Eulalia Sutpen Bon

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Eulalia Sutpen Bon
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Bon, Eulalia Sutpen
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In Absalom! the first wife of Thomas Sutpen and the mother of Charles Bon is not given a name until the "Genealogy" that appears after the narrative proper, where she is identified as "Eulalia Bon" (307). She is the "Haiti-born" daughter of a French sugar planter (268). When she first appears in the narrative, it is as "a shadow that almost emerged for a moment and then faded again" (199) - the elusiveness of this is entirely appropriate. Sutpen tells General Compson that her mother "had been a Spaniard" (203), but later tells his son Henry that in fact she was "part negro" (283), which is the reason why Sutpen felt he had to divorce her. The novel does provide one detailed description of her, as an embittered old woman living in New Orleans: "the slight dowdy woman with untidy gray-streaked raven hair coarse as a horse's tail, with parchment-colored skin and implacable pouched black eyes which alone showed no age because they showed no forgetting . . ." This description seems entirely convincing, until the narrator adds "whom Shreve and Quentin had invented . . ." This seems conclusively to discredit the description, until the narrator adds "and which was probably true enough" (268). Whether, as Sutpen believes, she was "part negro," and thus, by the ideological terms of the South in which he seeks to establish a dynasty, it was "impossible that this woman" could "be incorporated in my design" (212); or whether, as Shreve and Quentin's reconstruction asserts, she in fact did raise her son to seek revenge on the man who "cast you and me aside" (238) - these are questions that remain unresolved in the text.