Faulkner’s Revision of Absalom, Absalom! is a study of the creative process as exemplified in one of the major achievements in twentieth-century fiction. Portions of the original handwritten version of the story are collated, line by line, with corresponding sections of the published version. In an introductory discussion the major changes are analyzed and evaluated.
It is particularly interesting to observe Faulkner revising not only his choice of words and the construction of his sentences but also the central design of the story. Most notably, he changed his mind about having it known from the beginning that Charles Bon was Sutpen’s part-Negro son, and he developed Quentin Compson into the pivotal figure who finally supplies this missing piece of information.
In the process of revision Absalom, Absalom! became a kind of detective story, and the reader is forced to join the quest and participate in the undertaking which is the basic subject of the book—the human attempt to comprehend and deal with the past.
To trace the process of this revision is to experience a sharp focusing of theme and to witness a demonstration of how the meaning of a fictional work can shape its structure and, in turn, stand revealed by what has become the outward sign, or form, of that meaning.
Gerald Langford (1911–2003) was Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.
Textual Collation of the Manuscript and the Published Book
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