Thursday, April 15, 2010

Speaking of incest...

Current book: Absalom, Absalom!
Pages read: 172 - 278

I was wrong about Sutpen dying - I guess they just broke it off and Rosa went back to her father's empty house. I'm kind of unclear, exactly, but that's because Faulkner is fairly impenetrable and I don't care enough to look back and actually figure it out. Anyway, they definitely break it off, and Sutpen instead seduces Milly, who's the daughter of his hired man, Wash Jones. Jones is so angry (and rightly so) that he kills Sutpen.

We've switched narrators (Again. I think we've had about six at this point.) and are getting Quentin's roommate's impressions of Quentin's retelling of his father's account of Sutpen's report of his own story. (Did you follow that? Pity any high school student who's ever had to read this. Seriously.) Anyway, what we've figured out is this: basically, after Rosa leaves the house, Sutpen abandons Judith and the slaves to their own devices, like I said, and goes off to seduce Milly. Also, Judith figures out that Charles Bon's wife has died, leaving his son down in Louisiana an orphan, and Clytie (short for Clytemnestra, who's actually Sutpen's illegitimate daughter, but also still a slave (Have I mentioned how Sutpen is a total asshole? Well, he is.)) goes down to retrieve him. He and Clytie live out behind the house in the slave quarters for a while, and then eventually everybody gets yellow fever, and Judith ends up dying. Clytie and Bon's son, then, are left alone out at the house. Eventually, that boy grows up and marries a woman, and she ends up having a child, but she and Bon's son both run off and Clytie's left to raise the kid, Jim, on her own. I think.

After that, we get some backstory on Sutpen, who, as it turns out, has devoted his life to having a giant plantation because of the fact that a plantation owner insulted him when he was young, and now he equates material wealth with power and respect. He, as a young man, goes off to make his fortune in Haiti, and he does, but ends up marrying a woman and having a son who he casts off. Guess who his son is? You can't possibly, so I'll tell you: Charles Bon. So, the real reason that Sutpen objected to Judith marrying Bon was because it would have been incest, what with him being her half-brother. It turns out Sutpen told Henry this, and that's why he killed Bon, who also knew the truth of the matter. That's about where we are.

I don't even care enough to analyze. It's confusing and impenetrable and obnoxious. I understand the effect of layering narratives so that you reveal a story a bit at a time, but instead of creating a successful combination of voices and revelations, Faulkner is creating several voices that sound the same and only serve to confuse the timeline. The reader (me, in this case) is left feeling manipulated and abused by the author. Seriously, I feel like I'm reading a bad mystery in which the author has to conceal clues from the reader in order to prevent him from discovering the twist, instead of writing a plot that's actually well crafted enough to sustain both the mystery itself and the reader's interest in it long enough to come to its conclusion.

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