|“Yes, shadowy: a myth, a phantom: something which they engendered and created whole themselves; some effluvium of Sutpen blood and character, as though as a man he did not exist at all” (Absalom, Absalom! 82)|
As the narrative unfolds in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936)1, Charles Bon’s flickering personas appear before the eyes of the reader like a phantasmagoria. As the narrator changes from Rosa, to Mr. Compson, and to Quentin and Shreve, Bon transforms accordingly “from ‘Charles Good, Charles Husband-Soon-to-be’ into decadent white Creole, into brother, into ‘the nigger that’s going to sleep with your sister’ [. . .]” (Ladd 526). Thus Philip M. Weinstein calls Bon “the most extravagantly reinvented character,” regarding him as “the erotic center” (180) of Absalom, Absalom! Fredrick R Karl also ventures to say that Bon’s ghostly presence “hovers over the entire novel, which while it doesn’t seem to be about him is, in actuality, almost always about him” (211). As these critics note, his growing presence is felt as the novel progresses and by the end Bon dominates the novel, as an object of increasing infatuation for the narrators as well as for the reader.
Although some critical attention has begun to center on the figure of Charles Bon since the 1990s with the trend of transnational readings, his kaleidoscopic transformation deserves more critical scrutiny. Yet, Bon is so tightly interwoven in the threads of tangled narrative that it is difficult to unravel him. Considering the fact that none of the narrators2 have a firsthand contact with Bon, what makes him so difficult to grasp is, precisely, the narrators’ imaginative reconstruction of the past. Hortense Spillers explains the workings of the narrative reconstruction in Absalom, Absalom! as follows: “The work plunders and reworks itself as narrators not only elaborate what they cannot have known, but also correct passed-down information, fill in gaps, piece together disparities, disprove or improve inherited conclusions, assume identities, even invent new ones, that the novel has not embedded” (9). Since Bon as “an image” (58) cannot speak for himself, he perpetually lures the others to envision him through their own eyes, to render their own re-visions of the previous versions.
Though we cannot ever know “the truth” about Bon, this paper attempts to shed light on the narrative reconstruction of Charles Bon, who is always already re-created through the imagination of the narrators. What is left to us, as Donald M. Kartiganer succinctly puts it, are “the imaginers and their imaginings, whose ultimate meaning is always dubious but whose brilliantly realized actions we cannot forget or leave uninterpreted” (xxiv). Imagined by the historically situated narrators, Charles Bon, “their imaginings,” tells more eloquently about “the imaginers” themselves. Throughout the novel, specifically, Charles Bon is identified with the places, first with New Orleans and then with Haiti. This paper aims to examine this metonymic function of Charles Bon and to uncover the ambivalence of American imagination conjured up from the glimpse of the repressed history of American imperialism. The first section, “Mr. Compson’s Vision: Charles Bon and New Orleans,” deals with Mr. Compson’s narrative reconstruction of Charles Bon. Mr Compson’s imagining of Bon as a metonymy of the cityscape of New Orleans will be explored in the context of Louisiana Purchase. The second section, “Re-Vision of Quentin and Shreve: Charles Bon and Haiti,” investigates the revision of Mr. Compson’s rendition by Quentin and Shreve in regard to the linkage of Bon and Haiti The narrators create Bon as “some effluvium of Sutpen blood and character,” as the shadow of his father, and thus weave a companion story to Sutpen’s.
|Charles Bon. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Died at Sutpen’s Hundred, Mississippi, May 3, 1865. Aged 33 years and 5 months. (Absalom, Absalom! 155)|
Compson recounts Charles Bon as a wealthy, sophisticated white French
from New Orleans, “from that worldly and even foreign city” (58). Since he
“possess[es] merely the name of a city for [his] origin history and past”
(77), Bon is identified with New Orleans for the rest of Compson’s
narrative, fulfilling a metonymic function.
