Absalom, Absalom

The Problem with Being There: The Distorting Effect of Personal Experience in Absalom, Absalom

Absalom, Absalom displays two narrators standing at opposite poles in their understanding of time. The first of these, Rosa Coldfield, narrates to a patiently listening Quentin Compson what one might call the life and times of Thomas Sutpen. This rather faulty description of her act, though, immediately suggests something that is missing from her notion of Sutpen, namely a life and times. She takes Sutpen out of timesees him as immortal, alternately considering him a god and a demon. Quentin, the second narrator, has a diametrically opposed sense of timehe has a near philosophically complete understanding of time in the sense expounded by Henri Bergson. This understanding seems to come through some cultural process of osmosis, through which absolute understanding is inherited. While Rosa's problem might appear an isolated insensitivity to this heritage, Faulkner delicately traces Rosa's problem, not to Rosa, but instead to her relationship to the story she is telling, her personal involvement in the story. In this tracing we see Rosa's problem not as an isolated one, but as a crisis of understanding at the very heart of Faulkner's own struggles in writing.

The monologues of Rosa Coldfield to which Quentin...

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