Western Virginia (Location Key)


In Absalom! Thomas Sutpen was born in the mountains of western Virginia. By 1863 that would be "West Virginia," as Quentin calls it, but as Shreve reminds him, "West Virginia" didn't exist as a separate entity until 1861, when the people in that region seceded from Virginia after Virginia seceded from the Union, and didn't exist as a state until 1863, when it was admitted to the U.S. (179). The narrative's depiction of Sutpen's birthplace relies on a set of simplifications that sharply distinguish it as a rugged frontier from the older, more socially stratified slave-holding regions of the South. In the mountains, "the only colored people are Indians," "the land belongs to anybody and everybody," nobody owns more "objects" than anybody else (179) - and everyone lives in democratically similar cabins that "didn't have back doors" that a ragged boy could be told he had to use (188).

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