The Unvanquished

by William Faulkner

Paperback, 1965

Collection

Description

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.

Rating

(189 ratings; 3.6)

User reviews

LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Of those I've read, this is my favorite Faulkner novel. Accessible, the book takes on engaging themes and actions and gives you believable characters. It's a beautiful piece of writing with a memorable story. I'd recommend it.
LibraryThing member lwobbe
A glimpse of Civil War history through the eyes of a child living through it, along with his best friend, the slave boy who is probably his brother. As the Yankees start winning and burn the mansions and steal the meager treasures holed up by families, the slave boy is only confused and frightened by his "freedom". Grandma finds a way to provide for those around her by claiming the return of her fortuitous-named Yankee-appropriated mule "Old One Hundred".… (more)
LibraryThing member selfnoise
One of Faulkner's more accessible books. A good road to take for your first trip in his complex imaginary county.
LibraryThing member nycxile
Confederacy after war of northern aggression. Southern mind set.
LibraryThing member lycomayflower
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
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.
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LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
Nothing too special.
LibraryThing member weird_O
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.
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Genres

Publication

Vintage (1965), 293 pages

Original publication date

1938-02-15

Pages

293

Language

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