Bonds that shackle: memory, violence, and freedom in The Unvanquished.
As Bayard's father has just been assassinated by Redmond, his former business and political rival, Wyatt's "simple code" (U 246) requires that Bayard wreak vengeance. But Wyatt's exhortations, for Bayard, by the end of the story, will be heard not as Wyatt meant them but in another context, not as summons to retribution (indeed, its justification), but as philosophical entreaties:
Who, indeed, are you, as a man, as a Southern man?
What will it mean to be "the Sartoris" of the Lost Cause?
The fateful Greek "chorus" (U 234) of Wyatt and Sartoris's troops appeals directly to the chivalric code of Bayard's breeding, to memory sanctified anew by violence. But a series of cataclysmic reversals and revisionings of gender, class, and race fomented by the war and absorbed by Bayard enable him to deflect Wyatt's challenge into an interiority, a reflectiveness, that would mark, for Faulkner, nothing less than a new style of postbellum consciousness in the South, a new way of being a man that displaces the rigid code of white male honor. Bayard will evolve a pragmatic, experiential, and supple identity to dispel the doom that was the white Southern male's ineluctable heritage.
Bayard's unorthodox "triumph" over Redmond, accomplished with valor but steeped in ambiguity, represents a way out of the indomitable idealism and its necessary concomitant, violence, which had held the planter aristocracy in thrall, as it, in turn, held its blacks and its own women in separate kinds of bondage.
The inflexible moral absolutes and class imperatives of the antebellum world were giving way. Change could be met with resilience, with flexibility, instead of fierceness and obduracy.
Hints of the projects of the novel for Bayard--the revision of his view of "Father," Colonel John Sartoris, and the rejection of an expected version of male sexuality later proffered to him, fait accompli, by Cousin Drusilla--appear early, when Bayard, then only a boy of twelve, sees the Colonel return from valiant deeds in, as he thought, Tennessee. "'You think he at Tennessee?'" Loosh had said, taking big liberties in Sartoris's absence and presaging the collapse of an Old Order. "'Ain't no need for him at Tennessee now.'" "'Do you reckon Loosh knows anything that Father dont know?'" Bayard jogs Ringo, even while admitting to himself, "But I was just talking too, I knew that, because niggers know, they know things" (U 6).
When Sartoris rides through the gate on his claybank stallion, having been demoted by his own regiment following the defeat at Second Manassas, his "tarnished buttons" and "frayed braid" (U 9) invite the boy, even at that tender age, to look again at his "heroic" heritage: "Father. He was not big; it was just the things he did, that we knew he was doing, had been doing in Virginia and Tennessee, that made him seem big to us" (9). This romanticized version of his father, himself a connoisseur of Scott, Fenimore Cooper, and Dumas, has to be placed next to the somewhat bedraggled and even humbled (if not humiliated) figure coming into the drive. Furthermore, the grapevine knowledge possessed by Sartoris's own Negroes seems to be one step ahead of his own military exploits; and in Loosh's insouciance we can feel reflected the first rumblings of epistemological uncertainty in Bayard ("... it was just the things he did, that we knew he was doing, had been doing"). It was important to know exactly where his father and Generals Grant and Pemberton were, since, in their games, Bayard got to be General Pemberton twice to each time he had to play Grant. Ringo's getting to be a white general at all was not an anomaly, since "even though Ringo was a nigger too ... Ringo and I had been born in the same month and had both fed at the same breast and had slept together and eaten together for so long that Ringo called Granny 'Granny' just like I did, until maybe he wasn't a nigger anymore or maybe I wasn't a white boy anymore" (7). That would prove prescient; "nigger" and "white" as intractably separate, enduring, and binary social constructs were to transmogrify, certainly by Wyatt's and Drusilla's standards.
The categorical imperatives of "nigger" and "white" had been subverted even by Sartoris, himself, in his insistence that Ringo was the smarter of the two, in Bayard's good-natured agreement, and in Sartoris's playing loose with the constructs of race within his own domicile. Bayard has imbibed this spirit, as shown, for example, in his dream that Father had warned Louvinia to watch Loosh's telltale behavior regarding the buried family silver, that even if Loosh was her son, "she would have to be white a little while longer" (U 21). Apparently, Bayard could have deduced, "nigger" was less biology than comportment, or, as Quentin had put it in The Sound and the Fury, "a nigger is not a person so much as a form of behaviour; a sort of obverse reflection of the white people he lives among" (SF 86). Louvinia, then, could be "white," as Ringo, if not white, perhaps somehow wasn't a "nigger" anymore. But in fact there was ever in Bayard, from his boyhood, an easy if unorthodox sense of Ringo's parity, even his developing advantage, in many senses. Ringo's identity as "nigger" for Bayard is perfunctory; he knows Ringo too well, his humanity, his personhood, to ever attach more than superficial allegiance to such a term. For him, it was devoid of the advantage, the casual contempt, or amusement usually signaled by that designation.
Other conceptualizations suffer a similar fate for Bayard. That odor in Sartoris's "clothes and beard and flesh too which I believed was the smell of powder and glory, the elected victorious but know better now: know now to have been only the will to endure" (U 10), even that version of "glory" is betrayed by Bayard's observance "that his trousers were not Confederate ones but were Yankee ones, of new strong blue cloth" (11), which presages the coming political expediency in Sartoris that, after the conflict was over, would put his own undeviating fealty to the "simple code" embraced by his troops in question. The uniform, the symbol, the transcendent ideal--all these matter little to Sartoris; the pants as pants matter.
Even the categories of "Northerner" and "Southerner," "Confederate" and "Yankee" are thus blurred in the boy's eyes, though Sartoris's own slaves, at least Louvinia, know the difference, as when she slaps Loosh for announcing that "'Ginral Sherman gonter sweep the earth and the Race gonter all be free!'" "'You black fool!'" counters Louvinia. "'Do you think there's enough Yankees in the whole world to whip the white folks?'" (U 23). It is one of the novel's catching ironies that, for some of those about to be freed, racial categories are more binding, even more desirable, than they are for those who are waging war to enforce them. To Louvinia, the "white folks" are superior beings--superior to Yankees--in a way that's both reassuring and beneficial to her own view of the Southern world and her place in it. But that was a familiar irony on the plantations of "enlightened" gentry such as Colonel Sartoris. It would be Bayard's very difficult job to debunk, however, the Sartoris brand of enlightenment. He inherits, as well, the even grander calling of resisting, for Faulkner, the incipient cult of the Lost Cause, which Charles Reagan Wilson, in his Baptized in Blood, defines as "the use of the past as the basis for a Southern religious-moral identity, an identity as a chosen people" (1). The role of the war in the postbellum South would be to bring "redemption from past sins, an atonement, and a sanctification for the future" (Reagan 5), but The Unvanquished was written, in great part, to find grounds for sanctification of the present. Bayard must eschew the hegemonic tyranny of history.
A dream of twelve-year-old Bayard proves prophetic in this regard. He tells Ringo that the house and stable and cabins were all gone, everything
flat and empty as the sideboard ... [and] a sort of frightened drove of little tiny figures moving on it ... they were Father and Granny and Joby and Louvinia and Loosh and Philadelphy and Ringo and me and we were wandering around on it lost and it getting darker and darker and we forever more without any home to go to because we were forever free.... (U 24-25)
This is an interesting concatenation of the states of being simultaneously "lost" and "free"; to the degree that Bayard becomes lost to the categorical imperatives of socio-linguistic constructs such as "nigger" versus "white boy," he will become lost as well to the "simple" yet ruthless code by which his father and George Wyatt's generation lived. His condition of "freedom" would be another irony, a mimicry of the impending freedom of the "nigger," though Bayard--as Faulkner himself--would come to see his fate as tied indissolubly to African Americans, even as he must redetermine what heretical new values a Southern "white" man would embrace. The novel has many fine comic moments that point this way, such as when, even as Bayard recounts his dream to Ringo, the boys see a real live Union soldier "sitting on a bright bay horse and looking at the house through a field glass...." Bayard says, "I dont know what we had expected to see but we knew what he was at once; I remember thinking He looks just like a man ..." (25). Of course, so did the "nigger" to the Southern planter, but through sheer act of will he had denied that reality and supplanted it with a darker myth. Historically, the novel suggests, once "free" from their slaves, the white Southerner would have no "home." That would be true epistemologically as etymologically. So of course the boys must shoot the soldier, since the alternative is unthinkable to them both: "'Do you want to be free?' I said. 'Do you want to be free?'" (26). That version of Ringo's freedom signaled chaos, starvation, the unknown, maybe death; of course the boys had to shoot the liberator to preserve a world of stable referents they could not articulate yet but could feel and live by.
