William Faulkner is widely known for his unique sentence structure. Absalom, Absalom! is regarded as one of Faulkner’s greatest works that makes use of complex language, sentence structure, and literary technique (Scott 92). Scott states that the way that Faulkner introduces the story has been described as ingenius; it is made up of jagged divisions that are each narrated by a different person, with each person exhibiting a different narrative style (92). Faulkner’s composition is unique in that each sentence is longer than a typical sentence. This is displayed in the first sentence of Absalom, Absalom!, which is comprised of over twenty lines (93). Scott states that Faulkner purposely uses excessively long sentences to instill upon the reader as much information as possible in one compact effort (93). Scott also mentions that Faulkner’s long sentences in Absalom, Absalom! are not meant to merely describe the natural setting of the story to the reader, but rather are intended to go in depth about certain aspects that are important to the novel (93). An example of this is in the first sentence of Absalom, Absalom!, when Faulkner paints a portrait of the old lady while describing several circumstances that have molded the lady into the person she has become today (93). One of Faulkner’s main purposes of his complex and unique sentences is to allow the reader to interpret things for themselves (96-97). Scott describes Faulkner’s literature as a “detective story for the emotions”, leaving the reader to interpret what is missing (96-97).
Faulkner’s sentence structure stands out in the sense that Faulkner’s choice of vocabulary, punctuation, grammar, and word placement creates the uniqueness and complexity of his works (Scott 98). Scott states that Faulkner’s sentence structure in Absalom, Absalom! is like nothing we would ever see today (93). He makes use of comma omission in certain areas such as “a dry vivid dustry sound”, but when nouns are present, he keeps the commas – “for father, sister, northusband” (93). Faulkner’s addition of images and modifiers to his sentences regardless of how they may impact sentence structure can be credited to his expansive imagination (94). For example, “for is she had iron shinbones and ankles” is a sentence that causes the successive sentence to sound awkward (94). Scott mentions that Faulkner also gives his own unique twist on the meaning of simple everyday words (94). For example, this is displayed when looking at the following sentence by Faulkner: “Listening would renege” (94). As Scott describes, Faulkner chooses not to be a prisoner to the rules of language and he is not afraid to stray away from the norm (94). The presence of adjectives within Faulker’s sentences is definitely a distinguishing factor of a Faulkner sentence (95). Faulkner’s sentence structure often consists of many adjectives piled on top of each other, with some examples being “Dry vivid dusty’” and “Impotent and static” (95). Scott describes Faulkner’s use of adjectives as tautological because of his juxtaposition of adjectives with similar meaning, which creates emphasis ( 95).
A prominent theme in some of William Faulkner’s works is biblical allusion. Biblical allusions are seen through text and titles such as Faulkner’s “Go Down, Moses”, however in the following excerpt, there are references to Genesis:
It was of the wilderness, the big woods, bigger and older than any recorded document. … It was of the men, not white nor black nor red but men, hunters, with the will and hardihood to endure and the humility and skill to survive, and the dogs and the bear and deer juxtaposed and relieved against it, ordered and compelled by and within the wilderness in the ancient and unremitting contest according to the ancient and immitigablerules which voided all regrets and brooked no quarter…. (Go Down, Moses qtd. In Meeter 597-598).
Meeter states that in As I Lay Dying, several of the characters’ quotes reference the Bible (599). For example, while discussing Addie’s death, characters state things like “The Lord giveth,” “It comes to all of us,” and “If God wills it” (As I Lay Dying qtd. in Meeter 599). The first phrase verbally resembles Job 1:21, while the second and third phrases sentimentally resemble Ecclesiastes 3:20. (599). In Absalom, Absalom!, it is evident that there are parallels drawn between the house of David and the house of Sutpen (601).