What Might Have Been in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! Essay

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What Might Have Been in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! Emerging from and dwelling within an all-consuming lamentation, the characters of William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! enwrap themselves in a world of hurt wherein they cannot or will not release the past. Each comes to know the tragic ends of lingering among an ever-present past while the here and now fades under fretful shadows of days gone by. As the narrative progresses. the major players in this installment of Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County grow ever more obsessed by what alternative actions different circumstances might have afforded. Trapped in his/her own notions of "what might have been" (115), Miss Rosa Coldfield's wistful, yet indignant exhortation, the…show more content…
In getting at Miss Rosa's might have been, consider the townspeople's propensity to speculate. In her introductory account of Sutpen, Miss Rosa says, "Anyone could have looked at him once and known that he would be be lying about who and where and why he came" (11). From the start, the townspeople of Jefferson concoct the basest notions of Sutpen's origins and business dealings. Mr. Compson tells how the town ruminated over Sutpen's time away: [They] pictured him during [his] absence with a handkerchief over his face and the two pistols glinting beneath the candelabra of a steamboat's saloon... [or doing] something performed in the lurking dark of a muddy landing and with a knife from behind. (33) Though some answers to the town's questions about Sutpen come in time, initial uncertainties and allegations invite the reader to participate in the guesswork as well, adding an interactive dimension to the suppositional tension which has already been initiated. Thus, the reader too can consider what might have been. But where the town comes to merely tolerate Sutpen. the reader gains access to information that fosters some degree of sympathy for him. Consider's Sutpen's narrative (through General Compson to
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