But the war was busy undermining and overturning such stability, as when Granny, who had never whipped the boys for anything but lying, tells the Yankee sergeant, "'You are mistaken.... There are no children in this house nor on this place'" (U 28), even as she hides them beneath her skirts, a moment itself redolent of the pervasive rumors that Jefferson Davis had been captured while fleeing in a lady's hoop skirt and bonnet, which, whether apocryphal or not, Gaines Foster has shown, enjoyed wide currency while it betrayed the defeated white Southern male's concerns regarding loss of honor and preservation of manhood (26). Oddly, it is Colonel Dick who rescues Granny and the boys from the irate sergeant, telling him, "'There are no children here, sergeant.... Didn't you just hear this lady say there are no children here?'" (U 31). Though Yankees were not known in the South for their chivalry, the colonel nonetheless goes the South one better with his own gallantry--and lying. When Colonel Dick and his regiment leave, Granny tells Bayard to get the soap--the boys will wash their mouths out for saying "We shot the bastud!" (27). This restoration of normalcy seems hollow to Bayard, or it will in retrospect, as the first casualty of his war, as it must be in every war, is "truth."
That tectonic shift, within his own family yet seeming to involve men and women, North and South, towards pragmatism and dissemblance and away from "reality" and truth-telling will "free" Bayard to become "lost" in the moral wilderness that ensues. The novel has begun to urge its narrator toward a new and uncertain horizon of moral relativism. In that context, Granny's new "pragmatism"--dissembling, forgery, cheating, lying, mule-rustling--can be characterized more generously by what Drew Gilpin Faust terms a "new selfishness" among elite white Southern women towards the close of the Civil War. The awful sacrifices of Confederate women, at first submitted to with a zealous patriotism, gave way at first to weariness, then to fear for personal survival, with a resulting "new self-absorption and self-interest," "an emerging venality ... evident in widespread speculation and extortion" (Gilpin Faust 240). Bayard and Ringo would prove avid students at her knee. Granny's creative morality would provide the first lever in dislodging Bayard from an obdurate, fixed external code of masculine honor, and budging him, as it has his grandmother, from what Faust calls the "public sphere of patriotic duty" toward the "primacy of the domestic, the private" (Gilpin Faust 242).
The countryside itself was undergoing a series of baffling and unheard-of reversals, as witnessed by the brothers McCaslin, formerly Amodeus and Theophilus, now Buck and Buddy. They lived in "one of the finest houses in the country when they inherited it. But it wasn't now," since they lived in a log cabin with a dozen dogs and "kept their niggers in the manor house" (U 47). As part of an elaborate charade, Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy would "lock" their slaves in the manor house at night with a lock "a child with a hairpin" (47) could pick, with the mutual understanding that any slave wishing to escape for the evening do it during this ritual lockdown only, and never expose the dissemblance by being seen escaping "even by unavoidable accident" (47). The ones who could not manage their "escape" while the door was being locked "voluntarily considered themselves interdict until the next evening" (47). For Faulkner's reader, especially his Northern reader, this all could seem impenetrable if delightfully droll.
Yet the pantomime enacted by the McCaslins and their slaves, as well as the odd reversal of social order signaled by these arrangements, puts another twist on the idea of "freedom" for Bayard. Why didn't the McCaslins' slaves run off for real? Why the formulaic gestures of ownership? What held the black and white world together here?
Father said they were ahead of their time; he said they not only possessed, but put into practice, ideas about social relationship that maybe fifty years after they were both dead people would have a name for. These ideas were about land. They believed that land did not belong to people but that people belonged to land and that the earth would permit them to live on and out of it and use it only so long as they behaved and that if they did not behave right, it would shake them off just like a dog getting rid of fleas. (U 48)
Implicit in this scenario is the suspicion that keeping slaves was misbehaving, but only according to some as yet undevised or unspoken or uncontemplated--except by the McCaslins--moral order. The McCaslins' "practice" was a new moral ecology whose implicit logic was that if the "land did not belong to the people but that the people belonged to land," then people could not, under this regime, "own" other people, since the point of reference for all people was their being permitted to live on and out of the land and use it only so long as they behaved. Thus, the McCaslins, after Granny's dubious entrepreneurship, further destabilize the world of appearances to which white Southern men of honor subscribed and upon which they depended. In the culture of honor, the culture of the Lost Cause--and the McCaslins are precursors to it--men "value appearance highly," says Kenneth S. Greenberg. In his Honor and Slavery, he points out how members of a culture of honor "project themselves through how they look and what they say," and "are treated honorably when their projections are respected and treated as true" (Greenberg 7). The McCaslins--and this is not lost on young Bayard--make their appeal, their "projection," to an acknowledged code of behavior ("chivalry," "honor," "loyalty") with their "lockdown," all the while playing mercilessly upon the code's very superficiality, privately turning their status as slave owners into a minstrelsy. They can do this--and it is worth noting that Faulkner ushers in his most innovative ethical premonitions in scenes of low comedy--without recourse to interiority, to any subjective ethical discourse between the two of them which nevertheless obtains tacitly and to which only they--and their slaves--are party. Yet, under cover of appearances, slaves are "free" to make their nocturnal assignations even as " ... folks said that Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy knew this and that the niggers knew they knew it, only it was like a game with rules ..." (U 47). This farcical yet ethically subversive arrangement--subversive because it gave to slaves unheard of discretion and required of them self-discipline and keeping of their unspoken word, their honor, if you will--pried apart a further rung upon which the white slave-owning patriarchy stood, since the McCaslins' flouting of orthodox master-slave relationship destabilizes the assumption that, as Greenberg shows, the man of honor's words "had to be accorded respect" by slaves whose words, in turn (spoken or implied), "could never become objects of honor" since "whites assumed that slaves lied all the time" (11). Obviously, McCaslin slaves who "voluntarily considered themselves interdict until the next evening" must be observing a white code of honor, but a code so altered by the McCaslins, in its conception and application, from Southern racial orthodoxy that, as with the familial code of Sartoris, by which "maybe [Ringo] wasn't a nigger anymore or maybe I wasn't a white boy anymore" (U 7), Bayard would lose another epistemological certainty upon which to resolve his final confrontations with Redmond, Drusilla, and with his own evolving sense of personal "honor."
Furthermore, the McCaslins had devised a novel system of bookkeeping "by which all their niggers were to be freed, not given freedom, but earning it, buying it not in money from Uncle Buck and Buddy, but in work from the plantation" (U 48). This emancipation scheme ought to have been seen as subversive, at least by John Sartoris if not young Bayard, but the McCaslins' class affiliation, despite their affectations as poker-playing rednecks, insulated them from criticism or suspicion. Their actions, effected by "Buck and Buddy," could invoke, nevertheless, the aura and heft of "Amodeus and Theophilus." They stood as beacons for a new way of seeing the South's intractable race relations, but a way of seeing that Faulkner found efficacious to broach in broad comic strokes. Their new vision encompassed both slaves and "the people whom the niggers called 'white trash'--men who had owned no slaves and some of whom even lived worse than the slaves on big plantations" (48-49). This, Father had told Bayard, was "another side of Uncle Buck's and Buddy's ideas about men and land, which Father said people didn't have a name for yet" (49). This "namelessness" bespeaks the turbulence and coming reconfiguration of the social and economic landscape as well as the actual landscape; it is as though young Bayard has to be disabused of linguistic accretions and imbibed descriptive terms before he and the others of his class will comprehend the McCaslins' weird new ecology.
But even as other planters rubbed their jaws and watched without condemning, Buck and Buddy persuaded the poor whites to pool their land and resources along with the slaves and the McCaslin plantation, "promising them in return nobody knew exactly what, except that their women and children did have shoes, which not all of them had had before, and a lot of them even went to school. Anyway, they (the white men, the trash) looked on Uncle Buck and Buddy like Deity Himself ..." (U 49). What seems to be afoot here, and for which "people didn't have a name for yet," was egalitarianism, or some nascent, primordial prototype of it crawling up out of the bottom lands to shake itself awake after its purging by fire. This reverence for the soil itself rubs off on Bayard and Ringo, who bring a snuff tin of it with them when the family removes to Memphis for safety; thinks Bayard, "(it was more than Sartoris earth; it was Vicksburg too: the yelling was in it, the embattled, the iron-worn, the supremely invincible)...." Ringo says, "'I know hit.... Hit come from hind the smokehouse. You brung a lot of hit.'" "'Yes,'" Bayard replies, "'I brought enough to last'" (55).
