Thomas Sutpen

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Thomas Sutpen is the focal character of William Faulkner's 1936 novel Absalom, Absalom! Sutpen arrives in Faulkner's imaginary Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi in the 1830s and establishes a 64,000 acre (100 square mile) plantation, Sutpen's Hundred, in an attempt to create his own personal dynasty. It is eventually revealed that Sutpen was born to a poor white family in what became West Virginia before moving to the Tidewater region of Virginia, where he was first privy to the aristocratic plantation culture of the Antebellum South.

When he was fourteen, running errands for his father, Sutpen was instructed by a black servant to use the back door of the plantation house. This led him to renounce his family and social position. He travelled to the West Indies to build his own plantation and start a lineage, in accordance with his "design". The discovery that his wife was part-black, making his son Charles Bon part black, caused him to leave them behind and relocate to Yoknapatawpha County, where he built a new plantation. The sins of his past and his indiscriminate sexual practices eventually cause the downfall of his empire in the early 20th century.

The short story "Wash", which was later incorporated into the seventh chapter of Absalom, Absalom!, focuses on the death of Thomas Sutpen.


  • Kirk, Robert W.; Klotz, Marvin (1965). Faulkner's People: A complete guide and index to the characters and fiction of William Faulkner. Los Angeles: University of California Press.