Mr. Compson’s narrative focuses on the mentor-protégé relationship between Charles Bon and Henry; yet, surprisingly, he contextualizes this relationship into the colonial discourse of enlightenment, formulating them respectively as “the civilized” and “the savage.” For example, Compson portrays Charles Bon’s influence over Henry by employing the metaphor of “cultivation,” signifying both the “appropriation” of the land and the “enlightening” of the indigene: “I can imagine how Bon . . . prepar[ed] Henry’s puritan mind as he would have prepared a cramped and rocky field and planted it and raised the crop which he wanted” (87). Cultivating Henry is like fertilizing a virgin land. Since Henry and his classmate “aped his clothing and manner and (to the extent they were able) his very manner of living” (76), Henry is a fitting example of the colonized who partially “mimics”4 the colonizer, Charles Bon.
Moreover, Mr. Compson represents Charles Bon as the conqueror not only of Henry and his classmates but also of the inhabitants of Jefferson. Bon, as if to tread Sutpen’s path of appropriating the land begotten from the natives, invades and conquers the puritan Sutpens family: “ He came into that isolated puritan country household almost like Sutpen himself came into Jefferson: apparently complete, without background or past or childhood [. . .]” (74). Compson describes Bon’s visit to Sutpen’s Hundred as a “Roman consul” overseeing his province: “a youthful Roman consul making the Grand Tour of his day among the barbarian hordes which his grandfather conquered, benighted in a brawling and childish and quite deadly mud-castle household in a miasmic and spirit-ridden forest” (74). Or, Compson calls the Sutpens and the Coldfields “people . . . who have not quite yet emerged from barbarism, who two thousand years hence will still be throwing triumphantly off the yoke of Latin culture and intelligence of which they were never in any great permanent danger to begin with” (75). Here, in his imagination, the Anglo-Saxon Americans of Jefferson are the barbarians who live in a primitive land, who should be colonized by Bon, the representative of a major European power.
As stated above, Mr. Compson constantly sets Charles Bon in opposition to Henry: Latin/Anglo-Saxon, French/Southerner, and Catholic/puritan. By formulating the prelateship between Bon and Henry as that of “the colonizer” and “the colonized,” he is sketching out a map of the South, drawing New Orleans, itself a colony of some European Latin country, as colonizing the innocent land of South from within.
However, around the 1860s when Bon and Henry meet at the university, New Orleans in fact flourished as one of the largest cities in the United States. Nouvelle Orleans, a colony of France, made a new step forward as an American city as early as 1803, when it was renamed New Orleans with the Louisiana Purchase. By 1859, according to Joseph Roach, New Orleans had developed into an interactive site where intra- and trans-national collision of capital, goods, and business occurs: “New Orleans . . . had become America’s fourth largest city and one of its busiest ports, a circum-Caribbean cosmopolis . . . through which the commerce of the nation’s regions and world’s nations passed” (179-80). New Orleans became an important trading post for the accumulation of the wealth.
More than 55 years after the Louisiana Purchase, for Mr. Compson and his fellow Mississippians, New Orleans is still a French colony and Bon, as Wash Jones calls him, a “French feller” (106). If Bon is a “foreigner,” then New Orleans must exist as the “foreign city” within the South. This very scheme suggests that New Orleans was practically under the colonization of the United States as an “internal colony”; for, according to the definition of Anne McClintock, “[i]nternal colonization occurs where the dominant part of a country treats a group or region as it might a foreign colony” (88). Yet in his narrative, in order to negate the “internal colonization” of New Orleans, Compson reverses the role of Charles Bon as the colonized by representing him as the subjugator of Henry instead. The reversal of the roles between Bon and Henry in his representation shows unwittingly his agenda of a WASP southerner who wants to deny the very fact of the incorporation of New Orleans, now flourishing as an American metropolitan city.
Although Mr. Compson reverses the roles of Charles Bon and Henry, something that has already happened in the past, contradicts his scheme. Just as undeniable Americanization of New Orleans refutes his imagination, Henry’s murder of Charles Bon stands as an antithetical contradiction, an oxymoron: Charles Bon is a “conquerer [sic] vanquished”; Henry, a “vanquished conquering” (95). Confronted with the reality, Mr. Compson is forced to assign a new identity on Charles Bon. Incongruent to his former representation of Charles Bon as the foreign colonizer, Compson now recreates CharlesBon as a double of the mixed-race courtesan, the one who is racially and sexually different.