It is on this retreat to her sister's in Memphis that Miss Rosa Millard, Sartoris's mother-in-law, begins to talk out of both sides of her mouth. This old repository of family values, the bearer of tin bucket and soap for those boys unlucky enough to curse in front of her, confronted by a Confederate soldier on the road who cautions her about Yankee patrols ahead, dismisses his warning that Bayard's and her capture would almost ensure a necessary surrender by Sartoris. "'My experience with Yankees has evidently been different from yours,'" she tells him. "'I have no reason to believe that their officers--I suppose they still have officers among them--will bother a woman and two children'" (U 57). Her supposition, of course, is based on expectations of gallantry and valor in the ruling class, even at war and from the enemy. This is a mixture of naivete and hubris: naivete because refusing either to comprehend or honor the politics of the conflict, she badly misjudges the motivation of the men all about her; and hubris because in her growing moral blindness, she willfully prosecutes the Weltanschauung of the ruling elite on all comers even as the structure of Southern society comes boiling apart around her wagon wheels.
Sartoris does not help matters with his own brand of opportunism. When the boys leave Granny to appropriate a horse, after the Union army has relieved them of their mules, they bump into Father and his troops. Obeying the chivalric code he follows largely when it suits him, Sartoris gets the boys to return the horse to an empty barn with no sign of the owner about. The planter code does not allow one to steal from his own kind. Sartoris then provides them with two horses "with blue blankets under the saddles and U.S. burned on the horses' hips." "'You mean hit belong to me?'" Ringo asks Sartoris. "'No,'" he replies, "'You borrowed it'" (U 63). The ambiguities of the moment are relieved when Ringo has trouble mounting the horse, and must mount from the unaccustomed side. "'Git up from the wrong side?'" Ringo asks him. "'I knowed Yankees wasn't folks but I never knowed before they horses aint horses'" (63). As with many of the other fine humorous moments in the book, there is a tremor of intent; Ringo inadvertently echoes the prevailing Confederate sentiment that slaves were not humans, or maybe only three-fifths so. Yankees are demonized as the "Other" just as the Southern white had to demonize both the Native American and the slave, as "savage" in need of taming in the one case, and suitable as chattel in the other.
What makes Yankees not "folks" is precisely the Northern view that all folks are "folks." But that matter is circumvented in the good-humored appropriation of Yankee property. And why not, since logically, and legally, how can the Yankees have property, given their status on Southern soil as invaders? This sort of exertion of the prerogatives of ownership cloaks the stealing of Yankee materiel in a mantle of justice, even as it disguises and sublimates the real reason for the Yankee presence on Southern soil: the argument over extending the concept of property to human lives. In this way, Faulkner, without articulating the moral complexities of an action, allows his ruminative and discreet young narrator to observe simply the fluid and shifting application of values and beliefs in practice even in ways that seem to distort their status as ideals. Bayard becomes newly unshackled from the obduracy of Southern memory, the repository of ideals, peculiar and otherwise. By breaking from Father, slowly he will begin to take the best part of this new pragmatism (a very Northern disposition) and apply it to moral decisions, where Father seemed only to apply it to his own self-aggrandizement, even as he operated under cover of the enduring white Southern planter verities of valor, truth, courage, loyalty, principled steadfastness, self-discipline, kindness, and generosity.
To emphasize the complexities of the social upheaval underway, Faulkner makes Loosh an unlikely prophet of abolition:
"Yes," Loosh said. "I going. I done been freed; God's own angel proclamated me free and gonter general me to Jordan. I dont belong to John Sartoris now; I belongs to me and God."
"But the silver belongs to John Sartoris," Granny said. "Who are you to give it away?"
"You ax me that?" Loosh said. "Where John Sartoris? Whyn't he come and ax me that? Let God ax John Sartoris who the man name that give me to him. Let the man that buried me in the black dark ax that of the man what dug me free." (U 75)
Directly, the house burns, torched by Yankees. "The smoke boiled up, yellow and slow and turning coppercolored" (75), Bayard reports dispassionately, with the same distance and total lack of sentiment or nostalgia with which he has been viewing all events. But then, as though responding to the exigencies of the moment and remembering somehow that he is still only a boy, "'The bastuds, Granny!' I said. 'The bastuds!' Then we were all three saying it, Granny and me and Ringo, saying together: 'The bastuds!' we cried. 'The bastuds! The bastuds!'" (75). It has been a great leveling experience, and no soap required. But Bayard will not forget this double violation he has witnessed, against his home and inheritance and against what had seemed unbending standards of decency. For Miss Rosa Millard, the Yankees had summarily given her reason to believe that indeed their officers would "'bother a woman and two children.'"
By the section of the novel called "Raid," the Sartoris family is reduced to living in Joby's slave cabin, a reversal of fortune, Bayard will see, befalling many of the landed gentry. It is here that Miss Rosa seems to evolve before our eyes into a caricature of the Southern woman, that vestal figure that had been the necessary complement of the planter cavalier. She sends Ringo to Mrs. Compson for a hat, a parasol, and a hand mirror--hardly what we would think of as a survival kit for the ravages of war but it is her survival kit, and more, her props, since she will ironize her own identity as Miss Rosa into a bucaneering, crooked horsetrader, a stratagem of revenge and survival, even as it looks to a future restoration of the former institutional grandeur of "the Sartoris." Her "real" identity as the Sartoris matriarch morphs into a front to fool Yankees with; it is her identity, but an identity that, even as she enacts it becomes lost to her in the relativistic quicksand of her own dubious actions. And the questions, "'Who are you? Is your name Sartoris?'" will become more difficult for her grandson, who must contend with discovering, in his granny, what Susan V. Donaldson characterizes as the "radical instability and multiplicity of identities--femininity, masculinity, and heterosexuality" in Faulkner's characters, "that we all too often associate with the foundational and the essential" (5). Granny's "speculation and extortion," as Faust might call it, is an example of the overthrow of essentialisms underway in The Unvanquished--race, gender, the culture of honor, the tyranny of ideals, the imperatives of class, the hegemony of Southern memory--all are being undermined with a view toward the ethical fluidity and improvisation yet to occur in Redmond's office.
Of course, she is allowed her predation on the Union army, but her victims will not be Yankees, and not Bayard, particularly, either. But rather the female expression of that sacrosanct code of rigid adherence to standards that were not supposed to have changed with circumstances--they shared that purity and that elevation, that remove, with God, the Overseer of their human design, and to Whom they subscribed their beliefs, and which made their standards and beliefs worth dying for. But Miss Rosa's unshakable faith in the valor and chivalry of the Yankee Colonel, Nathaniel G. Dick, he who had behaved so gallantly in her house, to return the family silver, betrays another, surpassing belief in class privilege so deep as to distort the reality of historic events unfolding all about her. Tragically, she will pursue the restoration of a chimerical Old Order that she herself is busy desecrating right into a den of real thieves.
Independently, Bayard is moving toward an ethics based on knowledge and experience, rather than custom and heredity. This is seen in the delightful rivalry over Bayard's having seen a railroad. That Father had always proclaimed Ringo to be the smarter of the two "didn't count with us, anymore than the difference in the color of our skins counted. What counted was, what one of us had done or seen that the other had not ..." (U 81). In a passage nearing mystical intensity (and surely this is an instance of Bayard's more adult consciousness telescoped, reflexively, backward), Bayard suspects that Ringo's longing to see the locomotive symbolized
the impulse to move which had already seethed to a head among his people, darker than themselves, reasonless, following and seeking a delusion, a dream, a bright shape which they could not know since there was nothing in their heritage, nothing in the memory even of the old men to tell the others, "This is what we will find" ... --one of those impulses inexplicable yet invincible which appear among races of people at intervals and drive them to pick up and leave all security and familiarity of earth and home and start out, they dont know where, empty handed, blind to everything but a hope and a doom. (81)
Notable here is the dependence yet of Bayard's personal epistemology on "heritage," on the memory of elders, observed equally among black slaves as among whites. To take leave of that and follow "impulse" incurs an abandonment of "home," "security," "familiarity," with the uncertain outcome either hope or doom. In such a passage does Bayard pursue the deep interrogation of the ineluctable "truth" of the planter society, that heritage is fate, that it not merely indicates but coins the future. This is the deeper "truth" that comes under scrutiny in the novel in the relationships of Bayard to Ringo, to Cousin Drusilla, then, finally, to Father.
Along the road to Memphis, Bayard confronts the past sliding into the future in the form of hundreds, maybe thousands of slaves passing along the same road as the Sartorises. This, plus the specter of white women and children "watching us from the nigger cabins where they lived now like we lived at home" (U 83), further undoes the gentry's guarded but vulnerable notions of place and station in life; the races are thrown together in the cataclysm. Coming upon a young black mother abandoned by the side of the road, Granny impulsively demands, '"Who do you belong to?'" (84). She hasn't learned anything from her conversation with Loosh. The Negro woman responds, "'Hit's Jordan we coming to.... Jesus gonter see me that far'" (85). The formerly stable fixities of caste and race are coming to seem to Bayard not so much endangered as irrelevant and burdensome. New navigational skills will be needed to negotiate this road.
