The Awakening and Absalom, Absalom!: Plot Development in Short Stories

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Development of Plot in “Absalom, Absalom” and “The Awakening”

Throughout The Awakening and Absalom, Absalom, the authors developed intricate plots that have a plethora of implications. Each of the implications is a critique on the societies of the times in which the books were written. Whether intended or not intended, the development of the plots of the books highlights many societal problems. In fact, each of the books has an underlying moral issue that is the determining factor for the conflicts. In Absalom, Absalom, the main moral issue was race. In The Awakening, the predominant issue was the limited role of women in society. William Falkner and Kate Chopin use moral issues to highlight the problems of society. These moral issues prove to be the focal point for the development of the plots in each of the novels.

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Faulkner and Chopin use oppressive diction to highlight the coherent views that their audience may not understand. By using such discriminatory language in colloquial diction, it showcases the coherent thought in these times. The characters in the story use these terms so loosely and freely. Because of this, an audience can infer that the characters in these novels see nothing wrong with their vernacular. In Absalom, Absalom, black individuals are commonly identified with derogatory terms, even with hints that these people are inhumane in a sense. When Clytie tries to prevent Nancy from (finish this sentence), Nancy replies by saying, ““Take your hand off me, nigger”(Faulkner 112). Clytie does not reply or demonstrate any form of anger in a physical fashion. For an audience with more modern views, this is extremely shocking to see. However, it is important to realize that this type of derogatory language was commonly used towards blacks. This is significant because it demonstrates the place that blacks had in society at this time. Clytie tried to stop Rosa from trying to find Henry and Judith, yet Rosa responded by using an intense racial slur aimed to hurt Clytie. Her frustration was not aimed at Clytie, yet it was not deemed improper to insult a black person. In fact, Rosa did not even offer an apology for this. In her eyes, Rosa was above her and it was okay to try to hurt Clytie. This was the coherent belief of this time. In fact, Rosa Coldfield even refers to blacks as “wild niggers like beasts half tamed to walk upright like man” (Faulkner 4). The racial issue is illuminated in the eyes of readers who are not familiar with this racist view because of this diction. Similarly, women are referred to as housewives and domestic individuals in The Awakening. During Leonce Pontellier’s conversation with a psychologist, he says Edna does not act like a “typical wife or mother” (check and insert page number). In this instance, the connotation of a wife or a mother was a dependent submissive that is obedient to her husband. The diction effectively emphasizes the controversial view of the majority. An audience who is not familiar with these issues may find this diction offensive or restricting, which makes the audience more cognizant of the issues at hand. However, it is clear in The Awakening that some women seem content with their roles in society, as shown through Edna’s interactions with Madame (finish her name). Nonetheless, the diction in The Awakening is one where oppression can be seen clearly and vividly. Diction is used in the novels in order to represent the oppressive nature of this time period, which leads up to the centrality of the moral conflicts.

After reviewing these novels, it becomes increasingly obvious that the conflicts in these novels rest upon racial issues and women’s rights issues. The moral conflicts play their own bigger role in the actions of the dynamic characters, Thomas Sutpen and Edna Pontellier. Although moral issues are the underlying principle of the internal conflicts of the main characters, these issues have drastically different effects. In Absalom, Absalom, it is clear that Thomas Sutpen believes blacks are inferior to whites. This can be demonstrated through his interaction with the young black child at the house. In Sutpen’s mind, the child should not have been able to give him any type of orders because of the color of his skin. However, this interaction teaches him that even the inferiority of blacks does not compare to being a poor man in society. While he has no hatred for black individuals, blacks simply did not fit his vision. He leaves his wife and children as well as their children because the fact that they were black “rendered it impossible that this woman and child be incorporated into his design” (Faulkner 212). Sutpen desires to become a wealthy landowner with a powerful name. Because of this desire, he seeks to marry Edna Coldfield in order to acquire respect. It is unfathomable for an audience to understand why a man would leave his family simply because of the color of their skin. In addition to Sutpen’s internal conflict, race has additional implications on the plot. An important question arises during this novel. It is suggested that “if Henry had gone with him that summer instead of waiting until the next, Bon would not have had to die as he did” (Faulkner 83). It demonstrates that Henry was not mad because Bon and Judith were related. He may not have killed Bon in this case. However, the fact that he found out that Bon was part black infuriated him so much that he killed him. This quote shows that without this token of information, Henry may have not been inclined to kill Bon. In essence, Henry was more incensed by the race of Bon than the potential incest that could occur. To an audience, this is borderline insane. Thus, the issue of racial oppression is highlighted by the conflicts in the story. For Edna Pontellier, she identifies the extent to which woman are oppressed in society. At first, she is reluctant to express her dissatisfaction with her role as a housewife and a mother. Her dissatisfaction stems her “symptoms of infatuation”, which she has long denied (Chopin 75). Because she recognized how women were bound, she initially dismissed these symptoms. After becoming increasingly unhappy, she becomes discontent with the labels that are placed on women. She realizes her discontent with society when “her will had blazed up, stubborn and resistant” and “she wondered if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command” (Chopin 53). Edna finally realizes the extent to which she was once controlled by the bounds that society had placed on her. It angers her and captivates her, and she wonders how anyone could take this. Due to this, she is inspired to experience things that no other woman had experienced before. However, this ended up being her downfall. Because “she grew daring and reckless” and she “overestimated her strength”, she ended up swimming out farther than any woman had swam before (Chopin 53). In this case, she swam too far. Her conflict of self-interest is stemmed by her discontent with the societal bounds which are placed on her. Meanwhile, Sutpen’s conflict of self-interest is heightened because the societal bounds that were placed on him as a child superseded the ones placed on blacks. Nonetheless, moral issues became the components of the downfalls of both Sutpen and Pontellier.

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