Unnamed Imported Slaves of Sutpen

Character Key Number: 
2472
Display Name: 
Unnamed Imported Slaves of Sutpen
Sort Name: 
Unnamed Imported Slaves of Sutpen
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 
Yes
Biography: 

In Absalom! these are the twenty "wild blacks" whom Sutpen brings as slaves to Yoknaptawpha in 1833 (4), from a French colony in the Caribbean; the "civilized language" which they speak (44) is "a sort of French" (27). Sutpen has a child - Clytemnestra - with one of the two slaves in this group who are women (48). The narrative repeatedly calls them "wild" (13, 16, etc.), and distinguishes them as a group from the "tame" slaves that Sutpen later acquires, through birth or purchase (17). Rosa characterizes them as being "like beasts half tamed to walk upright like men" (4). When Mr. Compson passes on to his son the story he heard from his father about using these slaves to track the runaway architect through the woods, he speculates that they may be cannibals expecting to eat their prey (206). Working with Sutpen, they build his huge mansion. For the entertainment of a white male audience, at least several of them wrestle with each other and with Sutpen - according to Rosa, "fighting not like white men fight . . . but like negroes" (20). During the Civil War, like "all of Sutpen's negroes," they self-emancipate by "following the Yankee troops away" (67). When Requiem for a Nun refers back to this original group, it identifies them as "thirty-odd men slaves" who are "even wilder and more equivocal than the native wild men" - i.e. the Indians (30). They speak the "Carib-Spanish-French of the Sugar Islands" - i.e. the Caribbean (30). (It should be noted that, though no one in either novel comments on the fact, after 1807 the U.S. government banned the importation of slaves.)