Absalom, Absalom!: Character Profiles

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Charles Bon:  Charles Bon is the son of Thomas Sutpen and Eulalia Bon. He is raised in New Orleans by his mother as a worldly Creole gentleman. He marries an "octoroon" or one-eighth African-American mistress, and has a son, Charles Etienne de St. Valery Bon. He attends the University of Mississippi, and becomes friends with Henry Sutpen. He visits Henry's home and meets his father, and becomes engaged to his half-sister, Judith. His father eventually forbids the wedding, and Bon and Henry ride off to war shortly thereafter. Both Henry and Bon survive the war, despite enormous odds against it, and Bon forces a return to the Sutpen family home to keep his engagement with Judith. Henry feels compelled to prevent the marriage, and murders Bon. His son eventually appears at Sutpen's Hundred.

Charles Etienne de St. Valery Bon:  Charles Etienne de St. Valery Bon is the child of Charles Bon and his unnamed mistress. He is brought to Sutpen's Hundred by Clytie after the death of his mother. He is light-skinned and often taken for white, and Jason Compson even suggests to him that he try to pass for white, advice that he clearly ignores. He marries a "full-blooded Negro" and fathers the last Sutpen, Jim Bond. He dies of yellow fever, which he passes to his aunt Judith, and that kills her.

Eulalia Bon:  Eulalia Bon is the mother of Charles Bon, repudiated wife of Thomas Sutpen, and daughter of a wealthy Haitian planter and a "mixed" mother. She ends up with her son in New Orleans after the abandonment.

Jim Bond:  Jim Bond is the last Sutpen, the only survivor of the house fire that Clytie starts in 1909. He is the son of Charles Etienne de St. Valery Bon and his "full-blood negro" wife, who is not named. He is an "idiot" similar to Benjy Compson, and his wailing at the end of the novel seems to be unstoppable. No one is able to get near enough to him to catch him.

Goodhue Coldfield:  Goodhue Coldfield is the father of Ellen and Rosa. He is a very conservative religious man and a shopkeeper. He allows the marriage between his daughter Ellen and Thomas Sutpen for some unexplained reason, and he provides wagons for Sutpen to carry his (apparently stolen) wealth to his property. (As Sutpen later tells General Compson, Sutpen came to Coldfield with a risky business proposition that Coldfield didn't expect would succeed, and when it did, he refused his share of the profits out of guilt.) He strongly objects to secession and speaks out against it, even waiting with a Bible to read verses about pacifism to passing Confederate troops. He hides from the Confederate draft and refuses to support the war effort in any way. He hides in his attic and eventually decides to starve himself, not eating the food his daughter sneaks in to him.

Rosa Coldfield:  Rosa Coldfield is one of the narrators of the book, and sister to Ellen. She is raised by her aunt, who sneaks out one night to marry a man that her brother, Goodhue Coldfield, does not approve of. Rosa is forced to care for her father, and sneaks him food during his period of hiding in the attic from Confederate constables. She becomes a well-known literary figure in the community, with many poems about Confederate heroes. After her father's death, she moves into the Sutpen house to be with her niece. When Sutpen returns and discovers that his son has disappeared and his wife is dead, he proposes to Rosa that they try having a child and get married if it is a boy. She refuses and returns to her former home, where she remains for forty years. In 1909, she summons Quentin Compson to her to tell him her side of the Sutpen story, and she invites him along a few months later when she returns to the Sutpen house to bring Henry into town. She narrates a significant portion of the book, and seems to enjoy her chance to tell her story.

General Jason Lycurgus Compson II:  General Jason Lycurgus Compson II, Quentin's grandfather, is an approximate contemporary of Sutpen's and more genteel parallel. Both he and Sutpen achieve fame in the Civil War (Compson loses an arm at Pittsburgh Landing), and he is one of the few people who establishes a friendship with Sutpen. General Compson is one of the few people who attend Sutpen's wedding with Ellen Coldfield, and General Compson lends Sutpen the seed cotton he needs to start his plantation. Because of this friendship, Sutpen speaks more frankly about his plans with General Compson than with virtually anyone else. Sutpen explains his origins to General Compson during a hunt for his runaway architect while still completing the house, and thirty years later, in Compson's office.

Jason Lycurgus Compson III:  Jason Lycurgus Compson III, Quentin's father, is another narrator of the story, to and through Quentin. He is a prominent Jefferson citizen with a known family history (which includes a general and a governor), and a lawyer's education. His fortunes are tied to the fortunes of the South, and his decline mirrors the South's decline. Because of his education and his mostly idle lifestyle, he becomes quite philosophical. His interest in the Sutpen family comes from various sources, including his father's relationship with Sutpen and with his own interest in the strange life of Charles Bon.

