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The Unvanquished by William Faulkner
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The Unvanquished

by William Faulkner

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While The Unvanquished began as a collection of short stories that had been published elsewhere, there is enough continuity among the stories for the whole to stand reasonably as a novel, even though the vignettes can be read separately. Perhaps the best story was the final one, An Odor of Verbena, that Faulkner wrote specifically for this novel.

The Civil War is "present time" although the narrator, young Bayard Sartoris, is recalling events that happened many years earlier. His story begins as Colonel Sartoris comes home for a day to warn his family that Yankee soldiers are nearby and to help build a stock pen to hide his animals from the Yankees. A few days later, a Yankee soldier rides onto Sartoris land. The colonel’s twelve-year-old son Bayard and his companion Ringo, a slave on the plantation, shoot at the soldier. The boys hide under Granny’s skirts when more soldiers come to search the property for them. Granny denies that any children live on the property, and a colonel orders the rest of the men off the land while eyeing Granny’s skirts. The stories all feature the relationship of Bayard and Ringo, while Granny and Drusilla are also important characters.

Later, advised by Colonel Sartoris, Granny leaves for Memphis because of the dangers of the war. Joby, the Colonel’s servant, drives a wagon carrying Granny, Ringo, Bayard, and a trunk filled with silver that was buried in the yard for safekeeping. During the journey, Yankee soldiers steal their mules and Bayard and Ringo chase them unsuccessfully on a “borrowed” horse. Colonel Sartoris finds the boys and takes them home, capturing a Yankee camp on the way. Joby and Granny also make it back home with the help of “borrowed” horses, and the trunk containing the silver is again buried in the yard. Yankee soldiers come to capture Colonel Sartoris. Granny, Ringo, and Bayard drive six days to Hawkhurst, Alabama, to recover their trunk, their mules, and the runaway slaves. On the journey, they pass hundreds of former slaves who are following the Yankee troops to freedom. At Hawkhurst, Granny’s niece, Drusilla Hawk, joins the group, and the four of them travel to the river, where Yankee soldiers have built a bridge. After crossing, the soldiers hurry to destroy the bridge so the people who have followed them to freedom will be unable cross. The Sartoris wagon gets pushed into the river, and the four travelers make it to the other side, where the Yankee troops are now stationed.

Granny asks to speak with Colonel Dick. She asks for the return of her mules, her trunk, and Loosh and Philadelphy. Colonel Dick gives Granny a written statement from the commanding general dated August 14, 1863, that validates the return of 10 chests, 110 mules, and 110 former slaves who are following the troops. The document allows them to pass safely through any Yankee troops they might encounter and also to petition them for food during the journey home. The story continues with episodes featuring Granny and Drusilla. The differences between the traditions of the Sartorises and other established families and entrepreneurs like Ab Snopes (the Snopes family is explored in detail in the three novels known as The Snopes Trilogy) are highlighted. These and the previous stories also emphasize the tension between the cultures of the established Southerners and marauders, many of whom were Yankees.

About eight years later, Bayard is in his third year studying law in Oxford, Mississippi. Ringo comes to him to report that John Sartoris has been killed by his rival, Ben Redmond. On the forty-mile ride home, Bayard reflects on the last few years: his father’s marriage to Drusilla and the code of violence to which they adhere, his father’s railroad venture with Redmond, their run against each other for political office, his father’s humiliating taunting of Redmond, and his father’s recent decision to turn against killing and meet Redmond unarmed. Bayard knows Drusilla and the men in Jefferson will expect him to avenge his father’s death. Bayard realizes that killing is not a satisfactory solution. Determined neither to kill again nor to be a coward, he goes to Jefferson the next day to meet Redmond unarmed. Redmond shoots twice, intentionally missing Bayard, and leaves town. Bayard returns home and finds that Drusilla has gone to live with her brother but has left behind a sprig of verbena for him.

