Mrs. Jason Compson II

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Mrs. Jason Compson II
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Compson, Mrs. Jason II
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The wife of General Compson first appears in the mid-1930s in at least four of the Unvanquished stories and the novel Absalom, Absalom! In the stories she appears mainly in the pieces of a lady's equipment that she lends Rosa Millard on two occasions: a hat, a shawl and a parasol. But she appears in person at Rosa's funeral, where as a lady herself she wants a prominent minister to officiate and as a compassionate human being she invites Bayard and Ringo, a white boy and a black one, to "come home and live with her" until Bayard's father returns from the war (98) - both offers are rejected. Her own husband, General Compson, is also off at the war. (Half a dozen years later she is represented in Faulkner's reprise of the Unvanquished tales, "My Grandmother Millard," by the strategic way she deployed the sacred status of a 'lady' to successfully keep the Compson silver away from the Yankees.) In the novel Absalom! she appears in three different roles. At the time of her marriage she is "a stranger in Jefferson" who is left "in hysterics" after a visit from Rosa's aunt; in a comic variation on the theme of the continuing presence of the past, "even twenty years after that day" she refuses to discuss what happened (42). She is mentioned again as the source from whom her son learns about the way the slaves at Sutpen's mock Wash Jones during the Civil War (225) - perhaps because as a woman she remains in Yoknapatawpha after most of the local white men are, like her husband, away at the war. And because Judith Sutpen gives her the letter that Charles Bon wrote near the end of the war, this Mrs. Compson is the source of the one authenticated document from the story that is being reconstructed in the novel as a whole: from her hands through her son's that letter is passed on to Quentin and to us. Her last mention is in The Town, where in an intriguing variation on the theme of lending her hat to Rosa Millard, she is identified as the "old Mrs. Compson" who gave Old Het - an impoverished Negro - the "purple toque" that she has worn for "fifty years" (242). (She certainly may also be the "Mrs. Compson" who appears in another pre-Absalom! Unvanquished story, "Skirmish at Sartoris." We decided she isn't, but there's plenty of leeway for questioning our decision; see the entry on "Mrs. Quentin Compson II" for more information.)