Study Guide

Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom! Summary

Remember, Shmoopers, this summary tells things in the order we get them in the book (not in real time). It gets a bit choppy – it's mostly a series of flashbacks – so buckle your seatbelts. (For an actual chronology, check out the "Character Timelines.")

Oh, and one other thing before we get started. It's helpful to keep in mind that we're dealingwith three different time periods in this novel:

  1. Sutpen's family history (recounted by people in the other two time periods).
  2. Rosa and Quentin's interactions (September 1909)
  3. Quentin and Shreve in their dorm room (January 1910)

When the book opens, it's September 1909, and Miss Rosa Coldfield has asked the twenty-year-old Quentin Compson to come to her house to hear the story of her experiences with the legendary Thomas Sutpen. Legendary, indeed, as we will shortly find out.

Like Quentin, Miss Rosa lives in Jefferson, Mississippi. Her life has been isolated and lonely, and she's sitting out her final days in a house that could seriously use an open window. Though Quentin is preparing to leave for Harvard, he is intrigued by the invitation. Because Quentin grew up hearing about Sutpen, he is intensely fascinated by the story.

It doesn't take long for Quentin to realize that Rosa has a bone to pick with Sutpen. She starts her story with Sutpen's arrival in Jefferson in 1833, and describes how he built Sutpen's Hundred (his property) and married Miss Rosa's older sister, Ellen Coldfield – together, they had two children, Judith and Henry.

All sorts of strange goings-on took place out at the estate, including man-to-man combat. Then the Civil War began, Ellen died, and Henry murdered Charles Bon. Of course, none of this means much to us yet (we don't really know the whos, whats, whens, or whys of the situation). After recounting all this, Rosa asks Quentin to return later to take her up to Sutpen's Hundred: she wants to verify a hunch she has.

Quentin goes home to mull over this story with his father, but his dad tells a very different version of things. As they sit on the front porch, Mr. Compson relays what he knows about Thomas Sutpen from his own father, General Compson – and from some major speculation. Based upon his own biases and fantasies, Mr. Compson offers an explanation for why Sutpen refused to allow Judith to marry Charles Bon and why Henry shot Charles Bon at the gates of Sutpen's Hundred. (Things are still a little fuzzy for us, don't worry.)

Mr. Compson also discusses Sutpen's arrival in Mississippi, a story that will become very familiar as we hear and rehear different versions throughout the book. And how does our current narrator know all this? Well, General Compson (his dad, Quentin's grandfather) got to know Sutpen one day while chasing after an escapee from Sutpen's property. Mr. Compson proceeds to tell Quentin about Sutpen's marriage to Ellen Coldfield and the town's deep dislike of the guy (which, as it turns out, does not concern Sutpen in the least).

Confused yet? Hold on tight. Quentin presses his father for more information, including why Rosa feels the need to pour this story out to him of all people. At this point, Mr. Compson gives us more information about Rosa's pathetic life: her mother died in childbirth, she was raised by a spinster aunt, her father locked himself up in the attic and starved to death, and her sister Ellen married the larger-than-life Thomas Sutpen. Miss Rosa kept close tabs on the goings-on out at Sutpen's Hundred, such as the fact that Henry went away to college and had a good friend named Charles Bon. Also, Ellen (Sutpen's wife, Rosa's sister) turned into a shallow woman of means concerned only with dressing her daughter in fancy frocks and setting her up with the right man.

Quentin can't get the image of the wizened old Miss Rosa out of his head as he waits for night to fall so he can take her out to the dilapidated mansion. His father produces a letter that was written by Charles Bon to Judith. Mr. Compson then goes on to describe the relationship between Henry and Charles Bon, which is sort of country boy meets city slicker (Charles was much more experienced and sophisticated). One Christmas, Henry brought Charles Bon home with him; the next Christmas, Henry renounced his birthright and left Sutpen's Hundred with Charles in a big huff. (There's still so much mystery, we know! We promise it's worth it.)

Mr. Compson indulges in all manner of speculation about the big fight between father and son. Is it because Charles Bon married a black woman in New Orleans and Henry thinks his dad is racist? Who knows. In any case, Henry went back to New Orleans with Charles and saw the decadent life his friend was living there. While he was down there, he found out that Charles Bon was in fact married to a courtesan (prostitute), who also happened to be his property. This lady friend of his was black, and so – because we're in the nineteenth century – all sorts of debates occurred about whether the marriage was legitimate.

After that, Henry and Charles Bon enlisted in the army to fight for the South. Over the course of four years, Charles refused to divorce his wife (he didn't think the marriage was legal anyway) and eventually headed back to Sutpen's Hundred determined to marry Judith. Not so fast, Charlie: just like that, Henry shot him at the gates of the house and put an end to his big plan.

The narrative is now resumed by Miss Rosa (still talking to Quentin). She learned that Henry had shot Charles Bon and she and Clytie (Sutpen's half-black daughter) got into a scuffle when Miss Rosa tried to see him. Together, Ellen, Clytie, Miss Rosa, and a poor squatter, Wash Jones, buried Charles Bon. After that, they pretty much just waited around for the war to end and for Sutpen to come home.

Still back in the story, Miss Rosa moved out to Sutpen's Hundred. When Sutpen finally returned from the war, he got straight to rebuilding the plantation and set his sights on impregnating Miss Rosa so he could replace his son who has disappeared. (Um.) But when Miss Rosa realized that Sutpen only wanted to marry her in order to produce a son, she left the plantation. Miss Rosa finishes her story and tells Quentin what that hunch was we heard about earlier: she thinks someone is still living up at Sutpen's Hundred.

Next thing we know, we find ourselves in the present day at Harvard, when Quentin receives a letter from his father telling him that Miss Rosa has died. After some prodding from his roommate Shreve, Quentin decides to tell him the story of Sutpen, Miss Rosa, and the gang. Shreve, believing he has it all figured out, interjects and even takes over the narrative, telling his own completely subjective version of events. (This doesn't help us at all.)

Quentin does manage to squeeze in the story about the end of Sutpen's life: how he failed to rebuild the plantation after the war, drowned his troubles in liquor with Wash Jones, and started a little five-and-dime store. And here's the kicker: Sutpen impregnated Wash Jones' granddaughter, who Sutpen then rejected, and so…Wash killed Sutpen with a scythe. An epic end to an epic life.

