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Free Study Guide-Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner-Free Book Notes
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AUTHOR'S STYLE

William Faulkner style's is rich and complex in Absalom, Absalom!. The novel contains a mix of poetic prose and stream of consciousness narration. The storyline of the novel is actually quite simple, though its long, rambling sentences of dreams, desires, nightmarish recollections, and strange and telling images often make for difficult reading. To analyze the style of William Faulkner is a challenge even for the most perceptive and persistent critic, for he is a restless experimenter with both language and technique. In Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner makes great use of interior monologue, often moving without notice from one character to another, so that a series of episodic events are strung together by various narrators recollecting their pasts and coloring their telling with subjective inputs of their own assessments and speculation.


William Faulkner often uses symbols in his fiction. In this novel, even the names for his characters have symbolic meaning. There is Pettibone (petty bone), Clytemnestra (from Greek myth), Charles Bon (good), and Jim Bond (a legal tie). More importantly, the Sutpen family becomes a symbol of the entire South.

Faulkner's prose has great lyric and dramatic power. Past and present often merge into each other, as when Quentin tells the story that Sutpen told to General Compson or when Quentin and Shreve become part of the battlefield scene as they discuss the lives of Henry and Bon. The dreamlike and sometimes nightmarish feel of the prose is heightened by the use of long, flowing sentences with hardly any punctuation. Faulkner's imagery is also extremely powerful. In Quentin's recollection of his evening at the Sutpen estate with Rosa, Faulkner combines sight, sounds, smells, sensations, and feelings to convey the tension, fear, and horror that Quentin experiences.

Faulkner's sentences, sometimes an entire page in length, are often highly impressionistic. They appear as piecemeal collections of thoughts, continually in motion and strung together by parenthesis and dashes. They are used to build an emotional mood or dramatically bring forth a sensual image. The total action of the novel also has a quality of seeming to be always in motion, moving forward and backward in time, with meaning being constantly added and altered. Often something said in an early chapter cannot be understood until a later chapter, when a sudden revelation by a character will throw the earlier scene into a new light. Absalom, Absalom! is a kind of vortex, with characters and events ever in motion, but moving toward a canter which contains a fuller and more complex meaning. It is masterful prose.

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