The Unvanquished provides a view of the Civil War and some of its consequences from the perspective of young Bayard and his extended family. It is a serious assessment of the Southern legend, and a declaration of independence from the past. The characters are deftly portrayed and the stories well-told. ( )
  jwhenderson | Oct 30, 2017 |
The Unvanquished by William Faulkner

This is the story of the Sartoris family, during and shortly after the Civil War, as told by Bayard Sartoris. As the story begins, Bayard's father John is off leading Confederate troops in battle. John's mother-in-law, known to all as Granny, is managing the homeplace. Vicksburg has fallen to Grant's beseiging army, and at least one of the family's slaves is envisioning the fall of the entire Confederacy.

While Col. John is resisting the Union with fire and sword, Granny, Bayard, and his black friend Ringo resist with a nifty grift. Who would believe this whisp of a woman could harbor such gile? But Granny attempts to do business with a small band of rebel deserters who are pilaging and terrorising the region, and she's murdered. Bayard and Ringo relentlessly track the gang until the murderer is released to them. They have their revenge.

When the war ends, the colonel returns home to rebuild. He thwarts northern schemers who endeavor to install former slaves in the local government. With a business partner, he develops a railroad. The partnership sours, and Bayard leaves college to avenge his father.

The theme, to my mind, is resistence to suppression. These southerners refuse to be vanquished, by the Union army, by thieves and marauders, by corrupt politicans, by death, even by tradition and convention. Being unvanquished isn't necessarily being triumphant, or even surviving. It is being resolute, strong, clever, persistent, courageous, proud, often perverse.

Faulkner is a challenging writer. Sure he tells the story in those endless sentences, the ones so low-key that you misjudge their power. The narrative is a torrent, an unstoppable rush. I luv it.
  weird_O | Aug 10, 2015 |
One of the more accessible of Faulkner's novels I've read, but still requiring a good deal of retracing passages and allowing the narrative to teach you how to read it. Which is some of the most fun of reading Faulkner, I often think. My favorite part about The Unvanquished was the way Faulkner puts the setting and the time period on the page. I felt very immersed in the rural Civil War south while reading and in the end thought maybe I understood something a little that I wouldn't have before. ( )
  lycomayflower | Jul 7, 2015 |
Mais do que retrata, discute a tradição do sul americano.
Os personagens são os mesmos de Sartoris, em parte, e o personagem de Bayard Sartoris é um destaque nesse livro. ( )
  JuliaBoechat | Mar 30, 2013 |
I give this book three stars because I believe it is the least of the nine works of Faulkner I've read thus far. That being said, the book is the most accessible of any of his works and I recommend it as a primer for those wishing to wade into Faulkner's denser, and more notable, works.

The episodic nature of the book is the biggest drawback. Perhaps if I had read the stories as stand alone short stories, prior to Faulkner's retooling into a coherent whole, I would have enjoyed them more. The strength of the book is the joy it is to experience Faulkner's stylistic gifts without them ever becoming overwhelming as they do in "The Sound and the Fury" and others. The novel is also appealing for its direct dealings with the Civil War. The Civil War obviously factors largely into Faulkner's other works, but never as directly as it does here.

The Sartoris clan is also the focal point "Flags in the Dust." That novel explores subsequent generations of the clan in the dense prose Faulkner is known for. It is also important because it is Faulkner's first novel set in Yoknapatawpha county. For those unfamiliar with Faulkner, "The Unvanquished" is a good starting point. For those already accustomed to Faulkner's writing, opt for the more rewarding "Flags in the Dust." ( )
1 vote davidemersonhine | Jun 13, 2010 |
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Avati, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679736522, Paperback)

Set in Mississippi during the Civil War and Reconstruction, THE UNVANQUISHED focuses on the Sartoris family, who, with their code of personal responsibility and courage, stand for the best of the Old South's traditions.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Bayard Sartoris returns from the battlefields of the Civil War and tries to build his family and his fortune.

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