Mr. Compson depicts the cityscape of New Orleans where Henry and Bon go to after Henry renounced his birthright in 1860. Around this time, the city of New Orleans had already become a place associated with the erotic where compellingly stirs up one’s imagination: “the city of New Orleans itself becomes the ludic space, the behavioral vortex, for the rest of the nation” (Roach 231). Especially, Compson’s portrayal of New Orleans is conjured up from the erotic images associated with the institution of placage. 5 According to Compson, this institution fulfills “all young male[s’] living dream and hope” and promises “secret and curious and unimaginable delights” (89). Compson evokes the seductive quality of New Orleans cityscape as an “esoteric milieu” with “the architecture a little curious, a little femininely flamboyant and therefore . . . opulent, sensuous, sinful” (87). New Orleans represents the curious mixture of the exotic and the feminine: “foreign and paradoxical, with its atmosphere at once fatal and languorous, at once feminine and steel-hard” (86). Thus, in Mr. Compson’s narration, New Orleans is transformed to a space highly charged with the feminine, the exotic, and the erotic. In his imaginary cartography, New Orleans metamorphose into the contours of “octoroon” courtesan.6
Though Mr. Compson presents Bon’s assumed practice of placage, he nevertheless poses Bon’s gender identity ambiguous. Indeed, Bon’s image, just as the cityscape of New Orleans does, overlaps with the figure of the octoroon mistress. Bon is the feminine, the one who seduces Henry and his Mississippian classmates. Mr. Compson fancies Bon “reclining in a flowered, almost feminised [sic] gown, in a sunny window” or “lounging before them in the outlandish and almost feminine garments of his sybaritic privacy” (76). Whereas Bon was likened to “an elegant and indolent esoteric hothouse bloom” (77), the women auctioned for the placage are compared to “a row of faces like a bazaar of flowers” (89). As if to negate the previous image, Charles Bon merges with the image of octoroon mistress in Compson’s fantasy.
What is emphasized in Mr Compson’s narrative as the common attributes to New Orleans and Bon are “exoticism” and “femininity.”7 Not only is Bon identified with an octoroon mistress, but he is also envisioned an Arab, “a hero out of some adolescent Arabian Nights” (76). Later, he is even considered a speechless “inanimate object” (59), a piece of exotic garment or furniture that Ellen Coldfield Sutpen wants to “purchase.” Mr. Compson bestows Charles Bon all the qualities that incite the dazzling fascinations of the exotic, the erotic, and the feminine. In short, Mr. Compson formulates Charles Bon as the “Other,” racially and sexually different, for the Anglo-Saxon America, a scheme parallel to the colonialist writers who reproduce the colonial discourse. 8
The rhetoric of the “Other,” often used to endorse the necessity of the “cultivation,” reminds us of the complicity of the 18th century Enlightenment discourse with the European colonization: “Every one of them [colonialist writers] kept intact the separateness of the Orient, its eccentricity, its backwardness, its silent indifference, its feminine penetrability, its supine malleability; this is why every writer on the Orient . . . saw the Orient as a locale requiring Western attention, reconstruction, even redemption” (Said 206). However, rather than being aligned with European Enlightenment discourse, Compson’s rhetoric is more in accordance with the colonial discourse unique to the United States.
