As physical beings we exist in that spatial-temporal order designated as “nature.” But as human beings we also exist in an exclusive realm of “consciousness,” which might be described as a vast, collective energy field made up of the signs, i.e. “language,” by which humans endeavor to make sense of their existence. This field is beyond the grasp of any single human being, not only its vast and oceanic proportions but its dynamic, protean, organic flow resisting ownership by a single instance of consciousness. Perhaps one individual has tapped into this immense reservoir more completely, more directly, more vitally than any other single member of the human race–William Shakespeare. Who else even comes close to harnessing the stream and containing the flood long enough to permit the rest of us some sense of its unlimited potential.
Despite the Bard’s uniqueness as the fountainhead, the matrix, the mother of modern Western consciousness, a handful of succeeding language-bearers have proven capable of tapping into the same source. In American literature, and certainly literature of the 20th-century, Faulkner is the chosen one, the Promethean genius who affords the rest of us an opportunity to ride the stream.
As a preceding reviewer has suggested, there’s no way to summarize “Absalom, Absalom!” without misrepresenting it. The “themes” are the mere toeholds Faulkner offers to readers who try to mount the surfboard and stay with the churning, changing syntax and shifting referents of his 500-word sentences long enough to reach the beachhead. Even getting thrown (which is inevitable on many of the more torrential tidal waves) is, to say the least, a heady if not visceral and energizing experience. Despite the unique achievements of “As I Lay Dying,” “Sound and the Fury,” “Light in August,” and “Go Tell It to the Mountain,” this is Faulkner’s most impressive and most rewarding novel. It’s likely to frustrate, but don’t quit on it. It’s capable of paying more dividends than any other American literary work. Compare Faulkner’s story about Thomas Sutpen and his “Grand Design” to any similar stories about the “American Dream”–by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wolf, Steinbeck–or to any of the subsequent writers said to be “Faulknerian” in their style. The others are suddenly diminished, and the singular achievement of this Southern, uneducated, probably possessed, alcoholic becomes all the more remarkable.
... Street banker, to that of the inner city African-American single parent family and, different again from the family in ... the already shrinking portion of the Dream available. Although American society generally has become more tolerant of racial differences, ... prevented certain minority groups, especially blacks, from reaching the American Dream. More recently, opposition to immigration has been rising ...
Most of us would do well to write more simply and concisely ourselves and to bring suspicious minds to verbiage that seems disproportionate to its actual content and meaning. But there’s no need to be suspicious of Faulkner’s story or storytelling style. Simply trust it. The style and meaning are a match, a perfect fit. Faulkner’s meanings about the tragedy of a “grand design” gone wrong become significant because of our underlying sense of one that is going right.
As for the novel’s heart, it’s as big as its creator’s–compassionate, humble, loving of all creatures born equal under God. The novel’s tough but key question–which regrettably, some readers fail even to ask–is: what is the difference between the “illegitimate” offspring of a white plantation owner/black slave relationship and the “despised” child of an octoroon? The answer to that question is the novel’s great epiphany, the moment in which the reader recognizes his own place in the narrative and is one with Faulkner’s world.
... weakness in character are prbably the mst crippling. Faulkners writing reflected the cmmn theme f wmen thrugh ut ... by emptiness, a life withut meaning. I culd just remember hw my father used t ... tk in prmises, wrds that did nt have any meaning. All her life she lived in wrds, surrnded ... the reader think abut lve and relatinships and the meaning f lve and relatinships f ther peple. Caddys ...