Study Guide

Absalom, Absalom! Family

By William Faulkner

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Faulkner is obsessed with dysfunctional families, in particular dysfunctional Southern families. And boy do we get that in Absalom, Absalom!. This family tree is full of intertwining and incestuous branches that make the genealogy very complicated. And on top of all the confusion, family is far from a happy place in this novel. Instead, we see a son who disowns his father, a man who kills his brother, a husband who abandons his wife and child… the list goes on. And pretty much everyone's guilty. Sutpen might even be the worst offender, though, since he's using his family (or potential family) just to build his dynasty. Of course, we know how that turned out for him. So maybe Faulkner is trying to remind us: be nice to your fam, no matter how nuts they may be. Otherwise you might get killed with a scythe – or something like that.

Questions About Family

  1. Do any of <em>Absalom, Absalom!</em>'s characters see family as a priority?
  2. What is the most dysfunctional aspect of the Sutpen family?
  3. Why would anyone want to marry into the Sutpen family?
  4. Do any families in the novel seem "normal" or have any positive associations?
  5. Which type of family relationship (parent-child; sibling-sibling; husband-wife) is the most messed up in this novel?

Chew on This

Sutpen is a family man: by ignoring Charles Bon, he's just trying to protect his other children, Henry and Judith.

Yeah right. Sutpen cares about no one other than himself. Family is on the priority list right below "stage fights between slaves."

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