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NOTES FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION: THE GRAND DESIGN OF WILLIAM FAULKNER'S ABSALOM, ABSALOM! Maxine Rose The University of Alabama The title of William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom! echoes King David's poignant lament that contains perhaps the saddest words in the Old Testament and provides the first clue to the reader that the Bible is to be a shaping influence in this novel which Faulkner once said was "the best novel yet written by an American. . . ."' A number of Faulkner scholars and critics have written briefly and generally of the significance of the ironic title and of some of the specific parallels between Absalom, Absalom! and the Bible, particularly the major David analogues.2 However, there is more to be examined than just the David story called attention to in the title, for in a sense the whole Bible is relevant to an understanding of the work's design. Because the biblical allusions are so subtly and unobtrusively woven into a story which bristles with classical, Elizabethan, and modern allusions, a rather close analysis of the complex and many-layered biblical references is necessary in order to discover how the architectonics of the Bible provide a significant new clue to the puzzling design of Absalom, Absaloml Not only does Faulkner make occasional use of biblical parallels in Absalom, Absaloml, but there is in this novel an overarching of structure that coincides with that of the Bible. Diction, rhythm, and syntax combine with theme, character, and image parallels to undergird the complex biblical framework. The modes of narration complete the epochal progression from Genesis to Revelation. Though these epochs overlap and the divisions are never sharply defined, the following biblical periods are echoed in Absalom, Absaloml: the antediluvian age, the period of the Old Law, the time of the Judges, the rise of the monarchy, the era of wisdom literature, the time of the prophets, the advent of the New Law, and the final Apocalypse. The two major antagonists of the Bible, God-Jesus and Satandemon -dragon, are powerful cosmic parallels for Sutpen and Bon and provide possibilities for divine and human qualities to exist in paradoxical God-Satan combinations. The multiple parallels allow Faulkner 220Notes the freedom he needs and give the characters and action the heroic proportions they demand. The Biblical patterns reflected in Absalom, Absaloml contain the history of Israel from before the creation through the end of the created world. Not only do these patterns include the whole of human history, but the parallels with God-Satan extend the perspective to heaven and hell and the time to eternity. In chapter one oíAbsalom, Absaloml Thomas Sutpen appears as a god-like character creating Sutpen's Hundred out of the soundless nothing, as God created the world in Genesis 1. Even the order of the creation is preserved in chapters one and two, the days of Genesis corresponding to years in Absalom, Absalom! Sutpen appears in Jefferson on a Sunday, the first day of the week; he emerges "bat-like" from primeval darkness and delimits the chaotic waters, represented by images of slimy mud, swamps, and alligators. Next, he builds gardens and plants cotton. Then the animals appear as the animals are created after the plants in the Genesis One account. Sutpen creates his estate in five years, then brings forth a son in the sixth year as God brought forth Adam on the sixth day; and Sutpen creates Clytie "in his own image" as God created Adam in his own image (Genesis 1:27).3 In many of the parallels with Genesis, Sutpen is also Adam as well as God and is therefore a god-man. Sutpen names all of his creation (p. 62), as Adam names all the living creatures in Genesis 2 (Genesis 2: 19-20). Sutpen and his assistants are stark naked (p. 37), as Adam was naked in the garden (Genesis 2: 19-20). When Quentin and Shreve recreate this incident, all of Shreve's body that is visible is naked like the naked earth-man Adam in the Garden of Eden, and the nakedness motif ties together the 1833 Sutpen experience with the 1909 recreation of that experience. Next...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 219-228
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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