Ventriloquizing Charles Bon’s justification of the institution of placage, Compson authorizes the conquering of octoroon mistress, drawing on the rhetoric of paternalism and humanitarianism. Bon, as reported by Mr Compson, justifies the institution of placage by claiming it as more moderate than the institution of marriage or the institution of slavery. He declares that this institution respects “the principles of honor, decorum and gentleness” (92) compared to the system of marriage “that white girls are sold under” (93) or to the system of slavery under which slave girls are “sold . . . body and soul for life to him who could have used her with more impunity than he would dare to use an animal, heifer or mare, and then discarded or sold or even murdered when worn out or when her keep and her price no longer balanced” (92). A mixed-race woman in the practice of placage is an entity that is not fully integrated by marriage nor violently exploited by slavery. Instead, she is purchased by “a price offered and accepted” (93) by a benign customer. This capitalist rhetoric perfectly coincides with the unique characteristic of the American imperialism that Timonthy Powell explicates: “American conquest has been imperialism validated by receipt, using the logic of capitalist exchange to cloak its unique form of colonialism . . .” (352).
As stated above, in Mr Compson’s narrative, New Orleans and Charles Bon are metamorphosed into the body of mixed-race mistress in placage, the “Other” to Anglo-Saxons. Amalgamating Charles Bon with a courtesan who is supposed to lie languidly and alluringly for someone to take her, Mr Compson justifies Henry’s “conquering” of Charles Bon. Since he represents Henry as a metonymy of Anglo-America and Bon as New Orleans, Mr Compson’s appropriation of New Orleans as “a bought woman” (91), who does not occupy a place in Anglo-America but is purchased for a fair price, manifests the symptom of the collective imagination that validate the “internal colonization” of New Orleans. Without exercising any violence, American colonial enterprise becomes more like a charity, benevolently incorporating the “darker” races under paternal protection, offering a fair price of 15 million. Yet, this “incorporation” does not necessarily means the “assimilation” of the multiracial community of New Orleans. 9 Just as Bon denies the formal marriage between the octoroon mistress10, New Orleans must safely be distanced from the rest of the South, for the imagined “whiteness” of Anglo-America . New Orleans, by now the national territory, emerges as a “foreign” landscape, as the other within. While Quentin and Shreve retell the story of Bon, another foreign landscape looms large to overlap the figure of Bon.
|1831 Charles Bon born, Haiti. Sutpen learns his wife has Negro blood, repudiates her and child. (Absalom, Absalom! Chronology)|
Quentin and Shreve assumes the role of the narrator, Bon’s birthplace is
changed from New Orleans to Haiti: “In his [Quentin’s] revision, black
Haiti replaces white Creole New Orleans as the locus for Bon, who
eventually becomes a representative of that troubled ‘mulatto nation . .
.’” (Ladd 542). In the revision of Quentin and Shreve, Bon becomes a
metonymy of Haiti. |
The third person narrator depicts Haiti, Bon’s birthplace, as a deserted island in the southern hemisphere, waiting vainly for intervention from the external world that brings an end to its internal conflict: “the little lost island beneath its down-cupped bowl of alternating day and night like a vacuum into which no help could come, where not even winds form the outer world came but only the trades, the same weary winds blowing back and forth across it and burdened still with the weary voices of murdered women and children homeless and graveless about the isolating and solitary sea” (204).11 It is Sutpen who heroically suppresses the slave revolt and reestablishes the white supremacy of this almost forgotten island of “Haiti.” 12 Indeed, Sutpen’s conquering of the natives overlaps with the image of the United States intervening Haiti, 13 since Sutpen embodies the American colonial experience. 14 Rosa Coldfield, for example, narrates how Sutpen repeats the nation building of the early settlers who colonized Native Americans. Sutpen’s experience in Jefferson reiterates the colonialist enterprise of America, “clearing virgin land and establishing a plantation in a new country” (11)
In reality, however, “[t]here were neither slaves nor French plantations on Haiti in 1827” (Godden 685) , because Saint Domingue renamed itself Haiti and declared its independence from France in 1804. Thus, in his retelling of Sutpen’s narration, Quentin reminds Shreve of the fictitiousness of Supen’s autobiographic tale, originally told to his grandfather: “He was not bragging about something he had done; he was just telling a story about something a man named Thomas Sutpen had experienced, which would still have been the same story if the man had had no name at all, if it had been told about any man or no man over whiskey at night” (199). The story of the suppression of the revolt is a story passed around collectively as a convenient memory of the American leadership. Indeed, this passed-down, twice mediated vision of Supen’s anecdote, with its happy ending, is full of fairy-tale quality: “That was how he told it: he went out and subdued them, and when he returned he and the girl became engaged to marry [. . .]” (204). Quentin is all too aware of the constructedness of American humanitarian interventions, represented in Sutpen’s heroism; thus, Quentin and Shreve tells a companion story to Sutpen’s.
