Study Guide

Absalom, Absalom! Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By William Faulkner

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

So doubtless General Compson was the first man in the county to tell himself that Sutpen did not need to borrow money with which to complete the house, supply what it lacked, because he intended to marry it. (2.9)

General Compson is one of the few people with genuine insight into Sutpen. He sees that, having spent everything on building the house, Sutpen will now find a wife to supply the money for its completion. Hey, everyone has a dream.

[…] and the man who owned all the land […] lived in the biggest house [Sutpen] had ever seen. (7.5)

Sutpen as a kid… weird. In any case, Sutpen's experiences as a poor child living on a huge plantation are formative. He never forgets the wealth and privilege he sees, and its pursuit becomes his one and only dream. And as we learn, he'll do anything to achieve that dream.

"What I learned was that there was a place called the West Indies to which poor men went in ships and became rich, it didn't matter how, so long as that man was clever and courageous." (7.10)

Sutpen recalls his brief education and how he learned about the West Indies. With barely a notion of where the West Indies were, he set off determined to realize for himself the stories of great wealth that were associated with the islands.

"[…] just told Grandfather [Compson] that he had put his first wife aside like eleventh or twelfth century kings did: "I found that she was not and never could be, through no fault of her own, adjunctive or incremental to the design which I had in mind, so I provided for her and put her aside." (7.10)

With enormous arrogance and self-centeredness, Sutpen rejects his first wife because she is part black. She doesn't fit into his grand scheme, so he puts her aside and moves on as though the marriage never existed.

"So when the time came when I realised that to accomplish my design I should need first of all and above all things money in considerable quantities and in the quite immediate future, I remembered what he had read to us and I went to the West Indies." (7.12)

Everyone dreams about having more money, right? Well, Sutpen is no exception. Haiti is Sutpen's initial destination, where he will acquire enough wealth to return to the United States and execute his plan. He knows from a very young age that having lots of money is crucial to his design.

"You see, I had a design in my mind. Whether it was a good or bad design is beside the point." (7.26)

As Sutpen explains to General Compson, he had no considerations of morality. To him the design was not good or bad, it was just what he wanted – and so he was determined to get it.

[H]e must have felt and heard the design – house, position, posterity and all – come down like it had been built out of smoke, making no sound, creating no rush of displaced air and not even leaving any debris. (7.33)

Charles Bon was <em>not </em>part of Sutpen's dream. This can't end well.

[…] when he realised that there was more in his problem than just lack of time, that the problem contained some super-distillation of this lack; that he was now past sixty and that possibly he could get but one more son, had at best one more son in his loins, as the old cannon might know when it has just one more shot in its corporeality (7.42).

According to Quentin and Shreve's version of events, Sutpen became desperate after the war. Since he needed a son to continue the dynasty, and Henry was missing, he set his sights on Miss Rosa. It's clearly not about the means, just about the end.

[…] created between this woman [Eulalia] and a hired lawyer (the woman who since before he could remember he now realised had been planning and grooming him for some moment that would come. (8.5)

Shreve and Quentin believe that Charles Bon's mother planned her revenge against Sutpen by sending her son in to mess up his plans. In their version, Charles Bon slowly realizes that she has been waiting for just the right moment to strike.

[…] but thinking <em>So at last I shall see him, whom it seems I was bred never to expect to see, whom I had even learned to live without, </em>thinking maybe how he would walk into the house and see the man who made him and then he would know. (8.10)

This is kind of sweet, actually. Charles Bon dreams of meeting his father, and in his fantasy, he will finally be acknowledged as his son. Just like everything in <em>Absalom, Absalom!</em>, that doesn't quite go as planned.