Goodhue Coldfield

Born in Tennessee. Moved to Jefferson, Miss., 1828, established small mercantile business. Died, Jefferson, 1864.

Goodhue Coldfield, the most ideologically rationalist character in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, ends up being destroyed by his own unmitigated beliefs. Goodhue Coldfield, the father of Rosa Coldfield, ties his fate to the Sutpen family by giving his eldest daughter, Ellen, to Thomas Sutpen in marriage.

Mr. Coldfield can be most closely compared to Gerald O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. Although Mr. O'Hara supports the South's entry into the war, both men die as an indirect result of the war's ensuing destruction.

The passage contains the account of Goodhue Coldfield's objection to the war as told to Quentin Compson by his father.

"--a Methodist steward, a merchant not only of modest position and circumstances but who already had a wife and family of his own, let alone a dependent mother and sister, to support out of the proceeds of a business which he had brought to Jefferson ten years ago in a single wagon--a man with a name for absolute and undeviating and even puritan uprightness in a country and time of lawless opportunity, who neither drank nor gambled nor even hunted. "

--from chapter 2 of Absalom, Absalom!

(from chapter 3 of Absalom, Absalom!)

She did not see the regiment depart because her father forbade her to leave the house until it was gone, refusing to allow her to take part in or be present with the other women and girls in the ceremony of its departure, though not because his son-in-law happened to be in it. He had never been an irascible man and before war was actually declared and Mississippi seceded, his acts and speeches of protest had been not only calm but logical and quite sensible. But after the die was cast he seemed to change overnight, just as his daughter Ellen changed her nature a few years before. As soon as troops began to appear in Jefferson he closed his store and kept it closed all during the period that soldiers were being mobilised and drilled, not only then but later, after the regiment was gone, whenever casual troops would bivouac for the night in passing, refusing to sell any goods for any price not only to the military but, so it was told, to the families not only of soldiers but of men or women who had supported secession and war only in talk, opinion. Not only did he refuse to permit his sister to come back home to live while her horse-trader husband was in the army, he would not even allow Miss Rosa to look out the window at passing soldiers. He bad closed his store permanently and was at home all day now. He and Miss Rosa lived in the back of the house, with the front door locked and the front shutters closed and fastened, and where, so the neighbors said, be spent the day behind one of the slightly opened blinds like a picquet on post, armed not with a musket but with the big family bible in which his and his sister's birth and his marriage and Ellen's birth and marriage and the birth of his two grandchildren and of Miss Rosa, and his wife's death (but not the marriage of the aunt; it was Miss Rosa who entered that, along with Ellen's death, on the day when she entered Mr Coldfield's own and Charles Bon's and even Sutpen's) had been duly entered in his neat clerk's hand, until a detachment of troops would pass: whereupon be would open the bible and declaim in a harsh loud voice even above the sound of the tramping feet, the passages of the old violent vindictive mysticism which he had already marked as the actual picquet would have ranged his row of cartridges along the window sill. Then one morning he learned that his store had been broken into and looted, doubtless by a company of strange troops bivouacked on the edge of town and doubtless abetted, if only vocally, by his own fellow citizens. That night be mounted to the attic with his hammer and his handful of nails and nailed the door behind him and threw the hammer out the window. He was not a coward. He was a man of uncompromising moral strength, coming into a new country with a small stock of goods and supporting five people out of it in comfort and security at least. He did it by close trading, to be sure: be could not have done it save by close trading or dishonesty; and as your grandfather said, a man who, in a country such as Mississippi was then, would restrict dishonesty to the selling of straw hats and hame strings and salt meat would have been already locked up by his own family as a kleptomaniac. But he was not a coward, even though his conscience may have objected, as your grandfather said, not so much to the idea of pouring out human blood and life, but at the idea of waste: of wearing out and eating up and shooting away material in any cause whatever.

Now Miss Rosa's life consisted of keeping it in herself and her father. Up to the night of the looting of the store, they bad lived out of it. She would go to the store after dark with a basket and fetch back enough food to last for a day or two. So the stock, not renewed for some time before that, was considerably reduced even before the looting; and soon she, who had never been taught to do anything practical because the aunt had raised her to believe that she was not only delicate but actually precious, was cooking the food which as time passed became harder and harder to come by and poorer and poorer in quality, and hauling it up to her father at night by means of a well pulley and rope attached to the attic window. She did this for three years, feeding in secret and at night and with food which in quantity was scarcely sufficient for one, the man whom she hated. And she may not have known before that she hated him and she may not have known it now even, nevertheless the first of the odes to Southern soldiers in that portfolio which when your grandfather saw it in 1885 contained a thousand or more, was dated in the first year of her father's voluntary incarceration and dated at two oclock in the morning.

Then he died.

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