Charles Sutpen Bon

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Charles Sutpen Bon
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Bon, Charles Sutpen
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Charles Bon is a major character in Absalom!, although none of the novel's four main narrators ever saw him. Faulkner's first account of him appears in "Evangeline," a story he tried unsuccessfully to sell in mid-1931; there 'Charles Bon' is an orphan from New Orleans who marries Judith Sutpen and is killed by Judith's brother Henry at the end of the Civil War, apparently because Henry discovers he is already married to a woman with "negro blood." The story contains no hint that he is either Thomas Sutpen's son or part Negro. Why Henry kills Bon is the mystery that organizes Absalom. It is apparently resolved when two of the novel's narrators, Quentin and Shreve, learn at the end that Bon himself is part Negro, although that fact is not known to anyone in Yoknapatawpha except Bon's father, his half-brother and Quentin Compson, and in the end it may not even be a 'fact' at all. Such is the ambiguous nature of Absalom! as a story about the way people construct stories and histories. Each of its narrators casts Bon in a different kind of narrative. To Mr. Compson, for whom Bon is "the curious one" (74), he is an "indolent fatalist" (83), "miscast for the time and knowing it" (78). To Rosa, he is "Charles Bon, Charles Good, Charles-Husband-soon-to-be" (119), one of the Confederate heroes about whom she writes poetry. Shreve and Quentin first cast him as an unloved and psychologically homeless child longing for his father's recognition, before Shreve ends up calling him a "black son of a bitch" (286). The chronology that Faulkner provides as an appendix to the novel says that Bon's mother "has negro blood" (305), but the chronology contains unmistakable errors and is arguably unreliable. Bon is referred to again, though not by name, in The Unvanquished; in that one mention - Sutpen's "son killed his daughter's fiancé on the eve of the wedding and vanished" (222) - the powerful questions that the character of "Bon" raises in Absalom! don't come up at all. Ultimately Faulkner's readers have to answer the question "who is Charles Bon?" for themselves - or decide that, like the past itself, he is inescapable but unknowable.

SOURCE: "Evangeline" was published posthumously, by Joseph Blotner in 1979 in Uncollected Stories, pages 583-609. Since Faulkner never published it, however, it is not included in Digital Yoknapatawpha.