Faulkner's Tragic Absalom Analysis

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But while we have discussed the most important diegetic components of epic—heroes and their victories—no discussion of that genre can be complete without a consideration of the way in which their story is told. To this end, we must consider Absalom, Absalom! an oral epic, despite its novelistic form. We may resolve this seeming contradiction by considering David Konstan and Kurt A. Raaflaub’s assertion that “[t]he notion of “oral” epic is [itself] problematic. What survives from antiquity is texts [sic], that come to us in written form” (my italics 1). This way, antique epics present a static textual account of a story that developed orally through multiple tellings. Likewise, Rosa, Mr. Compson, and Quentin inform the story we receive in Faulkner’s static text as they tell and retell the story of the fall of the South and the implosion of the Sutpen dynasty. Indeed, the novel shares other narrative features with traditional epic. As Revard and Newman explain,
[e]pic usually develops in the oral culture of a society at a period when the nation is taking stock of its historical, cultural, and religious heritage… Typically long and elaborate in its narrative design, episodic in sequence, and elevated in language, the epic usually begins ‘in the midst of things’ (in medias res) and
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Let us now turn and consider at length the ways in which our narrators relate Absalom, Absalom!’s epic narrative. As we shall see, each begins in medias res, and attempts to tell a tale without beginning or end; meanwhile, the techniques they employ conveying the story orally similarly mirror Konstan and Raaflaub’s assertion that epic “oral poetry is easily lost to history or altered profoundly in transmission” (1). These points considered, we shall see that Absalom, Absalom!, despite its novelistic form, nevertheless comprises an oral epic in the vein of The Iliad or The

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