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Free Study Guide-Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner-Free Book Notes
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William Faulkner's novels are set in the American South, most of them in a mythical county Faulkner created called Yoknapatawpha. Located in Northeastern Mississippi, this county resembles Faulkner's native Lafayette County. Most of the action in Absalom, Absalom! occurs at Thomas Sutpen's plantation and in the nearby town of Jefferson. Chapters six through nine are ostensibly set in the Harvard apartment of Quentin Compson and his fellow student, Shrevlin McCannon, in 1910, though the two students spend much of their time discussing events of the past.


Major Characters & Narrators

Thomas Sutpen

The enterprising son of a poor farmer from West Virginia who comes to Jefferson in 1833 and founds the Sutpen estate. This colorful character, who forms the hub of the novel, is killed by Wash Jones, a poor white squatter on his land.

Henry Sutpen

The son of Thomas by Ellen Coldfield and heir to the Sutpen estate. He kills his half-brother, Charles Bon, to prevent him marrying his sister, Judith.

Judith Sutpen

Henry's sister. She falls in love with Charles Bon, unaware that he is her half-brother.

Clytie (or Clytemnestra) Sutpen

The Mulatto daughter of Thomas Sutpen by one of his slaves who is older than Judith and Henry. She defends the estate, but burns it in the end.

Eulalia Bon Sutpen

The Haitian wife of Thomas Sutpen. Thomas Sutpen casts her off in 1831 upon discovering that she has Negro blood. She dies in New Orleans.

General Compson

Sutpen's best friend in Jefferson and a noted veteran of the Civil War. He admires men of action like Sutpen, being one himself.

Jason Compson III (or Mr. Compson)

The son of General Compson. He is the voice of the community in Jefferson, full of fantasy and facts in his storytelling.

Quentin Compson

The son of Mr. Compson. A Harvard student, Quentin feels the burden of his Southern heritage.

Shreve (or Shrevlin) McCannon

The Canadian roommate of Quentin at Harvard and the only outsider in the novel. He brings an objective, comic, ironic touch to the narration with his judgments.

Ellen Coldfield

The elder daughter of Goodhue Coldfield, a local merchant. She marries Thomas Sutpen in 1838 and bears him two children, Henry and Judith. She enjoys her life as a wealthy planter's wife.

Rosa Coldfield

Ellen Coldfield's younger sister by twenty-seven years. She views Sutpen as a demon, for he suggests she bear him a male heir and then marry him. Rosa is both a participant in the Sutpen saga and a narrator of the saga, thus acting as a link between past and present.

Goodhue Coldfield

Rosa and Ellen's father who is a morally upright and respectable storekeeper in Jefferson. He is opposed to slavery in theory, but harsh on his Negro workers. He refuses to sell goods to the desperate community during the Civil War and withdraws into his attic, where he dies in 1864.

Charles Bon

The one-sixteenth Negro son of Thomas Sutpen by Eulalia Bon. He falls in love with Judith, his half-sister. He is killed by Henry at the gates of the plantation.

Charles Etienne Saint Valery Bon (or Charles Etienne de Saint Velery Bon)

The son of Charles Bon and his Octoroon mistress. He comes to Jefferson in 1870 and is taken into the Sutpen home by Judith and Clytie.

Jim Bond

The idiot son of Charles Etienne and his Negro wife.

Wash Jones

A poor white man who lives on Sutpen's land. He murders Thomas Sutpen when Sutpen rejects Milly Jones, Jones' granddaughter, after she bears Sutpen a daughter.

Minor Characters

Miss Rosa Coldfield's Aunt

A strange, eccentric character who lives with the Coldfields and influences Rosa's upbringing.


A coon hunter who spies on Sutpen's plantation and reports what he sees in Jefferson.

Judge Benbow

The lawyer who manages Rosa Coldfield's legal affairs and handles her financial work. He has a secret admiration for Rosa and pays her bills out of his gambling winnings

Percy Benbow

The son of Judge Benbow. He discovers his father's secret admiration for Rosa.

Major de Spain

The sheriff who investigates Sutpen's murder and kills Wash Jones.

Jim Hamblett

The justice who presides at the trial of Charles Etienne Saint Valery Bon when he is accused of disrupting the peace of Jefferson.

Alexander Holston

The owner of Holston House, a hotel in Jefferson.


The Indian chief who sells Thomas Sutpen his land in 1833.

Melicent Jones

Wash Jones' daughter. She is rumored to have died in a Memphis brothel.

Milly Jones

Melicent's daughter. She is seduced at fifteen by the sixty-year-old Thomas Sutpen.

Unnamed Infant

The daughter of Thomas Sutpen and Milly Jones who lives for only one day.

Colonel Willow

An officer of the Confederate Army. He reports Henry's injury to Sutpen during the Civil War.

Colonel John Sartoris

The man whom Sutpen replaces as a commanding officer during the Civil War.


The rich plantation owner from whose front door Sutpen is turned away early in his life.

Theophilus McCaslin

The man who helps bury Charles Bon. He is also known as "Uncle Buck" in William Faulkner's other novels.


A Negro lad who is frightened off the Sutpen plantation by Clytie.

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