Quentin Compson:  Quentin Compson is the eldest son of Jason Lycurgus Compson III. He is a respected landowner and prominent planter in Jefferson, though his family fortunes are declining. Quentin attends Harvard in 1909 at considerable expense to his father, and rooms with a Canadian man named Shreve McCannon. Quentin and his family are the subject of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, where an entire chapter is dedicated to and narrated by/through Quentin, who commits suicide at the end of his section (in 1910). Quentin's confused relationship with his sister Caddy, and his confused relationship with the South, the scarred history of Mississippi, and his own grand family history connect and contribute to his fascination with the Sutpen family. Quentin hears multiple versions of the Sutpen story, through Rosa and his father. He and Shreve take turns narrating what they know and surmise about the story for the last few chapters of the book.

Milly Jones:  Milly Jones is the daughter of Melicent Jones, Wash's daughter. Not much is clear about her origins, except that her mother, Melicent, might have died (according to rumor) in a Memphis brothel. Thomas Sutpen bribes his way into her heart with baubles (beads and eventually a dress), and he fathers a child with her that, to Sutpen's disappointment, turns out to be a girl. Her grandfather murders her in outrage and frustration after he has murdered the father of her child, Thomas Sutpen.

Wash Jones:  Wash Jones is the lower-class white man who admires Sutpen as a kind of God, squats in Sutpen's fishing camp with permission, and who remains on Sutpen's Hundred to gather food for the women left behind. He was a frequent drinking partner of Sutpen's before and after the War, though Sutpen never invited him into his house. He shelters his granddaughter Milly, who falls victim to Sutpen's advances and then gives birth to a girl. When Jones hears Sutpen express complete disregard for Milly as a human being (saying something about keeping her in his stables), Wash becomes furious, both for Sutpen's disrespect of his granddaughter and his manipulation of a teenage girl. Wash murders Sutpen with a scythe; then, when the sheriff (Major de Spain) and a group of outraged men arrive to bring him to justice for the murder, he cuts his granddaughter's (and her child's) throats and rushes the men with the scythe. He is shot and killed.

Shreve McCannon:  Shreve McCannon is Quentin Compson's roommate at Harvard. He is a Canadian, interested in medicine, and intellectually curious about the South. He and Quentin narrate the last few chapters together, and he helps Quentin make guesses about some of the details in the complex Sutpen story.

Clytie (Clytemnestra Sutpen) :  Clytie (Clytemnestra Sutpen) is the child of Sutpen and an unnamed slave. She bears a mythological name that Quentin's father suggests was accidental, saying that Sutpen meant to name her Cassandra, the prophetess who no one would believe, instead of Clytemnestra, the wife and murderer of Agamemnon. She is a childhood friend of Henry and Judith, her half-brother and sister, and an important member of the Sutpen household. She is the one who forbids Wash Jones entry into the house in Sutpen's absence, and she is the one who remains in the house long after all the other Sutpen family has left. She fetches Charles Etienne de St. Valery Bon from New Orleans when his mother dies, and she does much of the housework and farming with Judith. She remains in the Sutpen house (or near the house in the shack built for Charles Etienne) after Judith's death, taking care of Jim Bond. She seems to be taking care of Henry for the few years that he hides there, and she is ultimately the destroyer of the house. She tries to prevent Rosa from discovering Henry in the house in mid-1909, and she sets fire to the house in late 1909 because she seems to fear that Rosa has brought the police to arrest Henry. The fire kills Henry and herself.

Ellen Coldfield Sutpen:  Ellen Coldfield Sutpen is given to Thomas Sutpen as a respectable wife for reasons not explained fully. She raises two children under less than ideal circumstances with a wealthy but unscrupulous husband. Her wedding becomes a public disgrace when townspeople throw rotten vegetables at her and her husband. She eventually becomes very public and very social, making a great show of riding about town and planning her daughter's wedding. When her husband forbids Judith's wedding to Charles Bon and Henry repudiates his inheritance, she becomes sick and eventually dies in 1862. On her deathbed, she asks her sister Rosa to take care of her children, Henry and Judith.

Henry Sutpen:  Henry Sutpen is the firstborn and only son (other than the repudiated Charles Bon) of Thomas Sutpen and Ellen Coldfield. He attends law school with his (unknown to him) half-brother Charles Bon at the University of Mississippi. He helps establish the engagement between Bon and his sister, Judith Sutpen, renounces his family when his father Thomas Sutpen forbids the marriage between Bon and Judith, rides to war with Bon, and murders Bon when he insists on marrying Judith despite being her half-sister. He disappears after killing Bon in 1865 and does not return to the Sutpen house until about 1905, where he hides until he is discovered by Rosa Coldfield and Quentin Compson. He dies when Clytie sets fire to the house.

