Sutpen Character Analysis

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Sutpen’s design and ultimately his failure should be read in a larger context outside the personal history of the character. The fate of Sutpen is sealed once his realization takes hold of him. The traumatic affront prompts Sutpen to be a part of the same social structure that rebuked him for his poverty. Faulkner allows Sutpen to rise in social position by attempting to make him a part of Southern society that is plainly biased and preoccupied with a person’s social footing. Sutpen thereby is already a part of the same social group that he retaliate against, at least imaginatively so, by temporarily forgetting his personal history. In The Collective Memory, Halbwachs notes, “In reality, the continuous development of the collective memory…show more content…
where Sutpen successfully quells the uprising, the 1791 revolution overthrew the Spanish rule. Godden further notes that Faulkner clearly had enough knowledge of San Domingo to use the context in his novel. But then why Faulkner presents one of the key events in history in a false light? Godden argues “the recognition that slavery is an undeclared state of war, in which black revolution is a permanent risk, is Sutpen’s. His behavior as a slaveholder in Mississippi is eccentric but plain: on a regular and ritualized basis he organizes and participates in single combat with his slaves. While clearly slave codes were designed to police the peculiar institution on the understanding that black conspiracy was a fact of planter life” (254). The distrust Faulkner depicts through Sutpen aims at utilizing the codes to dispel any doubts regarding slave uprising. Godden continues, “Given that Faulkner wishes to foreground the continuous potential for revolution within the institution of slavery, he needs Haiti, the only successful black revolution. Given that he wishes to characterize the plantocracy as a class that suppresses revolution, he requires that his ur-planter suppress the Haitian revolution and go on doing so” (255). Sutpen is able to import his slaves from Haiti to Yoknapatawpha, make them work and build Sutpen’s Hundred. In doing so, he not only inflicts the trauma of displacement on the slaves but also constantly keep them well within the…show more content…
Sutpen rejects the rifle analogy since he realizes that in order to acquire the position of planter owner he himself has to create a plantation, acquire what the wealthy have, and so “to combat them you have got to have . . . land and niggers and a fine house to combat them with” (Absalom 192). Here the incorporation of Southern ideals is already beginning to take hold of Sutpen—thrusting him forward into a space that would be accrued by force and violence. Godden aptly puts as he writes “Sutpen can raise his plantation because, having experienced slavery as the suppression of revolution, he can, in his own defense, displace his knowledge that the master’s mastery depends upon the body and the consciousness of the bound man”

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