itself is burned to the ground. Spooky.

But Faulkner doesn't make things easy on the reader here. Are we supposed to feel that the ending is tragic? Are there any heroes in the end? Should we be relieved that everyone is put out of his or her misery? What do you think?

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