Judith Sutpen:  Judith Sutpen is the daughter of Thomas Sutpen and sister of Henry Sutpen. She becomes engaged to Charles Bon just before the Civil War breaks out, and doesn't seem affected when her father forbids her marriage at Christmas in 1860. She remains behind when her father departs to join the Confederate Army, and she watches her mother die in 1863, and is fed by Wash Jones in her father's absence. Her brother murders her fiance in 1865 and leaves the corpse behind, then disappears, and she buries Charles Bon next to her mother. She has Clytie bring Bon's orphaned son to Sutpen's Hundred and helps raise him. Later, she attempts to nurse Charles Etienne de St. Valery Bon through yellow fever, but contracts it herself and eventually dies in 1884.

Thomas Sutpen:  Thomas Sutpen is the primary character and the primary source of conflict. He was born a poor white in West Virginia in 1807, part of a large family. His family moved to the Tidewater area of Virginia, and as a young man, he is refused entry to an opulent slaveowner's home by a well-dressed slave and told to enter through the back door. This "insult" leads Sutpen to dedicate himself to becoming wealthy and respectable. He seeks his fortune first in Haiti, where he proves invaluable to a wealthy planter in subduing a slave revolt. He is given the planter's daughter (Eulalia Bon) as a reward, and inherits a significant amount of wealth. He discovers, though, after he has fathered a child (Charles Bon) with this woman, that she has "negro blood," so he abandons her and the child, though he provides enough money for them to survive comfortably.

Here Sutpen enters Yoknapatawpha County in 1833, when it is still a young, frontier settlement. He negotiates a hundred-square mile plot of land from the Chickasaw leader, Ikkemotubbe, and sets out to build a plantation. He brings several "wild" slaves and a French architect onto the property and begins building. While constructing his new home, Sutpen secretly invites several men from the area to watch his slaves fight each other, and Sutpen often fights his slaves for the entertainment of others. At about this time, Sutpen fathers a child (at least one, Clytemnestra) with one of his female slaves. Sutpen brings a wagonload of finery to his property, and the townspeople suspect he has stolen it from a passing riverboat.

Sutpen convinces a respectable Jefferson man, Goodhue Coldfield, to let him marry his daughter, Ellen. They are married in 1838, despite being bombarded with dirt and rotten vegetables after the ceremony. Sutpen and Ellen have two children, Henry and Judith.

Sutpen prospers as a cotton farmer, and survives the resentment of his townspeople by becoming wealthy and powerful. He sends his son and heir, Henry, to the University of Mississippi, where he studies law. Henry makes friends with Charles Bon, who happens to be his half-brother. Henry brings Charles Bon to Sutpen's Hundred, and Sutpen vaguely recognizes him. After their departure, Sutpen goes to New Orleans (where Bon says he is from) and discovers both that Bon has an "octoroon" mistress and a child, and that Bon is his repudiated son. An engagement develops between Charles Bon and Judith Sutpen, mostly fueled by Ellen and, apparently, Henry. When Henry and Charles Bon return to Sutpen's Hundred at Christmas of 1860, Sutpen forbids the marriage because, he says, Bon is Judith's half-brother. Henry renounces his birthright and leaves with Bon for New Orleans. Ellen becomes sick and dies two years after this incident, in 1862.

The Civil War breaks out soon after, and Henry and Bon, as well as Sutpen, join the Confederate Army. Both Bon and Henry survive the war, and Bon returns to Sutpen's Hundred declaring to Henry that he intends to marry Judith. Henry, who now knows who Bon is, kills him, leaves the corpse with his sister to dispose of, and disappears.

Sutpen returns from the war with a commendation for valor. He quickly discovers that his son has disappeared and that his wife is dead. He wants to establish a family dynasty, and he needs an heir. He proposes to Rosa Coldfield, Ellen's much younger sister, who has taken up residence with his family, that they attempt to have a child, and that they get married if it is a boy. Rosa becomes so deeply offended that she leaves the Sutpen house and returns to her father's house for the next several decades, despite the death of Sutpen a few years after this proposal.

Sutpen continues to look for a way to produce an heir, and discovers the fifteen-year-old granddaughter of his poor white follower, Wash Jones. Milly becomes pregnant with Sutpen's child, and gives birth to the child on the same day as Sutpen's mare. Wash suspects that Sutpen has taken advantage of his granddaughter, and overhears Sutpen's disdain for Milly just after the birth of his great-granddaughter. Wash kills Sutpen with a scythe, outraged at the way that Sutpen treats his granddaughter and his great-granddaughter.

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