Why? Why? and Why?

For all the fury in Absalom, Absalom!, there’s surprisingly little rage.  There is one instance of some standard-issue “jealous rage”; one occasion of “static rage,” which is in keeping with Faulkner’s odd fondness for depicting people as being simultaneously really angry and also completely stationary (“blazing immobility,” “furious inertness”); and one French fellow’s “gallic rage,” but that’s about it.  Outrage, on the other hand?  Outrage the book has out the yin-yang.

It has “unbearable outrage,” “smoldering outrage,” “bitter and hopeless outrage,” and “stubborn and dreaded outrage.”  It has “outrage and injustice,” “hatred and outrage,” “folly and outrage,” and “amazement and outrage.”  It has “scorn and outrage,” “horror and outrage,” and—wait for it—“scorn and horror and outrage.”

It has “the final outrage,” an “outrage to sensibility,” the “abstract carcass of outrage,” “a breathing-point in outrage,” “the objects of the outrage,” one pregnant player who feels the “outrage of her swelling loins,” and another who “died young of outrage.”

Characters are “completely outraged,” “outraged and betrayed,” and “outraged and dreaded”; one experiences the “privilege of being outraged” (which frankly doesn’t seem like much of a privilege considering that it ain’t exactly in scarce supply).  There is “outraged horror,” “outraged recapitulation,” and “outraged female vindictiveness.”  There are “outraged hearts,” an “outraged face,” and—as part of an elaborate metaphor in which a community’s efforts to preserve order are likened to an enormous head trying to restrain miscreants within its clenched teeth—an “outraged jaw.”  (It was tempting to include that last one without explanation.)  On page 135 there is “aghast and outraged unbelief” and on page 136, “outraged and aghast unbelieving.”

Also in the book’s lineup are indignant representatives from both the spirit world and our own—some “outraged baffled ghosts,” an “outraged father,” and an anticlimactically-described “scorned and outraged and angry woman.”  (And angry, eh?)  There is some rather clinical-sounding “general affronting and outraging” going on and a couple of experiences that can only be described in terms of how not outraging they were: “it was not outrage that I waited for…it was some cumulative overreach of despair” and “the shock which was not yet outrage because it would be terror soon.”

In related news, the book contains “outrageous bravado,” “outrageous exaggeration,” an “outrageous husband,” “the most simple and the most outrageous things,” and both “bald outrageous words” and “bold blank naked and outrageous words.”  That last phrase appears in a discussion of “some things for which three words are too many, and three thousand words that many words too less.”  As the speaker explains, “I could take that many sentences…and leave you only that Why? Why? and Why?”  Which, I’d say, describes the trade-off the book offers pretty accurately.


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