Quentin recalls the gravestones on the property and how Charles Bon's wife brought their son, Charles Etienne, to see his father's grave. Eventually Charles Etienne came to live with Clytie and Judith, who raised him in secret. He grew up to be a fine mess of a man, drinking, gambling, and getting arrested. Then he left for a while and returned to Sutpen's Hundred with a wife. But soon enough, he and Judith died of yellow fever: luckily (for whom, we're not sure), Charles Etienne had a son first, who grew into a huge lug named Jim Bond. (Yes, we're still getting new characters this late in the game.)

Now the story returns to Shreve's amazement over the series of events. He's especially blown away that that Miss Rosa sensed that someone was living out at Sutpen's Hundred after not having lived there for forty-three years. We find out that when she and Quentin went out there that night, they found Clytie, Jim Bond, and someone else. But before we get to that, Shreve and Quentin chat some more about Sutpen.

Much of the information that Quentin has from this period comes from the stories that Sutpen told Quentin's grandfather, General Compson. We find out, for example, that Sutpen was born in a log cabin. His family moved from the hills of West Virginia to Virginia to work on a plantation when Sutpen was a young boy. Sutpen quickly learned about racial and class hierarchies and eventually he ran away and ended up in Haiti as the overseer of a sugar plantation. His marriage went south when he realized that his wife (and son) had "negro blood," so he left Haiti and went to build his dynasty in Mississippi. Quite a childhood.

Everything was going fine for Sutpen until Charles Bon (his long-lost son) showed up to the estate with Sutpen's son Henry. This posed a direct threat to the world-domination plan he had in mind. Remember that whole Henry-disowning-his-dad thing from before? Well we're back to that now. But the break between Henry and Sutpen is very hazy. Though Mr. Compson thinks that Sutpen told Henry that Charles Bon was black, he may actually have just told him that Charles Bon was his brother – and that would mean he can't marry Judith. It seems that only later, on the battleground, did Sutpen tell Henry that Charles Bon was part black – and this is information Henry cannot live with. Basically, the incest was fine but the interracial marriage was a big no-no.

After the war, Sutpen tried to rebuild his empire by impregnating Milly, Wash Jones' granddaughter. (Yes, we've heard this one before!) But when he rejected her, Wash Jones killed him with a scythe (picture the Grim Reaper's big knife). And to top it off, Wash Jones ended up killing his daughter, his granddaughter, and himself. Not a good day.

At this point, Shreve and Quentin begin to do some major speculating about Charles Bon's life and his perspective on all these events. They picture his life in New Orleans, and here's what they discuss: Charles Bon's mother and lawyer groomed him for revenge against Sutpen; he married the courtesan and had a son, Charles Etienne; he finally met his father, who then didn't acknowledge him; he was determined to marry Judith and Henry was equally determined to stop the marriage from happening. Got all that?

Quentin finally recounts the details of his visit to Sutpen's Hundred with Miss Rosa on that fateful night. After a violent confrontation with Clytie, Miss Rosa forces her way upstairs. Quentin follows after her and discovers Henry Sutpen, who says he's come home to die. Three months later, Miss Rosa returns to the house to save the dying Henry. As she arrives with an ambulance, Clytie sets the house on fire – Clytie and Henry die and Jim Bond goes off screaming into the wilderness. And that's that, folks.

The novel closes with one final question from Shreve to Quentin: "Why do you hate the South?"

  • Chapter 1

    • On a September afternoon, twenty-year-old Quentin Compson sits in the hot, dusty office of Miss Rosa Coldfield listening to her tell a story for hours on end. The subject under discussion is a source of enormous rage to her. Light struggles to enter the dark, decrepit room. (Yeah, we're totally in a gothic story.)
    • The past is totally messing with the present: especially a man named Colonel Thomas Sutpen (referred to as "man-horse-demon" [1.2]… that can't be good) and how he arrived in the town of Jefferson in 1833 with a French architect and a band of slaves and began creating Sutpen's Hundred (as in a hundred square miles). Confused yet? We are, too.
    • But now we get a little background: Miss Rosa had sent Quentin a note asking him to come see her before going off to Harvard. She believes he may be a writer someday and that he may want to write her story and "submit it to the magazines" (1.3).
    • Quentin isn't sure why Miss Rosa has asked him to visit (beyond the whole hearing-a-story thing). What's the story? He thinks maybe she wants to explain why the South lost the war: because of demons like Sutpen. But then he thinks this may not be the reason at all. Dun dun dun.
    • Quentin thinks about what he already knows about Miss Rosa: that she is the town's unofficial poet laureate; that her father starved to death in the attic; and that her nephew shot his sister's fiancé. Not a good run for Miss Rosa, that's for sure.
    • It's September 1909 at the time, but Miss Rosa's story begins in June, 1833, when Colonel Sutpen rode into town with only two pistols. He went on to build a mansion, marry her (Rosa's) sister, Ellen, and have two children with her – and "so accomplished his allotted course to its violent […] end" (1.7). Wow, this is all super mysterious.
    • Quentin recognizes all the names Miss Rosa mentions because he's heard them throughout his childhood. Small town, we guess.
    • In a little aside, we learn that after meeting with Miss Rosa, Quentin goes home and asks his father, Mr. Compson, for more information about the destruction of Miss Rosa's family. He also asks him if he knows why on earth Miss Rosa invited him over.
    • Mr. Compson takes a stab at it: he figures that Miss Rosa is interested in Quentin because of the relationship between Sutpen and Quentin's grandfather, one of his only friends. Miss Rosa probably wants any information Quentin may have gotten from his family. Fishy, Miss Rosa.
    • Back to Rosa's office: Quentin is consumed by a strange feeling in the room. He pictures Sutpen, Ellen, and their two children while Miss Rosa discusses them.
    • Miss Rosa tells Quentin about Sutpen's arrival in Jefferson: "[h]e wasn't a gentleman" (1.10). She says Sutpen arrived out of nowhere, coming to Yoknapatawpha County to hide behind the respectability of her sister, Ellen.
    • Ellen's son would later renounce the family and commit fratricide (that means he killed his brother). We hear about this a bunch.
    • On her deathbed, Ellen asked Rosa to protect her children – Judith and Henry – even though Miss Rosa is younger than they are. Yep, that's right, Rosa is younger than her sister's children.
    • Miss Rosa returns numerous times to the event of Sutpen's arrival in the town and how he built up Sutpen's Hundred and married Ellen to gain respectability in the town. Sutpen was only twenty-five years old at the time. Rosa wasn't even born yet.
    • Once in town, Sutpen began to put on peep shows for the men, which they keep secret from the women. Scandalous!
    • Miss Rosa explains that Sutpen's evil ways doomed Ellen and the children. Talk about a tough marriage.
    • And after Ellen's death, Rosa agreed to marry Sutpen, despite how awful he was. She explains that it was her only chance for survival as a twenty-year-old orphan.
    • Miss Rosa cannot imagine what led her father, a Methodist steward and merchant who never drank or gambled, to befriend someone like Sutpen. How, she wonders, did her family become so enmeshed in Sutpen's mischief? Beats us.
    • She also can't imagine how she could have protected Ellen's children, since she was younger than them and hardly knew them. We repeat: beats us.
    • Quentin sits and listens, totally entranced, as time slowly passes by.
    • Rosa continues, going back in time from where she left off. Sutpen finally went to church with his family and turned the ride there into a dangerous horserace. When the minister chastised him, Sutpen stopped going to church. (Avoidance is not the best policy, FYI.)
    • Ellen continued to go to church with the children, but Judith had a fit when they had to stop the horse races.
    • Miss Rosa and her father rarely made visits out to the Sutpen family. (Thanksgivings must have been super awkward, too.)
    • Another not-so-awesome situation: Sutpen hosted and participated in fights with his slaves in the stable, which townspeople came to watch for entertainment. When Henry and Judith witnessed one of the fights, Henry was traumatized. Judith seemed unfazed, but Ellen was mad Judith even saw the thing to begin with – duh.
  • Chapter 2

