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YARN OF ABSALOM, ABSALOM!
There are many unanswered questions concerning the novel Absalom, Absalom!, what exactly its author intended to get across through it or what he actually did with it. Many critics believe he just never reached a single and final intention, so he just left the final authorities in question, and he may have liked it that way (Parker 16). While others believe he was just careless and forgetful, leaving dangling ends with the elements of earlier designs that obtrude themselves on what appears as a finished fabric (Brooks 302). They also believe that he wrote contradictory passages that disturbed the consistency and coherency of the novel, and still others believe it to be his greatest work (Parker cover). Even so, William Faulkner\'s narration, whether internal or external, in the novel Absalom, Absalom! has caused much controversy and has mystified some of the best critics, as well as many readers.
To truly begin to understand Faulkner\'s narrative in Absalom, Absalom!, one must first understand the history behind it. This novel, begun in Oxford, Mississippi around 1933 or 1934, was written in a bombastic and learned language with a passionate immersion in the past. It was set from the 1820s until around 1910 at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford in Mississippi, New Orleans, Virginia, and Haiti. This novel is also the sixth of Faulkner\'s novels set in the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County, and is considered by many to partly be a sequel to The Sound and the Fury. Although these two novels may be related, they do not rely on each other. However, some concerns that appear in The Sound and the Fury are echoed in Absalom, Absalom!
An important part of the novel\'s history involves the economy and local Indians in Mississippi. Faulkner\'s land, in north Mississippi, had been home to the Chickasaw Indians in the early 19th century, and they appear frequently throughout much of his fiction and even turn up briefly in Absalom, Absalom!. The Chickasaw\'s only roles in this novel, however, are to surrender their land and silently disappear. It was because of the federal and state governments that Mississippi experienced a ‘boom\' in its economy. The governments pressured the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians into leaving, thus opening up the fertile Indian hill country for the settlement of poor, southern white folk. The economy in the early 1830s was independent from slaves and was actually little more committed to slavery than the north. In the 1940s, however, this changed when the plantation system, slavery, cotton industry, and population all grew tremendously. The population in Mississippi grew until most were black slaves, 52 percent actually.
Another major occurrence in the novel\'s history is war. When the Civil War broke out most of the white settlers only owned and worked small farms. And what few plantations there were, had not been there more than a generation. This is why many whites opposed the secession and the war. They understood the North\'s overwhelming economic and numeric superiority, and some even held investments in the North. So, war was the last thing they wanted. And, contrary to myth, the reconstruction process was ably administered by honest and well-educated politicians, both black and white. Racism didn\'t occur until the mid-1870s, when flagrantly racist whites won back control through violence and intimidation. Because racism overshadowed reforms and displaced economic politics, the already post-war suffering state was driven deeper into poverty while the rest of the country grew wealthier, more urban and industrial.
A third essential part of the novel is the style Faulkner wrote it in. Because of the imposing danger of the Civil War in the novel and the imposing danger of World War II in Faulkner\'s life, the novel seems to be written in a frenzied style with a sense of a looming apocalypse or a sense of a contemporary world careening toward an apocalypse. Adding to this is a sense of a world about to explode, a world where progress could no longer be taken for granted. Another aspect of style is the growing anguish over race relations in American culture in the 1930s to 1940s, causing many of the writers, including Faulkner, to include in their novels the topic of mixed racial ancestry.
Secondly, for the narrative to be more than just characters conversing, one
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Absalom, Absalom!, Books of Samuel, Modernist literature, Thomas Sutpen, Yoknapatawpha County, William Faulkner, Absalom, The Sound and the Fury, Quentin Compson, Oxford, Mississippi
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