Epistemology is the science of how we know. It strives to draw connections in order to clarify abstract concepts such as meaning and reality. These are broad subjects and each has many of its own sub-divisions. Meaning and reality, however, are closely tied to both personal and/or private identity. Your reality is the current life you live in as it actually is while your meaning is the goal you set for yourself to accomplish in your reality. The combination of your surroundings, what you do, and what drives those actions are what create an identity? Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! focuses on the nature of historical understanding and our relation to the past in order to relay truths about meaning and reality. Faulkner gives the reader the stories of Thomas Sutpen, Charles Bon and Quentin Compson in order to show the reader all the different kinds of ways that meaning and reality end up meaning identity.
There are several paths to discovering a meaning or understanding your reality. One of these paths does not require any discovery whatsoever. In fact, the path that Thomas Sutpen chose is the path that is drawn out by society. Thomas Sutpen, the grand architect of the debacle that is the Sutpen genealogy, is born as white trash and throughout the story desperately tries to make a name for his self and all previous and future Sutpens. He has a step by step plan set out that actually seems pretty straightforward: get land, get slaves, marry a white woman, have a male heir so that your name doesn't get forgotten. This plan seems to be all business even though it talks about marriage and family.
[...] If you follow Charles Bon's path you'll have an identity that has a stable and unwavering “meaning” but one who's “reality” can change with the blowing of the wind. Finally, if you follow Quentin's path, you will find out who you truly are but, as was unfortunately so for Quentin, this revelation may shatter you and leave you with knowledge of who you are but it will strip you of your identity. But even after you go down a certain path, which path you chose tells you more about who you are than does the end of the road. References Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom!. Random House, 1926. Print. [...]
[...] Henry does do it a little more severely though (by seceding from his family) when compared to Quentin who left for Harvard. They are both tied together with implied incestual desires for their respective sisters; and they both want to defend their sisters' honor (Henry shoots Charles; Quentin tries to fight off Dalton Ames). Quentin, on some level, begins to draw some connections too. Quentin (in The Sound and the Fury) commits suicide while Henry pretty much does the same by helping Clytie light the fire. To Quentin, talking to Henry Sutpen was like talking to a future version of himself. [...]
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