Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

By William Faulkner

“Read, learn, learn. learn everything—trash, classics, sturdy and undesirable, and notice how they do it. similar to a wood worker who works as an apprentice and experiences the grasp. learn! You’ll soak up it. Then write. whether it is sturdy, you’ll discover. If it’s no longer, throw it out the window.” —William Faulkner

Absalom, Absalom! is Faulkner’s epic story of Thomas Sutpen, an enigmatic stranger who involves Jefferson, Mississippi, within the early 1830s to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi desolate tract. He used to be a guy, Faulkner acknowledged, “who sought after sons and the sons destroyed him.”

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But a sophisticated calculation of self-interest may suggest that what matters is reputation and image, rather than what you are really like. Glaucon, in Plato's Republic, supports this with a thought experiment. He cites the story of Gyges, a shepherd who found a ring which made its wearer invisible at will. Glaucon argues that the advantages of morality over immorality are all bound up with being detected, so they disappear for anyone who has the ring of Gyges. People benefit from seeming, rather than from being, moral.

Those motivated by sympathy, or by revulsion at subjecting people to humiliation and cruelty, found themselves trapped. To act on these decent impulses could bring heavy penalties. These are cases of people wanting to help others who may be deterred by the costs of doing so. And one whole sphere hardly affected by these pressures is that of relations between groups, for instance nations. The bank robber may be imprisoned and stigmatized, but the political leader who sends an army to capture a weaker neighbour's territory may be a national hero.

Victims of the new wave of torture were interviewed in Farwaniya Hospital. One Palestinian had half his body paralysed and could not talk. He wrote on a pad: 'I was tortured with electrical shocks. I became paralysed . . I was held by an intelligence unit... I do not know what is my destiny. I was captured only because I am a Palestinian. They threw me in this hospital. I want to get out of here . . out of Kuwait . . 6 These are the kinds of thing many of us have a vague background awareness of, without The Festival of Cruelty • 33 there being much publicity unless the perpetrators are some currently loathed regime, or unless some highly visible Westerner is among the victims.

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