    • Quentin sits on the porch with his father, Mr. Compson, who tells him about Sutpen's arrival in Jefferson. In case you've already forgotten, this is an event that Miss Rosa has already referred to several times.
    • Now that it's clear that Sutpen's whole story takes place in the past, we're going to start recounting it in the present tense, since it's a pretty extended story. But don't get confused: this is 1833 we're talking about.
    • Okay, so it's a beautiful Sunday morning in 1833. Sutpen arrives on horseback and soon the entire town is buzzing about him: he's a seriously trashed-looking guy. No one can figure out what his story is; they only know his name and that he came from the South.
    • In fact, it's years before anyone finds out how humble his origins actually were.
    • Sutpen stays at the Holsten House in town. He doesn't drink, but General Compson realizes it's just because he can't afford alcohol. He leaves first thing in the morning and keeps to himself, refusing to indulge people's curiosity. Mystery man, he is.
    • One night he wakes up the County Recorder and presents him with a deed and a patent to land and one gold Spanish coin. And just like that, he now owns a hundred square miles of land.
    • Two months later, he leaves and returns with wagons full of fancy furniture, a pack of slaves, and a French architect from Martinique.
    • My how things have changed.
    • Tales of Sutpen's "wild negroes" (2.4) start to circulate around town. These people are covered in mud and wear very few clothes, if any at all. Strangely, Sutpen doesn't shout at them; he works with them, setting an example.
    • This goes on as Sutpen works with his pack of twenty slaves and the architect for two years. The house is enormous, surrounded by gardens, slave quarters, promenades, and other plantation amenities.
    • No one really knows much about what goes on there… except for the parties. Men (no women allowed!) go to the plantation to smoke, drink, gamble, and watch fights.
    • For three years, the house sits unfurnished. General Compson offers Sutpen money to paint the house, add windows, and buy furniture.
    • Finally, Sutpen returns to town five years later. He's wearing the same clothes he first arrived in and he heads straight for the church. Several people suspect he's seeking a wife with a dowry. (Used to be that a woman's family would pay a man to take her as his bride... yeah, we know.)
    • Since Sutpen's return with the "chandeliers and mahogany and rugs" (2.11) and the wagon full of slaves, the townspeople had come to greatly mistrust him, suspecting he had acquired everything through criminal activities involving a pistol and a handkerchief over his face. This sounds like pretty sketchy to us.
    • A vigilante committee rides out to confront Sutpen, but he meets them on his way into town.
    • After changing into new clothes, Sutpen goes to Mr. Coldfield's house with a bouquet. A large crowd waits for him outside – everyone is super suspicious.
    • He emerges from Mr. Coldfield's house engaged to his daughter. (That was quick!) But not so fast: he is arrested immediately.
    • General Compson and Mr. Coldfield go to the courthouse together and pay to have him released on a bond.
    • Two months later, in June 1838, Sutpen marries Ellen Coldfield. Hey, things happened quickly back then, what can we say?
    • Sutpen wants a large wedding (although he doesn't openly admit it) and Ellen's aunt supports the idea: she sends out a hundred invitations. But because the town still thinks Sutpen is a scandal, only ten people attend the wedding – wah wah.
    • Things don't go well at the wedding: Ellen weeps the whole time, and many townspeople sit in their buggies outside and pelt the bride and groom with "clods of dirt and vegetable refuse" (2.23) as they emerge from the church.
    • Still, the Coldfield association helps improve Sutpen's moral standing in the eyes of the town. Fancy that.
  • Chapter 3

