Tidewater Virginia (Location Key)


The description of the "nest of Tidewater plantations" (195) located in the "slack lowlands about the mouth of the James River" (178) where the Sutpens live and where Thomas finds (and loses) his innocence in Absalom! is perhaps Faulkner's most pointed representation of the system of plantation slavery. It is imagined as the antithesis of the egalitarian and still largely natural world where Sutpen was born in the mountains of western Viginia: Tidewater Virginia is "a country all divided and fixed and neat with a people living on it all divided and fixed and neat because of what color their skins happened to be and what they happened to own" (179). The most significant places in this place are the cabin where he and his family live, with its "rough partly rotten log walls" and "sagging roof" (190); the big house "two miles away," home of the planter for whom his father works, "the biggest house he had ever seen" (184); the quarters where this man's slaves live, with "their sound roofs and white wash," and the nearby commissary (185); the school which he attends "for about three months one winter" (194); and the hiding place to which he retreats after being ordered away from the front door of the big house - "a place where a game trail entered a cane brake and an oak tree had fallen across it and made a kind of cave" (188). If 'westward' in America's national mythology is associated with the quest for freedom, especially freedom from the evils of the Old World, then it is very significant that Sutpen "falls" into this world by traveling east (180).

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