The next and greatest challenge to Bayard's coming of age appears in the guise of his cousin, Drusilla, who turns Southern gender roles on their heads and is always described with a sort of adolescent fascination by Bayard:
She was not tall, it was the way she stood and walked. She had on pants, like a man. She was the best woman rider in the country; when Granny and I were here that Christmas before the War and Gavin Breckbridge had just given Bobolink to her, they looked fine together; it didn't need Jingus to say that they were the finest looking couple in Alabama or Mississippi either. But Gavin was killed at Shiloh and so they didn't marry. She came and put her hand on my shoulder. "Hello," she said. "Hello, John Sartoris." (U 89)
Her willful conflation of Bayard's identity with Father's reflects back from her not unfetching face how the "fair sex" (a misnomer, in her case) will view him, how family is fate, breeding is determinant. Bertram Wyatt-Brown has penetrated, in his seminal study of Southern Honor, the "darker, more unpleasant aspects of Southern life" and the function of "primal honor" (34). That "archaic" virtue, kept vital by the necessity of negotiating "an inhospitable, dangerous world where masters had to rule in fear," is the atavistic corner of the white Southern planter's psyche which Dru would call forth in "'John Sartoris'" but which Bayard must abjure. Wyatt-Brown cites two features by which the white Southern elite recognized and gauged behavior among their own: "Honor as immortalizing valor, particularly in the character of revenge against the familial and community enemies;" and "opinion of others as an indispensable part of personal identity and gauge of self-worth" (35). For Drusilla and the orthodox Southern aristocracy, as Wyatt-Brown would have it, "primal honor also made the opinion of others inseparable from inner worth" (45). The difficulty for Bayard is to move his personal sense of honor out of the public sphere, where it can be hijacked by the burning imperatives of familial revenge and Cousin Drusilla, that "Greek amphora priestess of a succinct and formal violence" (U 219), as Bayard came to see her. Even while telling his Aunt Jenny, "'You see, I want to be thought well of '" (243), Bayard must claim for himself a sacrosanct interiority--a contemplative space of deliberation and judgement--something so feminized, in a world of renegade Grumbies, that it would be tantamount to ethical cross-dressing (inflecting again the Confederate President apprehended in hoops). Bayard must reverse what Wyatt-Brown terms "the public character of inner virtue" (45); his morality must become neither male nor female, master nor slave, Southern nor Northern, opposite of the dominant white Southern ethic that Wyatt-Brown describes as "almost entirely external in nature ... considered physically demonstrable without resort to abstraction, without ambivalence or ambiguity" (33). That is why it is so important that George Wyatt misreads the events in Redmond's office, and why Faulkner has given us the ethical forensics with which to view Redmond's "foreshortened slant of barrel which [Bayard] knew was not aimed" at him (U 249):
"My God!" George Wyatt cried. "You took the pistol away from him and then missed him, missed him twice?" Then he answered himself--the same rapport for violence which Drusilla had and which in George's case was actual character judgement: "No; wait. You walked in here without even a pocket knife and let him miss you twice. My God in heaven.... You aint done anything to be ashamed of. I wouldn't have done it that way, myself. I'd a shot at him once, anyway. But that's your way or you wouldn't have done it." (250-51)
Significantly, Bayard has effected a revolution in outlook in his "public." Wyatt, representing Father's regiment, preempted from witnessing the results of Bayard's very private demonstration of honor, must ponder what likely occurred without witness of his own "fierce pale unintroverted eyes" (251), declaring it at last nothing to be ashamed of. Both men--Bayard and Redmond--knew that Redmond's inner grace in renouncing his own "public duty" to kill his challenger, whom he doubtless intuited had come to his office to avenge Sartoris unarmed, was the necessary concommitant to Bayard's subversion of the expected. With that generosity, which required of Redmond that immediately he "went away from Jefferson and from Mississippi and never came back" (250)--this was still the South, after all; things didn't change overnight!--Bayard emerges from the obscured private space of the office, his "introverted" self in tact. Away from the "unintroverted" and ruthless appraisal of men's eyes, having payed obeisance to the form of the duel, this Sartoris had subverted its content. As if to confirm, if unwittingly, this new grounds of conduct, George Wyatt allows, "'Maybe you're right, maybe there has been enough killing in your family without-- Come on'" (251). That is enough mystification for George Wyatt, still a very public man.
In the system that would have bred first a belle, then a "Southern woman," out of Drusilla had she not had that kind of frippery cauterized out of her by Shiloh before it could take, there is no latitude for Bayard to become, in character, anything but "the Sartoris." Which is why Drusilla hardly bothers with the juvenile before her, preferring instead to address some future incarnation of the scion she sees clearly already. For Drusilla, Bayard's boyhood experience is a trifle; Bayard, in a very real sense, is John Sartoris.
Cousin Drusilla, one of Faulkner's most intriguing female characters, sacrifices her conventional sexuality on the altar of vengeance and the lost cause (not yet exalted to upper case); she would become a man, or perhaps sexless altogether, to serve the nobler and sacred higher purpose of avenging her fiance, and, metonymically, the Confederacy. Thus, when Ringo admires her horse and exclaims how she must have hidden Bobolink well when the Yankees came, her ten-year-old brother, Bayard's Cousin Denny, leaps in breathlessly with a hair-raising tale that shows how completely Drusilla had abrogated herself as female in favor of a standard of action evincing all the traits of grit, daring, courage, fierceness, and disregard for personal safety that would have been admired in any Confederate soldier:
"This horse?" Cousin Denny said. "Aint no damn Yankee going to fool with Dru's horse no more.... When they come to burn the house Dru grabbed the pistol and run out here, she had on her Sunday dress and Them right behind her, she run in here and she jumped on Bobolink bareback without even waiting for the bridle and one of Them right there in the door hollering Stop and Dru said Get away or I'll ride you down and Him hollering Stop Stop with his pistol out too--" ... "--and Dru leaned down to Bobolink's ear and said Kill him Bob and the Yankee jumped back just in time...." (90)
Hearing this, Bayard could have been thinking, this is what she meant by calling me "John Sartoris." Cousin Denny goes on to tell how "'... the lot was full of Them too and Dru stopped Bobolink and jumped down in her Sunday dress and put the pistol to Bobolink's ear and said I cant shoot you all because I haven't enough bullets and it wouldn't do any good anyway but I wont need but one shot for the horse and which shall it be? So They burned the house and went away--'" (90).
In a practical world, in a world among men at war, Drusilla has better reason to believe that those Yankees could not brook seeing such a fine animal destroyed than Granny had in believing that Colonel Nathan G. Dick would somehow--because he was a gentleman and therefore one of her own, only Northern--return the family silver and put reality back where it had been and should have remained. Drusilla has fashioned herself, perhaps, as her slain fiance, having decided that the promise held out to the Southern white woman of marriage and childbearing and companionship had been a cruel ruse, that there was nothing in all that for her and therefore no reason not to just go ahead and unmake herself as female: "Her hair was cut short; it looked like Father's would when he would tell Granny about him and the men cutting each other's hair with a bayonet. She was sunburned and her hands were hard and scratched like a man's that works" (U 91).
The excitement that follows concerns a veritable tide of slaves Drusilla has been observing at night heading towards "Jordan"; it is the tide that Northern religious and political rhetoric has unleashed, and Faulkner shows in the abandonment of the old and infirm by others "'not stopping, not even looking at them'" (U 91), as Drusilla reports, the inadvertent inhumanity against their own kind committed by the newly freed driven to "'cross Jordan'" (91). It is an interesting role for Drusilla, here, to be the witness and chronicler of this tidal crush of humanity marching like lemmings, since it complicates her character, disallowing her to become to Bayard or to the reader a caricature of some recognizable Southern white female stereotype, as Miss Rosa has, and instead lodging in the consciousness of this daring, manly girl the conscience of, not Southerners or Northerners merely, but humanity itself. She could not be telling this story, would not have put herself in position to see it, had the abrogation of herself as the dutiful daughter of Aunt Louisa not taken place.
Even the Yankees at the river, setting up a bridge to cross the infantry and artillery, recognize something in Drusilla which might claim responsibility for--and prevent--the calamity unfolding. As the slaves, "'singing and chanting and trying to get to that unfinished bridge or even down to the water itself,'" are beaten back with scabbards, one Yankee implores Drusilla, "'Cant you do anything with them? Promise them anything to go back home?' ... 'But we cannot be responsible,'" says Aunt Louisa, who would prevent Drusilla from riding out to the bridge each night to observe (U 92). "'The Yankees brought it on themselves; let them pay the price.' ... 'Those negroes are not Yankees, Mother,' Cousin Drusilla said. 'At least there will be one person there who is not a Yankee either.' She looked at Granny. 'Four, counting Bayard and Ringo'" (93). Here Drusilla assumes the paternalism towards the slaves of the absent white male planter, and, while she is at it, further confirms what she meant by greeting Bayard with "'Hello, John Sartoris.'"
