A novel of the American south, it spans several generations. The much dislkied Sutpen builds a magnificent mansion on land stolen from native Indians. At university Sutpen's son, Henry, befriends a fellow student, Charles, who turns out to be his half-brother, and who falls in love with Sutpen's daughter. Incest doesn't seem to bother them as much as the fact that Charles is tainted with black blood. Also includes murder, arson, and the Civil War.
Quentin Compson and Shreve, his Harvard room-mate, are obsessed by the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen. As a poor white boy, Sutpen was turned away from a plantation owner's mansion by a Negro butler. From then on, Sutpen determined to be a Virginia plantation owner himself. His ambitions are soon realized- plantation, marriage, children, his own troop to fight in the Civil War. . . but Sutpen returns to find his estate in ruins. Worse, Charles, son of Sutpen's first repudiated to a partly coloured girl, seeks engagement to Sutpen's daughter, Judith. When Charles realizes this he offers to give up Judith for recognition by Sutpen.