Judith Sutpen

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Judith Sutpen
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Sutpen, Judith
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Sutpen's daughter Judith first appears in the prequel to Absalom!, the short story "Wash"; though her character is barely sketched, her actions often anticipate her story in the novel. As "Miss Judith" she lives alone in the big house on the Sutpen plantation during much of the Civil War, after the deaths of her mother and brother and while her father is away fighting (541). After the war, she remains with her father, helping Wash Jones put him to bed when he gets drunk and helping Wash's fifteen-year-old granddaughter Milly sew a dress for the wedding that, although it never happens, would have made Milly her step-mother. Her character comes into much clearer - and more poignant - focus in Absalom!, though as the daughter and sister in this novel about fathers and sons. Mr. Compson describes her as "the hoyden who could - and did - outrun and outclimb, and ride and fight both with and beside her brother" (52). Mr. Compson also refers to the "curious and unusual relationship" between these siblings (79), calling them "that single personality with two bodies" (73), but on the whole the narrative emphasizes the differences in their character and their fates. Stronger than her brother, Judith is nonetheless left at home while he rides away twice - first with her fiance and next after killing her fiance. Her story is largely neglected and she herself largely silent. In her one long speech, she talks to Quentin's grandmother about the human longing to leave "something that would make a mark" to outlast time in words that are not only eloquent but recognizably Faulknerian (101), but the written words she passes on preserve her dead fiance's voice and experience, not her own. What the novel does show about Judith's life, however, testifies to her emotional and psychological strength: the girl who could stoically watch her father wrestling with his slaves becomes the woman who can keep up the failing plantation while her father is away at the war, who invites the woman she thinks was her fiance's mistress to visit the grave she made for him, and who, a "unwived widow" (110), adopts the orphan son of her murdered fiance and does the best she can to help him escape his vexed inheritance. She cannot escape hers. She dies of smallpox contracted while taking care that son inside her father's house.