Quotes for Friday from William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!

Years ago we in the South made our women into ladies. Then the War came and made the ladies into ghosts. So what else can we do, being gentlemen, but listen to them being ghosts? [10]

Maybe you have to know anybody awful well to love them but when you have hated somebody for forty-three years you will know them awful well so maybe it's better then may be it's fine then because after forty-three years they can't any longer surprise you or make you either very contented or very mad. [12]

Ellen: blind romantic fool who had only youth and inexperience to excuse her even if that; blind romantic fool, then later blind woman mother fool when she no longer had either youth or inexperience to excuse her, when she lay dying in that house for which she had exchanged pride and peace both and nobody there but the daughter who was already the same as a widow without ever having been a bride ... [13]

In church, mind you, as though there were a fatality and curse on our family and God Himself were seeing to tit that it was performed and discharged to the last drop and dreg. [20]

Neither papa nor Ellen said Come back home. No: This occurred before it became fashionable to repair your mistakes by turning your backs on them and running. [28]

His guests would bring whiskey out with them but he drank of this with a sort of sparing calculation as though keeping mentally ... a sort of balance of spiritual solvency between the amount of whiskey he accepted and the amount of running meat which he supplied to the guns. [46]

Boys, this time he stole the whole durn steamboat! [51]

[Y]ou will notice that most divorces occur with women who were married by tobacco-chewing j.p.'s in country courthouses or by ministers waked after midnight, with their suspenders showing beneath their coattails and no collar on and a wife or spinster sister in curl papers for witness. [57]

Or maybe women are even less complex than that and to them any wedding is better than no wedding and a big wedding with a villain preferable to a small one with a saint. [61]

[B]ut the fact that women never plead nor claim loneliness until impenetrable and insurmountable circumstances forces them to give up all hope of attaining the particular bauble which at the moment they happen to want. [63]

Love, with reference to them, was just a finished and perfectly dead subject like the matter of virginity would be after the birth of the first grandchild. [90]

But who knows why a man, though suffering, clings, above all the other well members, to the arm or leg which he knows must come off? [111]

So that he must have appeared, not only to Henry but to the entire undergraduate body of that small new provincial college, as a source not of envy because you only envy whom you believe to be, but for accident, in no way superior to yourself: and what you believe, granted a little better luck than you have had heretofore, you will someday possess; - not of envy but of despair. [117]

Henry, the provincial, the clown almost, given to instinctive and violent action rather than to thinking, ratiocination, who may have been conscious that his fierce provincial's pride in his sister's virginity was a false quantity which must incorporate in itself an inability to endure in order to be precious, to exist, and so must depend upon its loss, absence, to have existed at all. [118/9]

In fact, perhaps this is pure and perfect incest: the brother realising that the sister's virginity must be destroyed in order to have existed at all, taking that virginity in the person of the brother-in-law, the man whom he would be if he could become, metamorphose into, the lover, the husband; by whom he would be despoiled, choose for despoiler, if he could become, metamorphose into the sister, the mistress, the bride. [119]

[A]nd Sutpen still waiting, certainly no one could say for what, incredible that he should wait for Christmas, for the crisis to come to him - this man of whom it is said that he not only went out to meet his troubles, he sometimes manufactured them. [130]

God may mark every sparrow, but we do not pretend to be God, you see. Perhaps we do not even want to be God, since no man would want but one of these sparrows. And perhaps when God looks into one of these establishments like you saw tonight, He would not choose one of us to be God either, now that He is old. [143]

[I]t would not be the first time that youth has taken catastrophe as a direct act of Providence for the sole purpose of solving a personal problem which youth itself could not solve. [148]

I really requires an empty stomach to laugh with, that only when you are hungry or frightened do you extract some ultimate essence out of laughing just as the empty stomach extracts the ultimate essence out of alcohol. [162]

There are somethings which the intelligence and the senses refuse just as the stomach sometimes refuses what the palate has accepted but which digestion cannot compass [188]

[T]he only painless death must be that which takes the intelligence by violent surprise and from the rear so to speak ..[217]

[T]here was a limit even to irony beyond which it became either just vicious but not fatal horseplay or harmless coincidence. [333]

[T]here are situations where coincidence is no more than the little child that rushes out onto a football field to take part in the game and the players run over and around the unscathed head and go on and shock together and in the fury of the struggle for the facts called gain or loss nobody even remembers the child nor saw who came and snatched it back from dissolution... [333]

[A] man who could believe that a scorned and outraged and angry woman could be bought off with formal logic would believe that she could be placated with money too... [335]

[H]e had learned that there were three things and no more: breathing, pleasure, darkness; and without money there could be no pleasure, and without pleasure it would not even be breathing but mere protoplasmic inhale and collapse of blind unorganism in a darkness where light never began. [374]

[W]hen you are proud enough to be humble you don't have to cringe [410]


  1. One of my favorites-- and I think it sums up Sutpen's cold and singleminded focus-----is “Well, Milly, too bad you’re not a mare like Penelope. Then I could give you a decent stall in the stable.”

    Thanks for posting these! It was fun to read.

    1. I remember that very well. It is marked in the book. I also thought that was the point that marked Sutpen's coldness and wickedness. I hated the way she compared Milly to a horse and that's why I thought there should be a feminist reading of this book.


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