The narrative of Quentin and Shreve, with the addition of Bon’s kinship to the Sutpens, foregrounds the figure of Bon waiting for Sutpen’s acknowledgement as a son. The landscape of Haiti, which waits patiently for the intervention of Sutpen, is fused with the figure of Bon who longs for Sutpen’s acknowledgement. Just like Sutpen represents American experience, Bon embodies Haitian postcolonial experience. The United States and Haiti indeed have a kinship in the history of the Western Hemisphere. For instance, both the U.S. and Haiti are “postcolonial” in the sense they gained independence from the European empires through the revolution.15 Despite their shared colonial experiences, it was not until the Secession s in 1862 that led North America to change the diplomatic policy towards the Latin America and to acknowledge the independence of Haiti. Henry’s renunciation of his patrimony parallels the withdrawal of the eleven southern states from the Union; yet, according to the scenario adopted by Quentin and Shreve, even after 1862, Bon remain unacknowledged: “No. He has never acknowledged me. He just warned me” (279). What is worse, through the manipulation of Sutpen, Bon meets a horrible end, merely to be murdered by his own brother.
Quentin and Shreve insert a new scene of Sutpen’s intervention in their narrations. In their imagined scene, Sutpen, as a patriarch, intimidates Henry to prevent the marriage between Bon and Judith. The reason why they cannot marry is altered from the sibling relationship--“he is your brother” (235)--to the “one-drop rule”--“his mother was part negro” (283). Quentin and Shreve together create the scene in which Charles Bon tells Henry, “So it’s the miscegenation, not the incest, which you cant [sic.] bear” (285). This shift of emphasis from the incest to the miscegenation is deffered accordingly to Shreve’s manipulation of the narrative.16 Apparently Shreve, by stopping or skirting Quentin’s narrative several times, coerces Quentin to delay the revelation of Bon’s racial identity. “Let me play for a while,” Shreve broaches the issue/taboo of incest, thus underscoring Bon’s kinship to the Sutpens. Withholding Bon’s racial identity until the very end, Shreve emphasizes that Henry’s murder of Bon is indeed a fratricide and that the paternal intervention encourages lethal action.
Moreover, Quentin and Shreve finally highlight that the “one-drop” of Africanized blood cancels out the sibling relationship between Henry and Bon: “--You are my brother. / --No, I’m not. I’m the nigger that’s going to sleep with your sister” (286). Here, Charles Bon, who is effeminized by Mr. Compson, revives as a masculine black Haitian. This parodic transfiguration of Bon into a stereotypical virile black, a threat to benevolent whites, mocks the white supremacy and paternalism that Mr. Compson so readily accepts.
