Sutpen Plantation (Location Key)


Sutpen's plantation has its origins in both Gothic fiction and Southern history. It first appears in the short story "Wash," where there is nothing to distinguish it from other Yoknapatawpha plantations with a "big house" and slaves (537). In the novel Absalom, Absalom!, though, it becomes "Sutpen's Hundred," the "biggest single" cotton plantation in antebellum Yoknapatawpha (56), "a hundred square miles of some of the best virgin bottom land in the country" (26). Realistically, even in the context of Faulkner's imaginary world Yoknapatawpha would have to be a lot larger to contain a plantation of that size, but the obvious effect Faulkner is after is 'bigness.' In the novel the story of the plantation, from its beginnings in the 1830s to its decay and eventual destruction in the early 20th century, is a synecdoche for the story of the South. At the very moment that the Civil War begins, Sutpen's Hundred is at the height of its prosperity. By the time Quentin Compson visits it and its ghosts on a dark summer night in 1909, the huge mansion - the "largest edifice" in the county, "bigger than the courthouse" (30), furnished with "crystal chandeliers" (33) and embellished with details like its "formal door beneath its fanlight imported pane by pane from Europe" (150) - "looms" like Poe's 'House of Usher': "square and enormous, with jagged half-toppled chimneys" and a "sagging" roofline, "with a smell of desolation and decay as if the wood of which it was built were flesh" (293). And by the end of the novel it's consumed in a fire that was started by one of Sutpen's own children, ironically to protect another of his children - both of whom perish with the house. As a plantation, it was originally worked by slaves; it is drastically reduced in size after the Civil War, when "a portion of the Sutpen plantation" is farmed "on shares" by Sutpen's own, unrecognized, grandson (169); still later the entire property "reverts to the state," and is "bought and sold and bought and sold again and again and again" (173). The other locations on the property described in the novel - the garden, the arbor, the gate and drive, the stable, the slave quarters, the graveyard and the store Sutpen opens - have their own Location entries in this index.

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Sutpen Plantation