    • Quentin cannot understand why, if Sutpen jilted Miss Rosa, she would want to spread that information.
    • Mr. Compson explains: When Mr. Coldfield died in 1864, Miss Rosa, who was twenty-years old, moved out to Sutpen's Hundred to be with her niece, Judith.
    • Miss Rosa had a strange upbringing, living with a spinster aunt (her mother died in childbirth) and a father she hated. She grew up in a suffocating environment of "puritan righteousness and outraged female vindictiveness" (3.2). Yikes.
    • So she moved out to Sutpen's Hundred and lived with her niece, Judith, and Sutpen's half-black daughter, whom he named Clytie, short for Clytemnestra. Motley crew, indeed.
    • When Sutpen returned home from the war in 1866, he found Miss Rosa living with Clytie and Judith.
    • As a child, Mr. Compson explains, Miss Rosa had visited Sutpen's Hundred with her aunt, just to spend the day, have lunch, and play with her niece and nephew (who were older than her, remember!).
    • She thought of Sutpen as an "ogre-face" (3.5) – very kind, Rosa! – and there had always been a looming feeling of hostility at the noon meals, which Sutpen did not attend.
    • When Miss Rosa was ten, her aunt climbed out the window and eloped with a cavalryman. Mr. Coldfield then started taking Miss Rosa out to the plantation.
    • Miss Rosa continued to have unpleasant mealtimes with Sutpen, a stony man who barely acknowledged her presence.
    • Finally, Miss Rosa and Mr. Coldfield stopped going out to Sutpen's Hundred altogether. Judith and Henry were pretty much grown up by now anyway – there wasn't much playing to do.
    • After Charles Bon was killed and after she had spent four years feeding her father – who was hiding from Confederate Provost Marshalls in the attic – Miss Rosa moved out to Sutpen's Hundred.
    • Wait, who the heck is Charles Bon? Don't worry about it – we don't know yet. Faulkner is just making things difficult for us here!
    • Now, going back in time a bit. After her wedding, Ellen became a real prima donna: full of herself about her marriage, going into town to visit with other ladies, and generally embracing a shallow existence dominated by shopping. Still, Ellen and Judith visited Miss Rosa several times a week.
    • The mother and daughter seemed unreal to Rosa: Ellen with her "peacock amusement" (3.11) and Judith's "impenetrable dreaming" (3.11).
    • At one point, their shopping needs took them to Memphis to buy Judith a trousseau (a wedding dress, pretty much). At that time, Henry had already been at the university for a year and had brought Charles Bon home for Christmas before Bon took the steamboat to New Orleans.
    • Mysteriously, Sutpen also went off to New Orleans, but only General Compson and Clytie ever knew why.
    • According to Mr. Compson, whose information comes largely from his father, Sutpen corrupted Ellen. His renegade ways and arrogance alienated Ellen from Rosa and made her more of a town spectacle than a respected lady.
    • Things are just going from bad to worse.
    • And soon enough, Ellen stopped visiting Rosa in town. Despite this, Rosa decided to make a trousseau for Judith, out of fabric she had stolen from her father's shop.
    • While she was secretly sewing the trousseau, Rosa hears that Henry and Bon had mysteriously vanished from the plantation. Dun dun dun!
    • At that point, all of Ellen's talk about Judith marrying Bon was dropped and Judith stopped going out. Eventually, news came through the plantation "negroes" that there was a fight on Christmas Eve. Henry had disowned Sutpen and left with Bon in the night.
    • Rosa continued to sew the trousseau in spite of the broken engagement and the start of the Civil War. (Yep, the Civil War. Reminds you what time period we're in, right?)
    • Goodhue Coldfield, Rosa's father, started to get a little nutty in response to the war. He nailed up his store, refused to sell any goods to anyone in the army, and prohibited Rosa from looking out the window at the soldiers.
    • When his store was looted (probably by soldiers), Mr. Coldfield sealed himself away in the attic by nailing the door shut. Rosa secretly brought him food for three years, but he eventually starved himself to death. That's depressing.
    • So Rosa was now a "pauper and an orphan" (3.19). Her only living relatives were Judith and the aunt who ran away with the cavalryman.
    • Meanwhile, with Sutpen off at war, Ellen dead, and Henry gone, Judith was living out at Sutpen's Hundred with Clytie and Wash Jones. Even though Rosa had promised Ellen that she would look after Judith, she didn't move out there right away. She believed Judith's love for Bon was sustaining her.
    • One day, Wash Jones showed up in the street outside Rosa's house and called her name.
  • Chapter 4

    • We're back in the present. It's not yet dark enough for Quentin to take Rosa out to Sutpen's Hundred, so he bides his time imagining what Rosa must look like sitting in the stuffy house in her black sequined bonnet and umbrella. Nice image.
    • Mr. Compson comes out onto the porch to give Quentin a letter from Charles Bon to Judith Sutpen that Judith had given to Quentin's grandmother decades ago. This is a keepsake item, that's for sure.
    • He tells his son that Henry loved Bon so much that he was willing to disown his family because of his father's racism – even though he must have known that Bon really did have a child with another woman.
    • Mr. Compson imagines how the falling out must have happened on that Christmas in 1860. He also discusses how four years later, Charles Bon and Henry would return to Sutpen's Hundred and Henry would kill Bon. Yep, he killed his sister's fiancé.
    • Compson imagines that Sutpen revealed to Henry what he had discovered in New Orleans. (We're left hanging.)
    • Okay, so after Henry and Bon disappeared, Henry forbade Bon to write to Judith. But Judith, back home, had no idea why they left so abruptly. So she was left hanging as much as we are.
    • Also, Henry never confronted Bon about what Sutpen told him because, Compson assumes, he could not stand hearing a lie.
    • In the present, Compson ponders the strangeness of Charles Bon, and why Henry was so attracted to him. Bon was seductive, older, and more experienced than the average college student, so that might explain it.
    • Compson continues to speculate: What must Charles Bon have thought when Sutpen discovered that he had a mistress and a child? And how did Charles Bon seduce both Henry and Judith equally?
    • This is getting pretty complicated, right? Right.
    • Using the word "perhaps" a lot to indicate all of his guesswork here, Compson imagines what Henry must have thought of the situation.
    • He describes Henry as a "provincial" and a "clown" (4.5), believing that he always acted on impulse and without rational thought.
    • Compson even imagines that Henry had an incestuous attraction to both Judith and Bon and that he would "take" his sister's virginity through Bon. Whoa. This is getting weird.
    • Okay, so Bon refused to divorce his mistress in spite of Henry's pleas. Henry's reaction? He killed the guy.
    • The murder might have also been due to the fact that Bon was married to an "octoroon" (a person who is 1/8th black) and has a "negro" son who is 1/16th black.
    • So after all this speculation, Compson admits that he really knows nothing at all: his story is put together from bits and pieces, he never participated in the events, and his information is from "a few old mouth-to-mouth tales, [and letters] we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers" (4.7).
    • Oh, and he admits that he may have a tendency to glorify the people in his story. Now you tell us. Well, at least we know now.
    • Mr. Compson then returns to Charles Bon's first visit to Sutpen's Hundred during the Christmas of 1859, when Sutpen, Ellen, and Judith met him for the first time. (Throughout his story, Compson continues to insist that this story is all based on conjecture. Okay, we gotcha, Comp.)
    • So the story continues: Charles Bon began writing letters to Judith, all read by Henry and delivered by hand by Henry's servant.
    • Meanwhile, Sutpen went to New Orleans and learned that Charles Bon was married to a woman with some "negro" blood. When he told this to Henry on Christmas Eve of 1860, Henry left with Charles Bon and returned to New Orleans, unable to reveal what he knew and unwilling to have Bon confirm the information.
    • In the present, Mr. Compson imagines that Charles Bon was actually in love with Henry and only saw Judith as a proxy for her brother. Not cool, Charlie.
    • Henry's journey to New Orleans took him out of his comfort zone. He was a country boy and had no experience with cosmopolitan places like good ol' New Orleans.
    • Compson imagines New Orleans through Henry's eyes as a place of "personal ornaments and voluptuous lives" (4.11). Mardi Gras, anyone?
    • Back to the story: Bon took Henry to one of the city's brothels, a drowsy, erotic place that smelled of mimosa and lantana, where women sell their bodies and men act like predators. Depressing enough for you?
    • As he's recounting this, Compson imagines the shock of the scene to Henry's "puritan's provincial mind all of morality" (4.12). Shmoop's mind, too!
    • Charles Bon finally revealed that he is married to a courtesan (a kind of prostitute) whom he forbids Henry to call a "whore."
    • In Compson's story these women are only "whores" because white men have made them that way. He explains how the mulatto courtesans are raised to please men through elaborate training – they're also faithful, beautiful, and loving.
    • Back in the story, Henry could not accept that Charles Bon actually married the woman.
    • Bon explained that it wasn't not a real marriage because she was part black (remember we're in the nineteenth century here). But Henry was still outraged and wanted Bon to dissolve the marriage, which he refused to do.
    • Henry was clearly not down with his sister being part of a harem. For four years Henry didn't let Charles Bon write to his sister.
    • Charles and Henry enlisted in the regiment: Henry quickly became a lieutenant, which means he got to boss Charles Bon around. Something tells us he liked that.
    • Meanwhile, here's the update on everyone else in the story: Judith was living back at Sutpen's Hundred trying to get by on food from her garden. Ellen was ill and never got out of bed. Sutpen was off with Sartoris' regiment. Wash Jones lived with his daughter and granddaughter at a rotting fishing camp down by the river. Got all that?
    • So, four years later Charles Bon wrote Judith a letter – the one Compson has given to Quentin. Boom, there we are, back in the present.
    • The letter is written with stove polish on souvenir aristocrat's stationery. In it, Bon made clear his intention to marry Judith, having waited "long enough" (4.19), as he puts it.
    • Compson continues to present a very tentative version of the story, full of "maybes." Maybe he should get his facts straight.
    • In any case, in his story, Henry continued to pester Charles Bon about renouncing his wife and child. Having made a wedding dress out of stolen scraps, Judith waited for her groom-to-be to arrive at Sutpen's Hundred.
    • As they're arriving, Henry issued an ultimatum at the gates of the plantation, warning Charles not to "pass the shadow of this post" (4.21).
    • Next thing we know, Wash Jones has announced to Rosa that Henry "has done shot that durn French feller. Kilt him dead as beef." (4.21).
    • Now that's a story.
  • Chapter 5

