“Supten had built a brick kiln and he had set up the saw and planner which he had brought in the wagon- a capstan with a long sapling walking-beam, with the wagon team and negroes in shifts and himself too when necessary, when the machinery slowed, hitched to it-as if the negroes were wild men; as General Compson told his son, Quentin’s father, while the negroes were working Supten never raised his voice at them, instead he led them, caught them at the psychological instant by example, by some ascendancy of forbearance rather than by brute fear” (pg. 27).
This quote has to do with the construction of everything. The story of everyone’s life Quentin is receiving from Miss Coldfield is building Quentin from nothing just as Supten’s Hundred was built just from the ground. He is a clean slate. He knows nothing about Miss Coldfield’s life or about Supten, Henry, Bon, or Judith, but now that Miss Coldfield has told him everything about her life and the stories of everyone else’s lives he is scarred forever. Or maybe he is not scarred but being transformed into something beautiful that has the past and how everyone’s past intersects of everyone in him. Maybe he can use these new stories to help him in his life as he goes on to live at Harvard. Supten’s Hundred is the setting for almost every main event in this book. The quote and the rest of the passage are really important because it gives the reader a very descriptive view of the mansion. This can be related to every event that occurs there. Every detail going into it has a relation to the crazy lives the Supten’s live.
From the general overview of this quote, this is relating to how Supten built his home by slaves and the hard work given by him when necessary. This shows how he did not feel that he was better than the slaves at all times. The use of the objects such as “brick kiln” and “saw and planner” are interesting because Faulkner didn’t just put objects into the text just to add words. They have to have a meaning. They suggest that their meaning is the tools to make the house and foundation like Miss Coldfield and General Compson are the tools to make Quentin. They both have their stories that they share and create Quentin very meticulously. The kiln, which is used to burn clay to make it hard, could be Miss Coldfield’s past burning into Quentin when she brings him to Wisteria. This settles into him and changes him forever just how the clay is changed forever. The saw and planner could be used to represent how this is cutting into Quentin’s conscience and making him more and more developed as a person and character. These tools are used not just for the surface memory but to cut even deeper into him and leave him with scars of the past to carry with him forever.
Later in the book, there is a problem between Bon and Henry. One big controversy is if Henry shot Bon because he was black or because he was going to marry Judith. In this quote, it shows that Supten rose above the mistreatment of the slaves because they were black. If Henry hot Bon because he was an eighth black, it is very ironic because his father treated blacks with more respect than most others at that time. Bon wasn’t noticeably black; he was only one-eighth which suggests that the reason for Henry killing was because of Judith because Henry would have been accepting like his father was.
At the end of this quote, Faulkner uses a very interesting choice of words. He says “ascendancy of forbearance…” When the word ascendancy is used, it has to do with an over powering position. The man in charge is the most powerful one out there and if you mess with him or don’t do your job correctly, you’re going to get in trouble. However, this is proven to be false because in the statement it is made clear that he was never harsh to his slaves and at times he actually worked with them and wanted to see his dream house be made exactly the way he wanted it without harsh punishment of his slaves. After ascendancy, comes another strong word that is used to balance this word out. Forbearance is meant to be what holds Mr. Supten back from punishing or yelling at the slaves. The combination of the two words has a perfectly balanced meaning and connection with the text just previously written, Supten who asserts his power but never yells at them. Ascendancy meaning power and forbearance meaning to hold back is exactly what Supten was doing.
Quentin’s character was made from the stories and past events of the people he never knew. This type of construction really shows through from this quote because it is a consistent style throughout the novel. The characters aren’t “pre-made” and just lied out on a platter in front of you at the beginning. They are made throughout the entire novel and are always changing. The quote is important because it emphasizes the change and also the foundation of the book.