Therefore, by adding Bon’s filial relationship, Quentin and Shreve reverse Mr. Compson’s version of Charles Bon. Mr. Compson presents Bon who is American as a “foreigner”; they present Bon who is “foreigner” as the son and brother of Americans. Thus they familiarize Charles Bon who is the “Other” in Mr Compson’s narrative. The tragic end of Charles Bon, together with his metonymic function, evokes the lethal nature of paternal U.S. imperialism, exercised through the putatively humanitarian interventions in the other America. 17
|The poetics of landscape, which is the source of creative energy, is not to be directly confused with the physical nature of the country. Landscape retains the memory of time past. Its space is open or closed to its meaning. Edouard Glissant, “Montreal” (150)|
|New Orleans and Haiti shape significant “foreign” landscapes in Absalom, Absalom! These landscapes must have given Faulkner inspiration to imagine the character of Charles Bon, who embodies the repressed histories of U.S. Imperialism. Whereas Sutpen’s attempt of expanding the domestic sphere represents American colonial enterprise, Bon, whose assumed son, represents the other side of the same coin, the story of the colonized. Just as Bon’s metonymic function stretches out beyond the national border, the novel portrays the geopolitical struggles of colonial and postcolonial landscapes where New Orleans, Haiti, and the United States collide. The narrators’ oscillations between avowal and disavowal towards American colonial enterprise enable us to glance at the ambivalence of American imagination. Charles Bon, entangled in the memories of times past and American imagination, becomes a phantom-like presence, a reminiscence of the fatal consequences of the history of American imperialism.|
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!: The Corrected Text (New York:
Random House, 1986). Further quotations from this text are cited
2 One of the most important narrators in Absalom, Absalom!, Rosa Coldfield almost negates the existence of Charles Bon. For her lack of effort to elaborate Bon, I have excluded her from my consideration of the narrative reconstruction of Charles Bon.
3 By Creole, I mean, “a descendant of European settlers, born and naturalized in those colonies or regions”(OED).
4 For the “mimicry” of the colonizer by the “colonial subject,” see Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994). Mr Compson underscores several times that it is Henry who “aped” Charles Bon’s fashion, speech, manner, thinking, and life (76, 85, 81, 88).
5 Already by 1860, the city of New Orleans had become a place associated with the exotic and the erotic where compellingly stirs up one’s imagination: “the city of New Orleans itself becomes the ludic space, the behavioral vortex, for the rest of the nation” (Roach 231). Erskine E. Peters comments on Compson’s infatuation for Charles Bon: “Bon and the myth and the delights of octoroon existence titillate Compson’s imagination into extremes of fantasy and sensual speculation” (208); “The Bon Lineage,” Critical Essays on William Faulkner: The Sutpen Family, ed. Arthur F. Kinney (New York: G. K. Hall, 1996) 207-15.
6 For Faulkner’s use of the imagery of New Orleans as a courtesan in other works, see Adelaide P. McGinnis “Charles Bon: The New Orleans Myth Made Flesh” in Critical Essays on William Faulkner, ed. Arthur F. Kinnery (New York: G. K. Hall, 1996) 221-226.
7 Philip M. Weinstein attributes Bon’s magnetism to his exoticism; see “Marginalia: Faulkner’s Black Lives,” eds. Doreen Fowler and Ann J. Abadie, Faulkner and Race (Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1987) 180. I add “femininity” to Bon’s allure. For more detailed analysis of Bon’s feminine quality, see Eiko Owada’s Faulkner, Haiti, and Questions of Imperialism (Tokyo: Sairyusha, 2002).
8 Homi K. Bhabha writes: “The construction of the colonial subject in discourse, and the exercise of colonial power through discourse, demands an articulation of forms of difference—racial and sexual” (67); yet, the colonialist discourse “moves between the recognition of cultural and racial difference and its disavowal, by affixing the unfamiliar to something established, in a form that is repetitious and vacillates between delight and fear” (73): The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994). In this mechanism, Charles Bon’s racial and sexual differences are created and become fetishized as the mixed-race courtesan.
9 Creolization was actively at work in New Orleans from around the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Because of the Haitian Revolution from 1791 to 1804, a large number of refugees, mostly whites and free persons of color, immigrated from then Saint Domingue to the United States, especially to New Orleans; see Carl A. Brasseaux and Glenn R. Conrad, eds. The Road to Louisiana: The Saint-Domingue Refugees 1792-1809 (Lafayette: U of Southwestern Louisiana, 1992). The demographics indicate that the number of “mulattoes” in New Orleans outnumbered that of any other place in the South between the years 1840-1860; see Paul F. Lachance, “The Foreign French” (103) in Arnold R. Hirsh and Joseph Logsdon eds. Creole New Orleans (Baton Rouge: Louisiana UP, 1992). According to the census of the population, “.[. . .] New Orleans’ free people of color numbered nearly 20,000 in 1840 (when Charleston had but 1,500), and, after two decades of precipitous decline, a community of nearly 11,000 remained in 1860. Even in that latter year, New Orleans had more mulatto slaves (3,500) and free blacks (2,700) than Charleston had free mulattoes (2,400)” (192); Arnold R. Hirsh and Joseph Logsdon eds. Creole New Orleans (Baton Rouge: Louisiana UP, 1992).
