Ellen Coldfield Sutpen

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Ellen Coldfield Sutpen
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Sutpen, Ellen Coldfield
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This character is barely mentioned as "Mrs. Sutpen," Thomas' only wife, in "Wash," but as Ellen Coldfield Sutpen, his second wife in Absalom!, she presents a different image of the plantation mistress than someone like Rosa Millard, who presides over the Sartoris plantation in The Unvanquished. In Absalom! Ellen is the daughter of a merchant. She is described as "small-boned" but also "what is known as fullbodied" (51). According to the storytellers, Sutpen marries her to gain respectability. The novel does not speculate on why she married Sutpen, but it describes her as very happy in the "the part which she had written for herself": "chatelaine to the largest [plantation], wife to the wealthiest, mother of the most fortunate" (54), blithely encouraging the courtship and anticipating the marriage of her daughter with the apparently very eligible Charles Bon - until reality, in the form of the trouble between her husband and her son and the exactions of the Civil War, prostrate her. She is last seen in 1863 "dying in bed in a darkened room" where she had spent the last two years of her life (61, 62).