Most Faulkner lovers remember two bracketing passages from Absalom, Absalom! with special clarity. In the first, Shreve McCannon, a Canadian freshman at Harvard, asks his Mississippian roommate, Quentin Compson, to explain his homeland. " Tell about the South" he demands. " What's it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all." In reply, Quentin tells Shreve the tragic, convoluted saga of the Sutpen family, scarred by hubris, violence, brutality, racial oppression, miscegenation, and misplaced honor. It's not a pretty story, but when it's finally told, Shreve asks Quentin something else. " Why do you hate the South?'" he wonders, and evokes a famous answer. " ? dont hate it,' Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; ? dont hate it,' he said. I dont hate //he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: Idont. Idont! Idont hate it! Idont hate it!" It's a curious question and a curious answer. If Shreve believes that Quentin hates the South, there ought not to be any mystery about why: his lurid tale of sin and destruction would be enough to make lots of young people hate their birthplaces.
Southern Cultures – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jan 4, 1998
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