Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Forward into battle

Current book: Absalom, Absalom!
Pages read: 80 - 172

It's funny how I liked Faulkner before and kind of hate him now. This book is a bit later than the first one I read, and I think he got carried away stylistically. I really get why people complain about him being impenetrably confusing now, though.

I have to go backward in the narrative structure to cover what happened in this section, because Faulkner can't seem to communicate plot events in order. So, it turns out that the reason that Henry and his college friend, Charles Bon, disappeared is that Sutpen (Henry's father), investigated Charles, who was, after all, engaged to his daughter, and discovered that he already had a wife and child in New Orleans. He confronted Henry and Charles with this information, and Henry, as a result, renounced his role in the Sutpen family. The real reason, we discover, for this renunciation, is that Henry is in love with Charles - not necessarily homosexually, but certainly homosocially. He idolizes the guy; he dresses like him, talks like him, and generally wants to be him. Charles is a bit in love with Henry as well, and Faulkner says that the only reason Charles considered marrying Judith in the first place was that she was the female version of Henry.

Anyway, after the fight, Henry goes down to New Orleans with Charles, where he discovers that the allegations are correct, and not only that, but that Charles's wife is a black woman. (Which is, to Henry, both unimaginable and insulting to his sister.) Instead of fighting Charles or doing anything else about it, though, Henry decides to join the army and fight in the Civil War, and Charles goes with him. The implication is that Henry is obligated to kill Charles in a duel, but since they're joining the army, is content to stay by his side and watch him die in combat, instead.

However, they make it four years in the army together, and eventually Charles decides it's time to go marry Judith, despite the fact that he's already married. Henry, as a result, is forced to kill him. (Apparently. Although why he doesn't just tell him to stay the hell away from his sister is a little beyond me. Well, it's not, actually - clearly he's embroiled in conflicting emotions - jealousy of his sister, anger with Charles, desire for Charles, guilt that he brought Charles into his family in the first place - and thinks that removing the variable that is Charles will solve all his problems.) Afterward, Henry goes home to tell Judith what's happened, and she murders him with his own pistol. (Yep. You read that right. She is, apparently, unmoved by the fact that her fiance was married to another woman, and is only enraged that Henry killed him.) Rosa moves in to take care of Judith, and when Thomas Sutpen comes home several years later, he and Rosa get engaged, despite the fact that she's only about 16 and doesn't even like him. But it's ok, because he dies before they can get married.

Well, I whine, but this part of the story was actually sort of interesting. It involved wading through foggy timelines and multiple narrators, and a considerable amount of annoyance at the fact that Faulkner has everyone talk like an omniscient narrator, regardless of the fact that they couldn't possibly have witnessed many of the events that they're recounting, but whatever. The relationship between Charles and Henry is pretty intriguing, and sensitive for the time that Faulkner was writing in, especially considering his setting. Still, I can't say I'd be very interested in struggling through the rest of this if I were reading it of my own volition. Part of the problem is that Rosa, who seems to be the protagonist, is both obnoxious and boring. She has no agency; there's little else I find as annoying as a main character with no agency. I'm moved by the demands of the List, though, so I shall soldier on.

No comments:

Post a Comment


A Clockwork Orange (5) A Good Man Is Hard to Find (4) A Passage to India (6) A Room with a View (3) A Separate Peace (2) Absalom Absalom (6) Achebe (5) Adams (3) All the King's Men (8) An American Tragedy (17) Atlas Shrugged (16) Babbitt (8) back from hiatus (1) baking (11) Baldwin (4) Baum (3) Bonfire of the Vanities (6) borderline (12) Brideshead Revisited (9) Burgess (5) Burroughs (1) canon (1) Capote (6) Cat's Cradle (3) Cather (19) cheesecake (4) Chopin (4) Conrad (5) cooking (25) Death Comes for the Archbishop (6) DeLillo (6) Dreiser (17) du Maurier (2) Edith Wharton (1) emergency (2) Ethan Frome (1) excuses (141) Faulkner (9) Felicia DeSmith (3) Finnegan's Wake (1) Fitzgerald (24) For Whom the Bell Tolls (3) Forster (19) Fowles (7) Franny and Zooey (2) Go Tell It on the Mountain (4) Grahame (2) Guest post (3) Hammett (2) Hemingway (5) hiatus (4) holiday (5) horrible (4) Howards End (6) In Cold Blood (6) In Our Time (1) Irving (6) James (25) Jazz (1) Joyce (1) Keneally (7) Kerouac (5) Kim (7) Kipling (7) Knowles (2) Lady Chatterly's Lover (6) Lawrence (26) Lewis (13) Light in August (3) London (3) Look Homeward Angel (9) Lord Jim (5) Mailer (7) Main Street (5) Midnight's Children (9) Miller (6) Morrison (1) Mrs. Dalloway (3) My Antonia (6) not a novel (4) O Pioneers (7) O'Connor (4) On the Road (5) Orlando (4) other books (7) page updates (1) Rabbit Run (4) Rand (24) Rebecca (2) recap (1) Rhys (6) Rushdie (18) Salinger (2) Schindler's List (7) Sinclair (6) Sons And Lovers (12) Sophie's Choice (10) Star Trek (1) Stein (5) Styron (10) Tender is the Night (10) The Age of Innocence (4) The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (5) The Awakening (4) The Beautiful and the Damned (8) The Bostonians (9) The Call of the Wild (3) The Fellowship of the Ring (5) The Fountainhead (8) The French Lieutenant's Woman (7) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2) The Jungle (6) The Lord of the Rings (16) The Maltese Falcon (2) The Naked and the Dead (7) The Naked Lunch (1) The Old Man and the Sea (1) The Portrait of a Lady (10) The Return of the King (6) The Satanic Verses (9) The Two Towers (5) The War of the Worlds (4) The Wind in the Willows (2) The Wings of the Dove (6) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (3) The World According to Garp (6) Things Fall Apart (6) This Side of Paradise (6) Thomas Wolfe (9) To the Lighthouse (3) Tolkien (16) Tom Wolfe (6) Triv (2) Tropic of Cancer (6) unworthy (33) Updike (4) vacation (2) Vonnegut (3) Warren (8) Waugh (9) Wells (4) Wharton (4) Where Angels Fear to Tread (4) White Noise (6) Wide Sargasso Sea (6) Women In Love (8) Woolf (10) worthy (25)