By contrast, Bayard can only feel a certain belatedness, when, listening to Drusilla's account of the North/South locomotive chase, he wonders where he and Ringo could have been and what they could have been thinking at such a portentous moment; why had they not "paused to look at one another, aghast and uplifted, while it was happening?" (U 94). Once or twice a year, Father would appear "from beyond that cloudbank region which Ringo believed was Tennessee," and other evidence of the War would present itself in the form of returning men with "actual arms and legs missing," but somehow, to Bayard, "... old men had been telling young men and boys about wars ..." forever, and "... wars are wars.... So we knew a war existed; we had to believe that, just as we had to believe that the name for the sort of life we had led for the last three years was hardship and suffering. Yet we had no proof of it" (94). They had less than no proof; they had, rather,
thrust into our faces the very shabby and unavoidable obverse of proof, who had seen Father (and the other men too) return home, afoot like tramps or on crowbait horses, in faded and patched (and at times obviously stolen) clothing, preceded by no flags nor drums ... in coats bearing no glitter of golden braid and with scabbards in which no sword reposed, actually almost sneaking home ... Father's whole presence seemed (to us, Ringo and me) to emanate a kind of humility and apology, as if he were saying, "Believe me, boys; take my word for it: there's more to it than this, no matter what it looks like." (95)
But Bayard is stuck with empirical evidence to the contrary, and he can only lament, "And then to have it happen, where we could have been there to see it, and were not ..." (95). Of course, he was talking, not about Father's War, but about the "momentary flash and glare of indomitable spirit" (97) of the locomotives, the South racing the North out of an Atlanta roundhouse, as told to him by his masculinized cousin, this amphora priestess giving the boys that last "'glimpse of that for which you have suffered and been denied'" (97), of the South's "glory"--"Because that's all it was. I know that now" (97). Things are coming to Bayard already suffused with the corrective of a new historical perspective; he cannot feel nostalgia for that which, upon closer inspection and seen with judgment's intervening candor, seems merely "shabby" or ephemeral. The meeting of the "two iron knights of the old time, not for material gain but for principle--honor denied with honor, courage denied with courage--" (98), for Bayard, ultimately, can prove "nothing save the finality of death and the vanity of all endeavor" (98). The scene captures the futility and absurdity of the white Southern planter version of medieval chivalry transported to the imminent industrialization of their land in the modern age, an astringent irony since it was the industrial North that was destroying that whole feudal way of life and agrarian economy. So even this victory is pyrrhic; the South wins a spectacle and loses the war, and wins even that puny moment with instruments provided by the victors.
Drusilla's very telling of the tale, though, while preserving a vestige of the culture of the incipient Lost Cause, for which Bayard is thankful enough at the moment, associates her with the backward-looking "vanity" he has just renounced. Bayard will seek a greater flexibility of spirit than she can provide. Drusilla's "they couldn't take back the fact that we had done it. They couldn't take that from us" (U 99) flies in the face of the evidence of steel rails bow-tied by Yankees around trees. It is not that the South would lose its history, since the memory of the locomotives (or of the war, or the Lost Cause itself for that matter) was "not gone or vanished either, so long as there should be defeated or the descendants of defeated to tell it or listen to the telling" (98). But by her fierce embrace of that bitter memory, she, as a representative type of white Southern youth and womanhood, would help to doom her entire region to an ahistoricity, a perverse Eden, an obverse garden of perdition, a seemingly timeless, eternal period of ruination, chicanery, cruelty, and backwardness--the Reconstruction and its aftermath. The South would have been made to heel and submit by its industrialized neighbors to the North, its borrowed iron glory reduced to "a few piles of charred ties among which green grass was already growing, a few threads of steel knotted and twisted about the trunks of trees and already annealing into the living bark, becoming one and indistinguishable with the jungle growth which had now accepted it" (96). A double loss: shown the stick of modernity and the future, the South thus was beaten into idealizing a stagnant and irrelevant past. History, which ought to be an enlightening agent of self-actualization for a person or a land, for the white South would become instead the benighted redoubt of a perdurable irrelevancy.
We understand Drusilla's romantic fatalism better, however, when she confides to Bayard the depth of her personal loss. She is a young woman for whom, it seems to her, all of the promise and sweetness of life has been severed with the death of her fiance. She then repudiates the whole traditional way of life for the white Southern woman: "'Stupid, you see,'" she tells Bayard:
"But now you can see for yourself how it is, it's fine now; you dont have to worry now about the house and the silver because they get burned up and carried away, and you dont have to worry about the negroes because they tramp the roads all night waiting for a chance to drown in homemade Jordan, and you dont have to worry about getting children on your body to bathe and feed and change because the young men can ride away and get killed in the fine battles and you dont even have to sleep alone, you dont even have to sleep at all and so all you have to do is show the stick to the dog now and then and say Thank God for nothing. You see?....... There." (U 101)
Here is the "emotional numbness" (236) which Gilpin Faust discovered in the letters of the South's wealthy white women, driven to distraction by anxiety and personal loss. The difference here, however, is that Drusilla has converted her personal tragedy into a showy paroxysm of irony, bitterness, and rage and annealed herself to the male code of public honor and revenge to which she will hold "John Sartoris." It would be fair to surmise that, in face of this feminine onslaught, Bayard's romantic notions of the war and its raison d'etre, if he has any intact, are further destabilized. They are to receive another jolt in the tragicomic episode of Granny and the mules.
Still single-mindedly seeking Colonel Dick to reinstate her wealth and position, Granny and the boys catch up to him and present a requisition list. Colonel Dick, who seems earnest enough when he utters, "'Damn this war'" (U 109), assures Granny that she shall have all of the silver and mules and slaves she has lost. Only he purposely misconstrues her and provides her not with the mules, Old Hundred and Tinney, two slaves, Loosh and Philadelphy, and a chest of silver, but a hundred and ten mules, ten chests and a hundred and ten slaves for good measure. Along with this, a note to all brigade regimental and other commanders to see that the bearer of the note is "repossessed in full of the following property," then listing the mules and slaves and chests. However, each successive Yankee officer takes that to mean additional slaves, mules and silver. "'I tried to tell them better,'" Granny says to Bayard and Ringo. "'It's the hand of God'" (112). Such opportunistic hermeneutics on Granny's part will have dire consequences; her abrogation of her role as matriarch and standard-bearer of noblesse oblige leaves "the Sartoris" without a moral compass. Her dubious entrepreneurship represents both downward mobility for the Sartoris family, as well as a certain betrayal of Colonel Dick's charity and gallantry, qualities formerly held sacrosanct by Miss Rosa Millard herself. Bayard's privileged position vis-a-vis Ringo evaporates as Ringo becomes Granny's chief mule salesman and requisitions officer--" ... he just got in and took the reins," Bayard notes. "So I rode in the back then ..." (115). Out with another categorical planter imperative: class. At one point, having bilked successive Yankee outfits of mules, horses and chests, Granny has a pang of conscience, ordering everyone out of the wagon to pray forgiveness. "'Hit was the paper that lied; hit wasn't us,' Ringo said." "'The paper said a hundred and ten. We have a hundred and twenty-two,' Granny said. 'Kneel down'" (118). Moral shadings are blurring, distinctions of right and wrong running at the edges. Granny's former rectitude is reshaping itself into sophism and religiosity.
Granny's scheme of reselling embezzled Yankee mules back to the Yankees necessitates her doing business with Ab Snopes, whom Father has asked to look out for Granny, even as he told Ringo and Bayard to keep a close eye on Ab Snopes. She is doing it, ostensibly, so that Sartoris will have something to start over with once the war is done. Sartoris is in complicity, since he interjects Snopes into family affairs. In doing such underhanded business with the underclass, all in the name of retribution against the Yankees, Granny not only compromises Sartoris standards but Sartoris safety and well-being. She cannot count on a Snopes as she could on Colonel Dick, a stranger and Northerner, for though a white Southern man and familiar to her, Snopes will put his own avariciousness before protecting women and children, and Granny and Sartoris are willing to abandon the station in society that had always insulated their kind from the depredations of the rabble. Ab Snopes keenly reckons up Granny's profit at "'six thou-sand and seven hun-dred and twen-ty-two dollars and six-ty-five cents'" (U 123), all but counting fingers.
As Gilpin Faust expresses it in Mothers of Invention, for Confederate women, "commitment to the Cause was not unbounded but had to be calculated in a balance sheet on which the burden of further hardship and the growing likelihood of ultimate defeat figured large" (239). That likelihood became a guarantee when Miss Rosa placed the Sartoris balance sheet, with its stolen mules and purloined silver, to be held for surety in the grubbing and unfiduciary paws of Snopes. The economic miscegenation of Sartoris and Snopes further undermines the probity of the chivalric code that had always been synonymous with the name Sartoris.
