The multi-generational, racially complex family that Thomas Sutpen begets - five children with four different women - is at the center of one of Faulkner's major novels: Absalom, Absalom! (1936), where Faulkner uses it to explore the problematic history of the Old South and its racial legacy. Sutpen himself arrives in Yoknapatawpha in the early 1830s; Requiem for a Nun lists him along with the county's oldest, most prominent, upper class white families: "Sartoris and Stevens, Compson and McCaslin and Sutpen" (8). But the place occupied by this family in the larger Yoknapatawpha narrative is considerably smaller than those others. Faulkner first wrote about Sutpen, his second wife, and two of his children in the unpublished short story "Evangeline" in the early 1930s. Sutpens first appear in print in 1934, in the short story "Wash." After Absalom!, except for a brief reference in The Unvanquished (1938) to Sutpen’s son and to his "daughter's fiance" (222) - who as readers of Absalom! know is also Sutpen's son - the other members of Sutpen's family disappear from the fiction. The family name appears most of the lists Faulkner made of the county's major families; see "Appendix Compson," Requiem and The Town. Sutpen himself is mentioned in four later works, including Faulkner's last novel, The Reivers (1962), but not one of his wives, mistresses or descendants - which, given his own ambition to found a dynasty, seems deeply ironic. Faulkner's fiction is full of such ironies, but this erasure of the rest of the family can also be read as a kind of exorcism of the dark story they tell about the southern past.

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Sutpen Family Biography