    • Rosa now picks up the story, talking about how Wash Jones – a man once forbidden to even come to the front door at Sutpen's Hundred – came to pick her up and drive her the twelve miles to the plantation to deal with Bon's murder.
    • Rosa was only nineteen at the time. She remembers things though: namely, Judith's shock over the shooting. Until her brother burst in the door, she thought he was off at war.
    • Our now-narrator recalls the scene at the house upon her arrival. Clytie – looking a lot like Sutpen – appeared as Rosa screamed for Judith.
    • Clytie grabbed Rosa's arm to try to prevent her from going upstairs. This didn't go over so well. Rosa freaked out and screamed: "Take your hand off me, nigger!" (5.5).
    • Rosa takes a second to mention (in the present) that Judith and Clytie were always close, but that Rosa still just had some sort of aversion to her.
    • So, Rosa found Judith in the hall looking like a zombie, clutching a photograph of herself that she had given to Bon.
    • Rosa admits that, even though she had never met Bon before she helped bury him, she had developed a strange love for him. Feeling the weight of his body in the coffin was the only "proof" she has that he even existed.
    • Weird.
    • At that point, Rosa stayed at Sutpen's Hundred: not for the food, shelter, or company, she explains, but to wait for Sutpen to return home.
    • Together Clytie, Rosa, and Judith survived the war, working the garden, weaving cloth, and pinching what few pennies that had. Teamwork, sure, but they were still strangers to each other.
    • They talked about Sutpen but never about Bon.
    • One January day, about seven months later, Sutpen (finally) came home from the war. And three months later, Rosa was engaged to him. (Taking their cue from twenty-first century celebs, it seems!)
    • When he first arrived, Sutpen was a mess from the war, riding on a gaunt and jaded horse. He was fifty-nine years old and didn't even recognize his sister-in-law, Rosa.
    • He went through the motions of daily life but was really wrecked. But, in typical Sutpen fashion, he still planned to restore the house.
    • Sutpen worked from sunup to sundown trying to get the plantation back into shape. One day in the kitchen garden, Rosa noticed him "looking at me" (5.19), as she tells Quentin. But after they got engaged, Rosa realized that Sutpen was not really interested in her at all.
    • Never mind the forty year age difference, Sutpen was a madman whom she still saw through the eyes of a child.
    • One day he insulted her terribly. Though she doesn't provide any specifics, it was enough to make her pack her bags and move back to her father's house to live alone. (Not sure we want to know what he said…)
    • She had to steal food to survive, though neighbors left provisions for her on the front porch. To Rosa, Sutpen was a "walking shadow" who died from "the stroke of a rusty scythe" (5.22). Eek.
    • At this point, Quentin becomes distracted from Rosa's story. He's imagining Henry bursting in on Judith after killing Bon. To be honest, we're still kind of going over that in our heads, too.
    • At the end of this chapter, Rosa reveals to Quentin that she believes "something" is still living up in the house at Sutpen's Hundred, and it's not Clytie, as Quentin assumes.
  • Chapter 6

