Study Guide

Absalom, Absalom! The Home

By William Faulkner

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The Home

Then in the long unamaze Quentin seemed to watch them overrun suddenly the hundred square miles of tranquil and astonished earth and drag house and formal gardens out of the soundless Nothing and clap them down like cards upon a table beneath the up-palm immobile and pontific, creating Sutpen's Hundred, the <em>Be Sutpen's Hundred</em> like the oldentime <em>Be Light. </em>(1.2)

Whoa. Quentin imagines what Sutpen must have looked like as he put his design into action. His image of Sutpen is like a god, making the land conform to his desire by sheer will.

[S]o into the house (it too smaller than its actual size – it was of two storeys unpainted and a little shabby, yet with an air, a quality of grim endurance as though like her it had been created to fit into and complement a world in all ways a little smaller than the one in which it found itself) where in the gloom of the shuttered hallway whose air was even hotter than outside […] (1.4)

Here, Quentin goes to visit Miss Rosa, who lives alone in a small house in town. The stuffiness of the room reflects her isolation and inwardness. It's kind of like how dogs and their owners start to look alike after enough time.

[T]hat Sunday morning in June in 1833 when he first rode into town of no discernible past and acquired his land no one knew how and built his house, his mansion […] (1.6)

Sutpen's arrival in Yoknapatawpha County is abrupt and surreal. The small town is shocked by his presence and the shadiness of his past. He will forever be a figure of fascination as townspeople try to piece together his story. And of course, the most important symbol of Sutpen's shocking nature is – you guessed it – the house he builds.

[…] a house the size of a courthouse where he lived for three years without a window or door or bedstead in it and still called it Sutpen's Hundred as if it had been a King's grant in unbroken perpetuity from his great grandfather – a home, position […]. (1.10)

Because Sutpen has only so much money, he builds as much as he can and then schemes to get more funds. His house is enormous and he acts like a king who has inherited an estate rather than a mysterious stranger who threw up his home under pretty dubious circumstances.

So it was finished then, down to the last plank and brick […]. Unpainted and unfurnished, without a pane of glass or a doorknob or a hinge in it, twelve miles from town and almost that far by neighbor. (2.7)

With the shell of the house complete, Sutpen must now put on the finishing touches. The house, like Sutpen himself, is large and isolated, but this doesn't prevent the entire town from paying attention to what's going on in there. Hey, everyone's a little bit nosy.

[…] as though his presence alone compelled the house to accept and retain human life; as though houses actually possess a sentience, a personality and character acquired not from the people who breathe or have breathed in them so much as inherent in the wood and brick or begotten upon the wood and brick by the man or men who conceived and built them […]. (3.19)

Spooky, much? The house had become so important to Sutpen that it was almost a living entity. As he built the house, Sutpen gave life to it, almost as if it were his own child.

Quentin knew that. He could almost see her, waiting in one of the dark airless rooms in the little grim house's impregnable solitude. (4.1)

Quentin imagines Miss Rosa sitting in that dark, stuffy house of hers. Just as Sutpen's Hundred reflects its maker, Miss Rosa's home is like her: alone and "impregnable." Shmoop's house is brilliant and hilarious, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.

[…] a huge house where a young girl waited in a wedding dress made from stolen scraps, the house partaking too of that air of scaling desolation, not having suffered from invasion but a shell marooned and forgotten in a backwater of catastrophe. (4.20)

It takes Judith a long time to realize that Charles Bon won't be coming to marry her. She sits and waits in her scrappy wedding dress made from pieces of fabric that Miss Rosa stole from her father's shop. Pretty sad scene, we must say.

[…] the house which he had built, which some suppuration of himself had created, produced some (even if invisible) cocoon-like and complementary shell in which Ellen had had to live and die a stranger, in which Henry and Judith would have to be victims and prisoners, or die. (5.5)

Just as Sutpen is possessed by the house, the house comes to possess those who live in it. Sutpen's children fall victim to the house's isolation and are both protected by and imprisoned within its walls. This place sure has a life of its own.

We see right about what he would intend to do: that he would not even pause for breath before undertaking to restore his house and plantation as near as possible to what it had been. (5.18)

Coming home from war meant that Sutpen had to face all he had lost in the years he was off fighting. On his return, he is once again determined to resume his design and get back to where he was before the war began. This is a plucky old fellow if we ever saw one.

And then he said he began to think <em>Home. Home</em> and that he thought at first that he was trying to laugh and that he kept on telling himself it was laughing even after he knew better, home, as he came out of the woods and approached it. (7.9)

After being rejected at the front door of the mansion, Sutpen wanders around the forest. He thinks deeply about feelings of inferiority, considers what home means, and begins to plan his revenge. [Insert evil cackle here.]

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