Other tectonic shifts in values and relations follow, as when Ringo's reconnaissance allows him to draw a map ("who had declined even to try to learn to print his name") and precisely plot those Yankee regiments already swindled against those as yet unabused. "Father was right; he was smarter than me" (U 125), observes Bayard, whose reflectiveness grows even as he begins to assume a passivity that would have been thought of as feminine by the likes of George Wyatt, but that is slowly coming to suit Bayard for the Reconstruction years that will follow all this. Bayard notes that, maybe from riding about unaccompanied to spy on Yankee regiments, Ringo "had got to treating me like Granny did--like he and Granny were the same age instead of him and me" (126). Same age, not same color. To his credit, Bayard sees this without rancor; he credits his pal and does not pull rank as either a white or, technically, Ringo's owner. The social currents swirling in this novel, then, are the same as those affecting the New South Compsons and their Negro charges. In his treatment of The Sound and the Fury, John T. Matthews similarly identifies "the reversal of class hierarchy and the destabilization of racial categories" (100) that we see here at work in the Bayard-Ringo relationship.
Meanwhile, Granny continues to exert the empty show of authority; when Ringo says, if the Yankees do recognize their own mules in Memphis, "' ... that's Ab Snopes' trouble, not ourn,'" Granny corrects him--"'Mister Snopes'" (U 126). Using his mysteriously appropriated pile of official letterhead reading United States Forces. Department of Tennessee, Ringo would merely copy, perfectly, Colonel Dick's original letter and "put in the right regiment and whatever number of mules [he] had examined and approved" (127). Even as Ringo's wonderfully inventive and daring business acumen leads them to "'a even two hundred and forty-eight head of Confedrit mules we done recovered and collected interest on, let alone the money'" (127), Granny slowly has evacuated her authority and put her relationship to Ringo, and his to Bayard, which should have been a matter of birth and uncrossable lines of demarcation, on a basis of merit and achievement, or at least sheer derring-do and hutzpah. She would not have thought of it this way, of course, and it sounds almost too contemporary for the novel, but Bayard himself understands it so. Miss Rosa never could have seen herself in partnership with her own fourteen-year-old slave boy, but Faulkner's Civil War in The Unvanquished is preparing a social-ground clearing even more drastic and apocalyptic than the burning of Jefferson and Vicksburg.
In a comic grace note, Faulkner shows us that Ringo himself has no ideas of social independence or freedom from "the Sartoris." Quite the opposite. When Ringo insists on undersigning the counterfeit requisitions himself, first with Grant's name and then with Lincoln's, Granny comes to understand that "Ringo objected to having the Yankees think that Father's folks would have any dealings with anybody under the General-in-Chief " (U 128). That's both funny and endearing, but more, it points to a level of loyalty and pride one would have suspected more of a slave's owners than of the slave himself. There is a certain thoroughbred spirit with which Faulkner endows Ringo; Ringo's humanity constantly subverts the garden-variety prejudice any less of a boy than Bayard would have lived and breathed towards a "nigger." Ringo's loyalty and love for "the Sartoris" inoculates Bayard for the future; Ringo's example will provide redemption from the darker Southern heritage and freedom from bias for Bayard. Ringo perceives that he and Granny are moral equals now, for their confederacy in crime has erased difference.
When the Federal lieutenant comes to the cabin with all of the phony requisitions, then storms down to the pen to find forty-nine mules with the U.S. brand burned out by Ringo and Granny, she is repentant. After his departure, she brings the boys to an empty church and makes them kneel: "'I have sinned,'" she confesses. "'I have stolen and I have borne false witness against my neighbor, though that neighbor was an enemy of my country. And more than that, I have caused these children to sin. I hereby take their sin upon my conscience'" (U 147). This prayer certainly complicates her character for us; none of this occurred to her while she was running Yankee mules, it must be said. She goes on:
"I sinned for more than justice: I sinned for the sake of food and clothes for Your own creatures who could not help themselves; for children who had given their fathers, for wives who had given their husbands, for old people who had given their sons, to a holy cause, even though You have seen fit to make it a lost cause." (147; emphasis mine)
Doubtless Faulkner wants us to see the duplicitous nature of her moral convictions; the perpetuation of human bondage could not be called, except by proslavery antebellum sophistry, a "holy cause." As if to underscore this, when she rises up from prayer, she says, "'I just wish I knew how they found out about that pen.'" "'Dont you know?'" Ringo asks her, "'Ab Snopes told them.'" Bayard adds wryly, "This time she didn't even say, 'Mister Snopes'" (147).
Granny's life must end in violence, The Unvanquished implies, because the moral allegiance of planter society to a spurious code of honor and its touted noblesse oblige masked the far greater violence and tragedy of the economic benefits the peculiar institution afforded the gentry. Taking counsel from Ab Snopes, she would seek out Grumby's Independents, fifty or sixty uniformless Southern renegades, pirates really, who tortured slaves and frightened white women to find out where money or silver was hidden, once the Yankees had left the country. Grumby, Bayard explains, would produce a "tattered raiding commission actually signed by General Forrest, though you couldn't tell if the original name was Grumby or not" (U 150). The parallel of Grumby's forgeries to Granny's and Ringo's snares the aristocracy in a web of perfidy. Granny, Ab Snopes convinces her, would merely have to write out a similar order such as they had been forging all along, thereby forcing Grumby to surrender a thoroughbred stallion and three mares he had stolen--"... how Ab Snopes knew it he didn't say ..." (150)--and Ab would guarantee to get two thousand dollars for the horses. "We tried to keep her from doing it, we both tried ..." Bayard says, but Granny "still believed that what side of a war a man fought on made him what he is" (148-49). The gallant conduct of Colonel Dick next to this "Confederate" Grumby further serves to undermine the public code of honor and the subsequent religion of the Lost Cause, as, in the New South, The Unvanquished prophesies, what side of a man's interests a man fought on would make him what he was.
Was it now also the same "holy cause" that propelled Miss Rosa Millard into that "huge rotting building with the gray afternoon dying wetly upon it" (U 153)? Ab Snopes has played her biases, unacknowledged even to herself, like a fiddle: look what they had made from the Yankees, enemies, and there would not be any risk to this "because Southern men would not harm a woman" (150); look how she had given away most of what she had made to help others and had made them independent and secure before she could "save herself and her own blood" (151), when business with the Yankees suddenly had ceased; and how would it be if, when Father came home to his ruined plantation and the slaves all gone, she could "take fifteen hundred dollars in cash out of her pocket and say, 'Here. Start over with this'" (151). The boys begged her to resist Snopes's blandishments and ask advice of Uncle Buck McCaslin, "anyone, any man" (151), but her sophistry had gotten the better of her: "'But the horses do not belong to them because they are stolen property,' and we said, 'Then no more will they belong to us,' and Granny said, 'But they do not belong to them'" (151).
There has been a fateful shift: by this point, Granny has played ethical games so long that her judgment is clouded and the boys have surpassed her. They are both becoming more adept and skillful at drawing distinctions in a land devastated not only of its material wealth but plundered of its rectitude, a rectitude, the novel shows us, that had been pretty much a sham to begin with, less a perdurable body of sacrosanct convictions than a stratagem taken on to preserve a gaudy, wealthy, and untenable way of life. The Old Order had "collapsed" (U 154), like Granny on the compress floor, a Grumby bullet through her. Her belief that "'I am a woman. Even Yankees do not harm old women'" (153) had been fatally compromised when she descended from the pedestal of the white Southern woman and lived not only among but as the ordure she discovered on the compress floor.
The picture of the war's aftermath in Jefferson and Mississippi is as unpretty as it is complex; Faulkner, through Bayard's eyes, depicts the plight of the African American with an admixture of "enlightened planter" nostalgia and a raw observance of a necessary interstice in which hundreds of African Americans "had returned to the country since, who had followed the Yankees away and then returned, to find their families and owners gone, to scatter into the hills and live in caves and hollow trees like animals I suppose, not only with no one to depend on but with no one depending on them, caring whether they returned or not or lived or died or not" (U 155). It is now a country where Ab Snopes, formerly put in charge of looking out for Granny on behalf of John Sartoris, "'has went off with Grumby,'" Uncle Buck surmises, "'to get some more, since your grandmother has gone out of business as far as he is concerned'" (161).
