Study Guide

Absalom, Absalom! Chapter 5

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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, n*****!" (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.

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