    • Change of scenery, folks! We now find ourselves in Quentin's dorm room at Harvard. His roommate, Shreve, hands him a letter from his father dated January 10, 1910, reporting that Miss Rosa has died.
    • Moment of silence for Rosa.
    • Needless to say, Shreve is very curious about Quentin's upbringing and asks him to "Tell about the South. What it's like there […]" (6.2). Shreve is determined to get a clear story of all of the characters from Quentin's past and starts by interrogating him about Miss Rosa.
    • You know, if we had a roommate with as strange a history as Quentin, we'd be asking, too.
    • This is where things get interesting (if they hadn't already). Shreve decides he's going to offer his own interpretation of events, a version skewed by his love of novels and Greek mythology. This should be good.
    • Rather than really listen to Quentin, Shreve hijacks the story, barely allowing Quentin to get a word in edgewise.
    • So, according to Shreve, Sutpen was a devil with hidden horns whose "dirty work" of murdering his daughter's fiancé was undertaken by his son. He continues on to describe Sutpen's bravado, who, he asserts, suggested to Miss Rosa that "they breed like a couple of dogs together" (6.12) so he could continue his family line and his ambitious plan to build an empire.
    • (Remember, this is all coming from Shreve's head. We just met him, and we already think he's a pretty inventive dude.)
    • As he listens to Shreve's interpretation of events, Quentin thinks "He sounds just like father" (6.13), who also weaved subjective tales while knowing few of the facts. (Sounds like most dads we know, come to think of it.)
    • Quentin thinks back to Sutpen's postwar years when he owned a "little country store" (6.13), selling food to poor whites and freed slaves. It was at this point that Sutpen began to seduce the fifteen-year-old granddaughter of Wash Jones, a "gangling malaria-ridden white man" (6.13) who drank with Sutpen but didn't have permission to approach the front door.
    • One day, Wash's granddaughter, Milly, had a baby. (Guess whose?!)
    • Sutpen, the father of the child, came in while she was in labor and said to her, "Well, Milly, too bad you're not a mare like Penelope. Then I could give you a decent stall in the stable" (6.13).
    • Wow, that was harsh.
    • Wash, naturally, was so angry about the remark that he killed Sutpen on the spot with a scythe. What a way to go!
    • Judith found his body later that night and buried him.
    • Quentin recalls seeing tombstones in the cedar forest where Sutpen and other family members had been buried. It turns out Sutpen ordered the tombstones from Italy – fancy.
    • Judith had also saved up money to buy tombstones for Charles Bon and someone named Charles Etienne de Saint-Valery Bon. (So many mysterious people in this story, we know. We're getting there, though.)
    • Quentin continues to think about the past and he recalls his father telling him the story of Charles Bon's octoroon mistress coming from New Orleans with her eleven-year old son, Charles Etienne. (He's still talking to Shreve – don't forget this!).
    • They had come to see the grave of the boy's father, Charles Bon. Soon after that, Clytie retrieved him from New Orleans so that she and Judith could raise him. He had lived all his life in "a kind of silken prison lighted by perpetual shaded candles" (6.29) and looked like a Little Lord Fauntleroy.
    • This kid looked white, but someone had told him he was black. At first he slept in Judith's room, but then he moved to the attic, where he slept with a shard of mirror underneath his mattress. (The Princess and the…Mirror Shard?)
    • As every good small town crowd does, everyone speculated about where the boy came from and who his mother was. But eventually Charles Etienne's behavior got more attention than his background: he got in some fights in town and was arrested at a Negro ball.
    • Quentin's grandfather, General Compson, bailed Charles Etienne out of his legal troubles and sent him out of town.
    • A year later, Little CE returned with a wife who is "coal black and ape-like" (6.33). (We're quoting some of this stuff just to give you an idea of the racist language that was used in this setting. Pretty awful stuff.) The two of them had a son and lived together in a cabin on the Sutpen plantation.
    • Before long, yellow fever reared its nasty head and got to Charles Etienne. Actually, Judith got it, too – and she was the first to succumb (she died).
    • Clytie raised the boy, whose name was Jim Bong, and saved up money to pay for headstones.
    • Soon, people in town began to think that the house and plantation had ghosts. It turned into one of those neighborhood haunts: boys dared each other to enter the house, the plants were all overgrown… you know the drill.
    • Jim Bond was seen farming a small patch of earth on the property.
    • Enter Shreve, who decides to interrupt Quentin's story to share his own two cents. He says that the house is haunted and describes how Jim Bond lives with his mother, now seventy years old, who smokes a pipe and wears a head-rag over her white hair. Got it, Shreve.
    • Shreve also wants to talk more about Quentin's more recent story: you know, the one about going out to the house that one September night to confirm Rosa's belief that someone was still living there.
    • It had been forty-three years since Rosa left.
  • Chapter 7