After catching up with Ab Snopes and whipping him, the boys continue their pursuit of Grumby without Uncle Buck, who has been wounded by one of Grumby's collaborators. Later, they are presented with Grumby by the same neatly attired bearded man who earlier had warned them and then shot Uncle Buck. Putting Grumby at the mercy of Bayard and Ringo, the man tells Grumby they had "'a good thing'" going in the country until Grumby got scared and panicked, all because of "'a piece of paper on which someone had signed Bedford Forrest's name. And you with one exactly like it in your pocket now'" (U 180). This is not lost on Bayard, who must face the dawning truth about his Granny, and the larger implications for white Southern womanhood. It was not that the war had made it impossible for white Southern women to live up to the impossibly rigid standards for purity of conduct thrust upon them, so much as the standard itself was inhumane, both in the range of self-awareness and richness of experience it denied its possessor but more, in the cruel denial to the darker race of its own humanity and for which purpose the standard had been instituted in the first place, and for which such "purity" must be maintained as the obverse and veneer of that denial. Miss Rosa Millard becomes the transposed Doppelganger of Grumby; at the novel's core is an indictment by comparison of Sartoris oppression with Grumby lawlessness.
This is why Bayard's killing of Grumby must be viewed not as a continuance of the mindless violence generated by the war in service of an inhumane regime, but separately as a simple act of decency and moral discretion. With it, he is freeing the landscape of an unfortunate virus attendant upon the larger conflict. Having nailed Grumby's trigger hand to a board and placed it on Granny's grave, the grave took on a "reconciled" (U 184) look. This killing, a clean and uncomplicated piece of primal justice, must be held against Wyatt's and Drusilla's insistence that Bayard avenge Father's assassination. The difference will be that Bayard will apply a moral perspective missing in the country and in the conflict as we have viewed it but articulated, not surprisingly, by Ringo. "'It wasn't [Grumby] or Ab Snopes either that kilt her,' Ringo said. 'It was them mules. That first batch of mules we got for nothing'" (184). But nothing, The Unvanquished tells us, had been got for nothing, neither those first mules nor the centuries of forced labor that preceded them. Still, the pressure on Bayard to be "the Sartoris" will be relentless; already, after Grumby's death, hermeneutical Uncle Buck is busy interpreting history and laying track for its repetition: "'I told John Sartoris, 'just let them ride into Jefferson and look on Rosa Millard's grave!' Aint I told you he is John Sartoris' boy? Hey? Aint I told you?'" (186).
The Yankees have gone away in 1864, having burned Jefferson, leaving men and women "enemies," since "the men had given in and admitted that they belonged to the United States but the women had never surrendered" (U 188). Bayard observes that "now we lived in a world of burned towns and houses and ruined plantations and fields inhabited only by women" (188). He is fifteen. In its wake, the Union army leaves profound social confusion, as bemoaned by Aunt Louisa "ever since Drusilla had deliberately tried to unsex herself by refusing to feel any natural grief at the death in battle not only of her affianced husband but of her own father" (189). Aunt Louisa, self-described as "'a mother, a Southern woman,'" accepts it as "'our lot'" to have borne anything the past four years, but is stricken to think of Drusilla off riding with Father's company in Carolina when Aunt Louisa's own husband also "'laid down his life to protect a heritage of courageous men and spotless women'" (190). Doubtless, but he could not have envisioned kinfolk horse trading with Grumby, either, particularly spotless women kinfolk.
Drusilla, by unsexing herself and bivouacking with Sartoris, has renounced what to Bayard's Aunt Louisa was "the highest destiny of a Southern woman--to be the bride-widow of a lost cause" (U 191), a phrase given by Faulkner to an aptly histrionic character, though there is nothing singular about her belief. Appearing in her mother's cabin one night "in the garments not alone of a man but of a common private soldier," Drusilla shows "neither shame nor remorse" (191) and does not appear to know what her mother is talking about. When told that she and Sartoris must marry at once, she responds, "'Cant you understand that I am tired of burying husbands in this war? that I am riding in Cousin John's troop not to find a man but to hurt Yankees?'" (191). To her mother, however, she is merely "flouting and outraging all Southern principles of purity and womanhood that our husbands had died for" (193). Or at least, Faulkner seems to be saying, that ostensibly is what they had died for. But we recognize it as the convenient and desperate self-delusion that it was, a fable of privileged and violent men, necessarily concomitant to their own surreptitious miscegenation, even as it was necessary to their own wives, who needed such a fiction just as badly to conceal from themselves their own untenable status. Thus is it an intolerable affront to her mother that Drusilla rejects the trappings of the martyred widow-bride for an expression of her true self--the love and unbounded pain of loss suffered with Gavin Breckbridge's too-early death, and the pursuit to avenge him that her rent heart feels would be the only balm possible.
This, though twisted, is comprehensible but nonetheless a breach of contract for a white "Southern woman," whose goddess-like purity must not be sullied by individual acts of self-expressive action or will. Granny's fate at the hands of Grumby would be a caution. But, as Foster has insightfully shown, in his Ghosts of the Confederacy, after Appomattox, male-female relations in the South would suffer an upheaval due to "the war's challenge to traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity." Values in the Confederate South demanded that men protect their women "in return for purity, piety, and submissiveness" (Foster 26); however, with her fianace's useless death at Shiloh and the subsequent defeat of the Confederacy, Drusilla has no such bargain to keep with menfolk. Realizing Bayard will not duel Redmond with her proffered pistols, "'the long true barrels true as justice ... the two of them slender and invincible and fatal as the physical shape of love'" (U 237), she stands before him, then, "erect now, staring at me with intolerable and amazed incredulity" (238), and Bayard might well worry along with Confederate men, as Foster says they likely did, "that they had failed to live up to their own standards of public behavior" (24).
When the buggies and surreys show up in force at the Sartoris cabin, fourteen Southern women good and true led by Mrs. Habersham seek to expose Drusilla's "'condition'" (U 196) and demand of Sartoris that he marry her immediately. Then it is Drusilla's turn to be outraged, when, after a quick pat on the belly from Louvinia confirms to Sartoris and Bayard Dru's chastity, lest anyone doubt, Drusilla, crying hard in Louvinia's arms, blurts out, "'And Gavin dead at Shiloh and John's home burned and his plantation ruined, that he and I--We went to the War to hurt Yankees, not hunting women!'" (197). That last odd choice, when she might have said "husbands," suggests the extent to which she has evacuated and repudiated not only the heritage of white Southern woman but any conventional notion of femaleness whatsoever.
The theme of reversals accelerates when Bayard overhears Father telling Drusilla, in the immediate aftermath of the war, that he had expected Federal troops from Lincoln, that Lincoln himself had promised troops, then things would be all right. That, relates Bayard, from a man
who had commanded a regiment for four years with the avowed purpose of driving Federal troops from the country. Now it was as though we had not surrendered at all, we had joined forces with the men who had been our enemies against the new foe whose means we could not always fathom but whose aim we could always dread. (U 198).
The tone of disappointment and disapproval in Bayard's reportage is strong and unmistakable, especially regarding Father's covert actions in Jefferson while others went about the business of rebuilding the town. Just exactly what he had been up to is revealed comically when Ringo, having slipped off to town to do some reconnaissance, comes back and says to Bayard,
"Do you know what I aint?" he said.
"What?" I said.
"I aint a nigger anymore. I done been abolished." Then I asked him what he was, if he wasn't a nigger anymore. (199)
Ringo produces "a new scrip dollar; it was drawn on the United States Resident Treasurer, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, and signed 'Cassius Q. Benbow, Acting Marshal,' in a neat clerk's hand, with a big sprawling X under it" (U 199). Stunned, though he had known since he was twelve that perhaps Ringo wasn't a "nigger" and he himself might not be a "white boy," Bayard nevertheless cannot absorb an official, sanctified version of this just yet. "'A nigger?'" he asks. "'A nigger?'" Then Ringo relates the presence of the two Burdens, carpet-baggers from Washington, who had a patent "to organise the niggers into Republicans" (199), and how the white folks and Father were busy trying to prevent it. To add to the confusion of his not being a "nigger" anymore, Ringo announces, "'Naw, suh.... This War aint over. Hit just started good. Used to be when you seed a Yankee you knowed him because he never had nothing but a gun or a mule halter or a handful of hen feathers. Now you dont even know him and stid of the gun he got a clutch of this stuff in one hand and a clutch of nigger voting tickets in the yuther'" (199-200).