10 State Law of Louisiana, in Section 323, rules the marriage between white and non-white as follows: “The marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto, or person who shall have one-eighth or more Negro blood, shall be unlawful and void” (qtd. Kinney 15). This is why Mr. Compson’s reasoning of Henry’s murder of Charles Bon as preventing bigamy does not make sense. Since Henry advocates Anglo-Saxon racial politics, he knew Bon does not constitute bigamy.
11 . Hortense Spillers explicates the ambiguous referentiality of this imagined island in triangular trade: “the narrator does not actually approach a geopolitical order that could be thought of as a mimesis of some ‘real’ place but . . . gesture[s] symptomatically toward the notion of the colonial/plantation system of the Hispanic and Francophone Caribbean”; see “Introduction: Who Cuts the Border?,” Comparative American Identities (New York: Routledge, 1991) 13. Also, Chris Bongie insightfully explains the narrators’ losing battle of “localizing” the “unlocatability”: “. . . the words ‘Haiti’ and ‘Haitian’ prove ones to which no historical, ethnic, or even geographical referent can be definitively attached; they thus visibly signal . . . an elusive point of origin that provokes the various narrators into situating their characters, and themselves, in relation to it and yet that equally dooms any such attempts . . . at localizing identity in the face of its unlocatability” (193-94); see Islands and Exiles (Stanford UP, 1998).
12 Eiko Owada points out, “it is always Quentin’s narrative, not Sutpen’s which refers to the name ‘Haiti’” (66); see Faulkner, Haiti, and Questions of Imperialism (Tokyo: Sairyusha, 2002).
13 According to Eiko Owada, the “withdrawal” of the U.S. military troops from Haiti as a consequence of violent friction with Haitian citizens forced the public to admit the shocking fact that Haiti refused the humanitarian intervention from the United States. She comments that “this event catalyzed various writers’ imagination by its parallels with the Haitian Revolution and her independence in 1804” (109). She argues, “Faulkner depicts Sutpen’s supremacy over black rebellion, not to reject the achievement of Haiti in 1804, but as if to invoke Haiti’s struggle against American military presence in the 1930s; during this period, American Marines ‘subdued’ black rebellion” (101); Faulkner, Haiti, and Questions of Imperialism (Tokyo: Sairyusha, 2002).
14 Lois Parkinson Zamora explains this overlapping between Sutpen’s experience and American colonialist enterprise: “The history of the Sutpens . . . reiterates the archetypal American experience of leaving the past behind and striking out to create an innocent new world in the timeless wilderness; it reiterates, furthermore, the equally American experience of discovering that virgin territory can be the site of evil as well as innocence” (34); Writing the Apocalypse (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989).
15 Michael J. Dash points out this commonality between the U.S. and Haiti in the Western Hemisphere: “The United States, the oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, and Haiti, the first black republic, have strikingly similar origins. Historical parallels and continuities are inevitable since both countries gained their independence through a protracted war against a European power” (5).
16 As Anne McClintock points out, during the twentieth century, Latin American countries suffered from the other America’s humanitarian military intervention repeatedly: “‘Post-colonial’ Latin America has been invaded by the United States over a hundred times this century alone” (89).
17 Edouard Glissant accounts Faulkner’s narrative technique, “Deferred revelation is the source of his techinique. This has nothing to do with the suspense of a detective novel or with social or psychological clarification; rather, it is an accumulating mystery and a whirling vertigo--gathering momentum rather than being resolved, through deferral and disclosure--and centered in a place to which he felt a need to give meaning”; Faulkner, Mississippi (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999)
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Copyright (c)2006 Yamamoto Yuko.