    • Shreve is clearly entertained by Quentin's stories about the South: he even compares them to theatre (we actually kind of see what he means).
    • Quentin thinks back to a story about Sutpen's architect, who had tried to escape from Sutpen's Hundred into the swamp, only to be chased down by slaves and dogs. Even General Compson had helped look for him. And – here's why it matters to us – while hunting with Sutpen, General Compson learned about Sutpen's early years.
    • Boom – early years. Thank you Compson, we'd love to hear more.
    • Quentin begins to tell Shreve the story, but Shreve can't stop himself from interrupting with his own guesses and thoughts. What a peanut gallery!
    • In case you'd forgotten, we're now reminded that everything Quentin knows about the story comes from his grandfather, General Compson, and from details he's been able to fill in based on information from Miss Rosa. He's kind of like an unintentional detective.
    • So, here we go: Sutpen was born in what by 1909 was West Virginia and he grew up in a cramped little log cabin. Everyone shared the land, so Sutpen had never known anything about owning land, riding fancy horses, or having slaves do your work for you.
    • One day, the family suddenly decided to move, putting all their belongings onto a lopsided cart. Sutpen had no idea how long they traveled: it could have been a week or a year. (He needs to get himself a Swatch.)
    • Along the way, he began to notice men on fine horses and various black men. Towns grew bigger, and it turned out his father was unwelcome in taverns.
    • It's on this trip that Sutpen began to learn about social class. He learned that there was a social hierarchy based on money, and that his family, at the bottom, was looked down on.
    • Tough news.
    • His family moved into another small cabin, this time on a big plantation owned by a rich man.
    • One day, when he was about thirteen years old, everything changed for Sutpen. His father sent him up to the main house to deliver a message, and a slave, described as a "monkey-dressed nigger butler" (7.6) (again with the beyond-racist language) answered the door.
    • This guy told Sutpen that when he came to the house he had to go to the back door, never to the front. Sutpen was totally stung by this insult and realized that the only way to combat the treatment was "to have what they have" (7.9).
    • Make it happen, Sutpen.
    • So in 1823, Sutpen went to the West Indies to make his fortune. He became a sugar plantation overseer, and during a huge revolt, he subdued the slaves and saved the plantation.
    • From there, he got engaged to the plantation owner's daughter, whose name he didn't even know until after the siege. Not super romantic, as you can imagine. In fact, he cast her aside when he found out she had black blood (meaning she couldn't be part of his plan).
    • Okay, so you'll remember that Sutpen was telling Compson this story (who then told Quentin, who's now telling us…whew). While Sutpen was telling this story, he and Compson finally found the architect (after "fifty-odd hours" of searching [7.18]) and dragged him back to Sutpen's Hundred.
    • Compson didn't hear the rest of the story for thirty years. And you thought we were being patient for details.
    • Sutpen eventually moved back to America to set his "design" into motion. He's definitely got something up his sleeve.
    • And, by the time he finally spoke to Compson again to finish the story – thirty years later, mind you – he had become a wealthy landowner himself.
    • He spent his free time in hand-to-hand combat with his slaves and also got into some shady dealings with Mr. Coldfield and made a bunch of money.
    • Sutpen explained to Compson that he disowned his first wife and their child and took twenty slaves with him to America in order to see his plan through. As he explains, "You see, I had a design in my mind. Whether it was a good or a bad design is beside the point […]" (7.26). Hmm, interesting way of looking at things.
    • Sutpen justified leaving his wife by placing the blame on someone else. He said it wasn't cool that the family had deliberately withheld the fact that she had Negro blood and (meaning their children would, too).
    • Now, flash forward to Christmas 1859. Henry brought Charles Bon home from Haiti. Charles Bon is – gasp! – Sutpen's long-lost son.
    • Of course Shreve has something to say about this. He speculates about what Sutpen must have thought when Charles Bon came into his house and he recognized himself in Bon's face: Sutpen must have seen his whole design going up in smoke.
    • Back to the story (sans Shreve commentary). Meanwhile, Ellen Sutpen was orchestrating her daughter's engagement to Bon. When Henry announced that he would bring Bon home again for Christmas, Sutpen went to New Orleans to investigate him.
    • We know what you're all wondering: did Bon know he was Sutpen's son? Well, Quentin's not sure: no one ever found out if Bon had come just to blackmail Sutpen.
    • Sutpen sent for Henry that Christmas Eve and told him the truth about Bon – that Bon is Henry's brother. Henry pretended not to believe his father, but in reality, he did.
    • Now Quentin imagines what must have gone through Henry's mind when he and Bon returned to the university and joined the army.
    • Meanwhile, Sutpen struggled with the decision to play his "trump card" (7.35). Should he tell Henry that, not only is Bon his brother, but he's also black?
    • After the war, Sutpen returned to his plantation a changed man. And Sutpen's Hundred had drastically changed as well: Sutpen found out that Henry had killed Charles Bon, and that Miss Rosa was living at the plantation. Yeah, we'd say that's a pretty big change.
    • Sutpen was now really anxious about his plan. He was getting old and needed a male heir to finish out his plan. And Henry was missing, so he didn't really count.
    • That's when Sutpen made an outrageous and offensive proposition to Miss Rosa. We still don't find out what it was (we get that later in the chapter, so sit tight), but Rosa was so offended that she promptly left the plantation.
    • That was when Sutpen began to sleep with Wash Jones's fifteen-year-old daughter, Milly. Naturally.
    • Wash more or less condoned the relationship, delivering gifts from "Kernel" Sutpen to Milly and turning a blind eye to the situation.
    • Wash totally resented the way Clytie treated him. She wouldn't allow him in the house, and she made sure that he had fewer privileges and rights of access than a black slave.
    • Things also weren't great between Wash and Sutpen. Wash was okay with Sutpen giving his daughter beads and ribbons, but he got upset when she started wearing a new dress.
    • And now, the moment you've all been waiting for (not really, since we pretty much knew this already), we now find out Sutpen's proposition to Miss Rosa: that they would have a baby and then get married – but only if the baby was a boy.
    • That sounds not awesome to us.
    • Since things didn't work out with Miss Rosa, Sutpen went for plan B: he got Milly pregnant.
    • One day, when Sutpen didn't come home for supper (the same day the "mare had foaled" [6.45]), Judith sent a boy down to ask Wash where Sutpen was.
    • And that's when the boy must have found Sutpen's body. Wash had killed him with a rusty old scythe, having overheard him say to his granddaughter, "Well, Milly, too bad you're not a mare too. Then I could give you a decent stall in the stable" (7.45). (Sounds familiar, right? That's cause we've heard it before – as with most things in this story!).
    • Back in the present, Quentin imagines what Wash Jones must have done after killing Sutpen. He figures he must have prepared himself for the men with guns and dogs who would come to hunt him down. Wash must have known he could never outrun them: he was much too old.
    • And here's the rest of that story: along came the men and the sheriff, Major de Spain, with dogs and lanterns.
    • Wash told them that, before whatever was about to go down went down, he just wanted to check in on his granddaughter. So he went into the house, got a butcher knife, and killed his granddaughter and her newborn daughter.
    • Holy. Moly.
    • The men outside later claimed that they could hear the sound of the knife on their neckbones. Ugh. Wash came out and started to attack the men with his scythe, too, but they overpowered him.
    • Well, that was intense.
  • Chapter 8