Drusilla, coerced into both a dress and marriage to Sartoris, is temporarily "beaten" (U 203) but it is not long before Sartoris, having murdered the Burdens (who had been set up to seem the aggressors), appoints Drusilla voting commissioner. Meanwhile, Sartoris would go to the sheriff and post his own bond, overcoming George Wyatt's strenuous objections. "'I let them fire first. You all heard. You boys can swear to my derringer.'" "'Yes,'" George said, "'We all heard,'" publicly sanctioning the duel. "'Does any man here want a word with me about this?'" (207), asks John Sartoris, confident, as Greenberg might say, "of being treated honorably when [his] projections are respected and accepted as true" (7). When Wyatt objects to Sartoris presenting himself to the sheriff, Sartoris asks rhetorically, without a trace of observable irony, "'Dont you see we are working for peace through law and order?'" (208). Bayard knows that Father had told the Burdens that Cash Benbow would never be elected Marshal in Jefferson. After the vote, George Wyatt proclaims, "'You needn't bother to count them,'" and adds, "'[t]hey all voted No'" (210) to Cash Benbow. Father and Drusilla ride back to town with the voting box, Drusilla trailing, along with tattered conventions of gender, "her torn dress and the ruined veil and the twisted wreath hanging from her hair by a few pins" (209).
Bayard must perform his own ultimate reversal, the rejection of Father and the corrupt tradition he stood for, occasioning the wonderful set-piece, "An Odor of Verbena," where Bayard is fetched from university by Ringo upon Father's assassination. His first thought when Professor Wilkins opened his door to break the news was, "... I was now The Sartoris" (U 214). Even as this occurs to him, he thinks, "At least this will be my chance to find out if I am what I think I am or if I just hope ..."; perhaps he will now take the measure of "that which I still had no yardstick to measure save that one consisting of what, despite myself, despite my raising and background (or maybe because of them) I had for some time known I was becoming and had feared the test of it" (215). He felt that "... no matter what might happen to either of us, I would never be The Sartoris to [Ringo]," for, since the mule trading days with Granny, Bayard "had had to do most of the changing just to catch up with him" (215-16). Going into his confrontation with Redmond, Bayard already knew he "would not die (I knew that) but who maybe forever after could never again hold up his head" (217). "'We could bushwhack him,'" Ringo offers, "'Like we done Grumby that day. But I reckon that wouldn't suit that white skin you walks around in.'" "'No,'" Bayard replies (218), but his victory is already assured in the very tone Ringo has taken with him: a reticent but mutually acknowledged egalitarianism exists between them. They are easy with one another in their devotion (Ringo has ridden forty tear-stained miles for Sartoris without eating anything and will ride forty more, having already prepared Bayard's mount) and their loyalty, and also in the breadth they allow each other regarding Father's death and what to do about it. This relationship is the hope that rides out of the war's aftermath and into the future, beyond The Unvanquished.
When they arrive, Father is lying in the parlor in his regimentals with Drusilla waiting for Bayard "beneath all the festive glitter of the chandeliers, in the yellow ball gown and the sprig of verbena in her hair" (U 219), presenting the two identical duelling pistols. The house was rebuilt by Father over the same blackened spot; Drusilla and John were wed, forcibly, under the redoubtable efforts of Mrs. Habersham, and the garden planted with verbena because, Drusilla says, "verbena was the only scent you could smell above the smell of horses and courage and so it was the only one that was worth the wearing" (220). At this moment, Bayard recounts to himself how Father killed a poor hill man, "almost a neighbor," under cloudy circumstances; the man "had been in the first infantry regiment when it voted Father out of command: and we never to know if the man actually intended to rob Father or not because Father had shot too quick" (221). Sartoris had sent money to the widow, who had appeared two days later and had flung it in his face.
Drusilla says to Bayard that Father had a dream. But nobody could have more of a dream than Colonel Sutpen, he replies. Sutpen served under Sartoris in his first regiment, and then was voted colonel when the regiment deposed Father after Second Manassas, for which Father never forgave him. Sutpen refused to join the nightriders organized by Father "to keep the carpet baggers from organizing the negroes into an insurrection," telling Sartoris and his men instead, "'I'm for my land. If every man of you would rehabilitate his own land, the country will take care of itself '"(U 222), whereupon Father challenged him to a duel. Sutpen refused. In view of that refusal to spurious, formulaic violence, and the irascibility and intolerance displayed by Father against a man who spoke with such dignity, Bayard could declare to Drusilla, "'Nobody could have more of a dream than that'" (222-23). Yes, Drusilla allows, but Sutpen's dream is for Sutpen, while John's was for "'this whole country which he is trying to raise by its bootstraps'" (223). Bayard wants to know if that includes the growing list of men Father had had to kill or offered to kill, presumably to help them:
"Killed some of them? I suppose you include those two carpet baggers he had to kill to hold that first election, dont you?"
"They were men. Human beings."
"They were northerners, foreigners who had no business here. They were pirates." (223)
As spokeswoman for former slave owners, Drusilla, along with her "boy-hard body, the close implacable head with its savagely cropped hair" (223), must be repudiated. The damage inflicted on her gender by the war could pull Bayard under, too. Bayard must not succumb to the appeal, then the insult, she will offer his young manhood. He recognizes her as an anti-life force, the "feminine" complement of Father's arrogance and own implacability. "'A dream is not a very safe thing to be near, Bayard,'" she says,
"I know; I had one once. It's like a loaded pistol with a hair trigger: if it stays alive long enough, somebody is going to be hurt. But if it's a good dream, it's worth it. There are not many dreams in the world, but there are a lot of human lives. And one human life or two dozen--"
"Are not worth anything?"
"No. Not anything." (223-24)
Bayard's revision of Father nears completion as he contemplates, after Father's death, Father's "violent and ruthless dictatorialness and will to dominate," his "courteous intolerant pride," and the way he needlessly taunted his railroad-building partner, Redmond, for "not having smelled powder" (U 224-25) during the war. This, even though Redmond had produced cotton for the Government without profit to himself, though he could have made money out of it and everybody knew that. Sartoris, though, could not help himself, and, like a "drunkard" (225), dogged Redmond. "He was wrong" (225), Bayard affirms, and with those three words, effects a revolution in culture in the South that a great war had started but could not complete. It is the work of wars to destroy; people rebuild. And Bayard, destroying his allegiance to the new Lost Cause before it can become a religion to him as it already has to Drusilla, begins to rebuild a scale of values in the vacuum and desecration left in the wake not merely of a war but of three hundred years of holocaust for not one but two races of men: for the one, physical and spiritual; for the other, moral.
Bayard must refuse Drusilla's kiss as he disavows her belief:
"There are worse things than killing men, Bayard. There are worse things than being killed. Sometimes I think the finest thing that can happen to a man is to love something, a woman preferably, well, hard hard hard, then to die young because he believed what he could not help but believe and was what he could not (could not? would not) help but be." (U 227)
But finally, Bayard can repulse this sacrificial fatalism, along with the arrogance of his own "raising and background," and the godlike powers over human life allocated to his ilk, the blasphemy of which found its willing partner in the complicity of the white Southern woman. "'Oh you will thank me,'" says Drusilla, proffering the duelling pistols, "'you will remember me who put into your hands what they say is an attribute only of God's, who took what belongs to heaven and gave it to you'" (237). Her sexuality, the very propagation of her kind as a Southern species, folds in upon itself, with his refusal, like a poisonous flower at end of day.
Yet, despite her fevered and bellicose evangelism, Bayard's growing humanity sees a redeeming quality in Drusilla that is the antidote to the poison of categorical thinking and the bleak, inhuman moral absolutism of the Old Order:
... she removed the verbena sprig and put it into my lapel, and I thought how the War had tried to stamp all the women of her generation and class in the South into a type and how it had failed--the suffering, the identical experience ... was there in the eyes, yet beyond that was the incorrigibly individual woman.... (U 228-29)
The spirit, Bayard has learned, is regenerative; it evolves not by holding on to but by letting go of. It endures in transit, not fixity. He could abjure Wyatt's provocations but respect the man; he could relinquish Drusilla's "type" but salvage the "woman." Their inveterate, intoxicant beliefs would never forfeit his own incorrigible compassion. For, as long as Bayard could see through the supposed types of man, or woman, the individual would always be respected, and the spirit, unvanquished, renew and flourish.
And the country, as Colonel Sutpen insisted, would take care of itself.
Donaldson, Susan V. "Faulkner and Masculinity."The Faulkner Journal 15.1-2 (1999-2000): 3-11.
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. 1929. The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage International, 1990.
--. The Unvanquished. 1938. The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage International, 1991.
Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1996.
Foster, Gaines M. Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South. New York: Oxford UP, 1987.
Greenberg, Kenneth S. Honor and Slavery: Lies, Duels, Noses, Masks, Dressing as a Woman, Gifts, Strangers, Humanitarianism, Death, Slave Rebellions, The Proslavery Argument, Baseball, Hunting, and Gambling in the Old South. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1996.
Matthews, John T. The Sound and the Fury: Faulkner and the Lost Cause. Boston: Twayne, 1991.
Wilson, Charles Reagan. Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause 1865-1920. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1980.
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South. New York: Oxford UP, 1982.
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|Publication:||The Faulkner Journal|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2004|
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