Major Characters in ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ by William Faulkner

“Absalom, Absalom!”  by William Faulkner was  first published in 1936. The novel is about three inter-related families in the American South before, during, and just after the American Civil War.

Thomas Sutpen is the owner and founder of the plantation called Sutpen’s Hundred. He resides in Yoknapatawpha County, near Jefferson, Mississippi. He is married to Ellen Sutpen nee Coldfield. He has two children by Ellen: Henry and Judith and one child by another marriage: Charles Bon. He is the father of yet another child, Clytemnestra, by a slave woman.  Thomas has an unconquerable will. He is a powerful man, who accomplishes his goals through cunning and audacity, but he lacks compassion. He is murdered by Wash Jones in 1869.

Charles Bon is the son of Thomas Sutpen and Eulalia Bon. Eulalia is the partly black daughter of the owner of a Haitian plantation.  A young Thomas Sutpen worked as an overseer on the plantation.  Upon learning that Eulalia was part black blood, Sutpen abandoned her and his son. Charles Bon and his mother then moved to New Orleans, where Charles lived until he attends the University of Mississippi in 1859.  Charles Bon is considered an urbane and sophisticated young man.

Ellen Coldfield Sutpen is Thomas Sutpen’s second wife. She is the mother of Henry and Judith Sutpen. She is a not very bright, flighty and excitable woman.

Rosa Coldfield is Ellen Coldfield Sutpen’s younger sister. She is the younger aunt of Henry and Judith Sutpen. Rosa is engaged to Thomas Sutpen after her older sister’s death, but she leaves him after he insults her. Rosa becomes a bitter spinster. She is obsessed with her anger and hatred of Thomas.

Henry Sutpen is Thomas Sutpen’s son by Ellen. He grew up on Sutpen’s Hundred and then attended the University of Mississippi starting in 1859. There he befriended his unknown half-brother, Charles Bon, whom he later murders. He is generally a well-meaning young man. He has his father’s ambition but lacks his father’s prudence.

Judith Sutpen is Thomas Sutpen’s daughter with Ellen. She, like her brother, grew up on Sutpen’s Hundred. She is engaged to Charles Bon, unknowingly her half-brother, in 1860. She is like her father, very strong-willed.

Clytemnestra Sutpen (“Clytie”) is the daughter of Thomas Sutpen and a slave woman. She grew up on Sutpen’s Hundred as a servant to her half-siblings Judith and Henry. She remained at the plantation until she burned the main house down in 1910. She is killed in the fire.

Wash Jones is a poor squatter living at the derelict fishing camp on Sutpen’s Hundred. He often performs odd jobs for, and then drinks whiskey with, Thomas Sutpen. He ultimately murders Thomas Sutpen in 1869.

Milly Jones is Wash Jones’ young granddaughter. She is seduced at fourteen by Thomas Sutpen and is made pregnant by him. She is murdered, along with Sutpen and their baby by her enraged grandfather using a rusty scythe shortly after giving birth to the child.

General Compson is Thomas Sutpen’s first friend in Yoknapatawpha County. He is a Brigadier General in the Confederacy Army during the Civil War. He is a distinguished citizen of Jefferson, Miss.

Quentin Compson is General Compson’s grandson. He represents the post-Civil War American South.  He attends Harvard in the first part in the early 1900s.


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