    • Back in their dorm room, Quentin and Shreve imagine how Charles Bon must have experienced their whole situation. These two young friends speculate on the experiences of two other young friends (Charles Bon and Henry) in Mississippi sixty years earlier.
    • Shreve and Quentin speculate about what Charles Bon's mother knew about the situation. Did she manage to find Sutpen, who had left her thirty years earlier in Haiti? What had she told Charles Bon, if anything? What was Charles Bon's childhood in New Orleans like? Was his mother grooming him to confront his father? Did she deliberately send him to Sutpen to foul up his design? So many questions! Don't worry, Shreve and Quentin, we're asking all the same thing.
    • Shreve and Quentin imagine the possibility that Charles Bon's mother was a vengeful woman determined to get even with Sutpen. They imagine a lawyer "with Bon's mother already plotting and planning him since before he could remember […]" (8.4), helping her (her name was Eulalia) deal with Sutpen.
    • They picture the lawyer tracking all of Sutpen's moves, his spending, and the value of his property and assets: what the "value" of his violations would be in terms of blackmail.
    • Quentin and Shreve figure that Bon must have spent his money on whores, fancy clothing, linen cuffs, watches, and champagne.
    • Together, "the two of them creating between them, out of the rag-tag and bob-ends of old tales and talking, people who perhaps never existed anywhere, who, shadows, were shadows, not of flesh and blood […]" (8.5). Whoa, what? How much are they stretching the truth here, then?
    • Eulalia, in their version of the story, was "grooming" Bon for revenge – "like the dynamite which destroys the house and the family" (8.5). Then, at age twenty-eight, Bon went away to school.
    • By then, he had entered into a relationship with the octoroon and had a child.
    • Quentin and Shreve wonder what Charles Bon must have been thinking as he left New Orleans for the University of Mississippi in Oxford to study law. They also wonder how much scheming the lawyer had done, how much he knew about Sutpen, and whether he had sent Charles Bon to that university as part of a plan for the young man to meet Henry Sutpen. (That is some Gossip Girl style scheming right there).
    • What was the first meeting like between Henry and Charles Bon? What was Charles Bon's influence on Henry? Did Henry see his resemblance to his half-brother? Again with all the questions.
    • Shreve and Quentin think about what Charles Bon must have wanted from Henry, and even more so from Sutpen. Did he want a father's acknowledgement? Did he want to be treated like a son?
    • That Christmas, when they went to Sutpen's Hundred, Sutpen did not acknowledge Charles Bon as his son – he didn't communicate recognition in any way. They stayed ten days, and yet Charles Bon received "no sign" (8.10) from Sutpen.
    • It was then that Ellen began to execute her own master plan: to get her daughter engaged to Charles Bon. P.S. This would be incest.
    • Shreve and Quentin imagine what Charles Bon thought of the engagement. Did he feel like an instrument of his mother's revenge? Did he feel doomed? What did he make of Henry's keen desire for him to marry Judith? Did he feel disappointment at his father's failure to acknowledge him? What did he really want from Sutpen? Whew. This is heavy stuff, all of which the young men consider in their dorm room.
    • Meanwhile, with Henry's help, letters were being sent from Charles Bon to Judith. Then one day, Henry and Bon came back to Sutpen's Hundred and Henry found out that Charles Bon was his brother. (No gasp this time – we knew that already.)
    • Henry repudiated (rejected) his birthright, disowning his family – basically, he was pissed at his dad.
    • When they went back to school, they joined the University Grays, a company organizing to fight in the war.
    • Now that Henry knew that Charles Bon was his brother, he was torn between wanting him to marry his sister and realizing that their marriage would be incestuous. He rationalized the situation by recalling that kings have married their sisters. Um yeah, that doesn't make it okay.
    • Henry wanted Charles Bon to divorce the mulatto, but Charles refused to act, insisting that the marriage was not binding anyway or that maybe "the war would settle it" (8.21).
    • We know where this is headed.
    • Shreve and Quentin excitedly picture Henry and Charles Bon fighting in the Battle of Shiloh. In their heads, Henry was wounded on the battlefield and Charles Bon saved him; Henry tried to refuse help, saying, "Let be! Let me die! I won't have to know it then" (8.21) – probably referring to Charles Bon's ultimate decision about Judith. (These guys sure have a flair for the dramatic.)
    • In the winter of 1864, the Southern army retreated, and Charles Bon and Henry's regiment got close to Sutpen's. Perhaps Charles Bon thought it was fate, that now his father would have the chance to acknowledge him as his son. And maybe then Charles Bon told Henry that he planned to marry Judith, in spite of the incest, and they would "all be together in torment" (8.22), having accepted the sin against the family line. Perhaps, maybe, who knows. In any case, in this version, Henry "authorizes" Charles Bon to write to Judith and propose that they finally get married.
    • Still fighting the Civil War, Henry – who had not seen his father in four years – was called to see Sutpen in his tent one day.
    • They were both changed men. That day, Sutpen told Henry that Charles Bon couldn't marry Judith, even though Henry wanted him to.
    • Henry: "Yes, I have decided. Brother or not, I have decided. I will. I will." (8.49)
    • Sutpen: "He must not marry her, Henry" (8.50).
    • And that is when Sutpen told Henry that Charles Bon was part Negro.
    • Our two twentieth-century boys, Quentin and Shreve, continue to imagine what happened after Henry found out about Charles Bon.
    • They picture a coldness between the two men after Henry returned from his meeting with Sutpen. They imagine Charles Bon saying to Henry, "So it's the miscegenation [mixing races], not the incest, which you can't bear" (8.62).
    • In their story, Charles Bon was hurt that Sutpen didn't summon him. All he wanted was recognition from his father – then he would leave Judith alone.
    • And of course, Henry was outraged when he discovered that Charles Bon intended to continue with the marriage out of revenge against Sutpen.
    • Continuing their speculation, Quentin and Shreve imagine him saying, "I'm the nigger that's going to sleep with your sister. Unless you stop me, Henry" (8.79).
    • The boys (Quentin and Shreve) then return to thinking about the night Henry shot Charles Bon outside the gates of Sutpen's Hundred. They think of the pistol and of Judith and Clytie hearing the shot.
    • They imagine how Judith found out about the octoroon and child in New Orleans: Charles Bon had replaced the picture of her in the locket with a picture of his wife and child. That way, if he was, in fact, killed by Henry (he totally saw it coming), Judith would see the picture and realize that he was no good anyway.
  • Chapter 9

    • Now Quentin thinks back to the night he went out to Sutpen's Hundred with Miss Rosa. Clearly, the memory is freaking him out: he is shivering uncontrollably in his bed.
    • He thinks back (we'll tell this in the present, though – you know, for dramatic effect): they approach the plantation gate at midnight. Miss Rosa is afraid Clytie will try to stop her from getting into the house the way she did the day Henry was shot. Actually, she wishes Quentin had brought a pistol. But instead, she hands him a hatchet, just in case. (If we had a nickel for everyone time someone handed us hatchet just in case…)
    • Just as they are stepping into the house, Quentin and Miss Rosa hear the sound of a match being struck. It's Clytie, looking like a "[…] tiny gnomelike creature in a headrag and voluminous skirts […]" (8.32).
    • Clytie tells Quentin to stop Miss Rosa, but our lady enters the house anyway. Clytie tries to stop her, but Miss Rosa knocks her to the ground with a "full-armed blow" (8.32). Whoa, Miss R! Quentin helps her up and she asks who he is.
    • At that moment, a wide-eyed Jim Bond appears (remember him?), a "hulking man in clean faded overalls and shirt, his arms dangling" (8.34). He walks Miss Rosa back to the buggy, and Quentin goes upstairs to see what Miss Rosa saw.
    • Though he has doubts as he approaches the door to the room, Quentin enters anyway. Hey, why not?
    • And there, in the room, he sees – wait for it – Henry Sutpen!
    • Henry has been living at Sutpen's Hundred for four years: he had come home, as he tells Quentin, "To die" (8.39).
    • Three months later, Miss Rosa decides to try to save Henry and sends an ambulance out to the house.
    • In the present, Quentin and Shreve imagine Clytie fearfully waiting for the police to come arrest Henry for shooting Charles Bon. Thinking that's what the ambulance is, Clytie sets the house on fire. (Yikes. Not the route we would have taken.)
    • She had prepared for that moment by stuffing a closet full of rags and kerosene. Hey, at least she was prepared.
    • In the inferno, someone is bellowing – some "creature" (8.47) that turns out to be Jim Bond. He flees the scene, wailing all the way. Henry and Clytie both die in the fire, leaving Jim Bond as the only living heir to the Sutpen name.
    • Wow.
    • The story ends in the present with our friend Shreve taking control of the story once again, still with his own biased speculation about "The South." Shreve thinks the Jim Bonds of the world will take over.
    • He asks Quentin one final question: "Why do you hate the South?" He doesn't, claims Quentin: he doesn't hate the South.