Wash Jones

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Wash Jones
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Jones, Wash
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The title character of "Wash" can hardly be called its hero, but his story there and again in Absalom! acquires great moral force before it ends in blood and fire. Described in the novel as a "gaunt gangling man malaria-ridden with pale eyes and a face that might have been any age between twenty-five and sixty" (69), he survives as a "hanger-on of Sutpen," the richest planter in Yoknapatawpha (308). While most of the white men of the county are off fighting in the Civil War, Wash remains on the plantation, often being laughed at by the slaves for his apparent cowardice while in his own mind believing that he is taking care of the place in Sutpen's absence. Though he is not allowed to enter the mansion house, and is treated with contempt by other characters as a "brute" and "that brute progenitor of brutes" - to quote Rosa Coldfield in the novel (107) - he admires "the fine figure of the man" that Sutpen makes on his horse (226), and feels even a kind of pride when, after the War, Sutpen impregnates his fifteen-year-old granddaughter Milly, sure that a man of Sutpen's status will behave honorably. His devout faith in that "fine figure," however, and in the Southern cause that men like Sutpen epitomized, is destroyed after Milly gives birth to a daughter instead of the son Sutpen wants. The vengeance that Wash takes has its own unconventional nobility, although he and all that remains of his family perish along with Sutpen.

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