Goodhue Coldfield

Character Key Number: 
Display Name: 
Goodhue Coldfield
Sort Name: 
Coldfield, Goodhue
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 

In Absalom!, the man who is Rosa Coldfield's "papa" and Thomas Sutpen's father-in-law is "a Methodist steward, [and] a merchant" (11). He arrived in Jefferson from Tennessee half a decade before Sutpen, with a single wagonload of merchandise as the basis for his business. Mr. Compson calls him a "queer silent man whose only companion and friend seems to have been his conscience" (47), though apparently he compromises that when he and Sutpen work a mysterious deal that provides the rich furnishings for Sutpen's mansion. When he acquires two slaves "though a debt . . . not purchase" (68), he immediately manumits them, but withholds their free papers until as servants they earn the equivalent of their market value. During the Civil War he nails himself inside the attic of his house, where Rosa provides him with food until his death. Early on the narrative calls him "a conscientious objector on religious grounds" (6), but later it is suggested that the basis of his objection was not scriptural, but mercantile: "the idea of waste: of wearing out and eating up and shooting away material in any cause whatsoever" (65). The name "Coldfield" appears again twice in the fictions, on lists of the "oldest names in the county" ("Appendix Compsons," 330) and of the "new names" that began appearing not long after the first settlers arrived in Jefferson (Requiem for a Nun, 8).

Linked Characters