Comparing The Unvanquished with other works of William Faulkner, Ohashi pointed out one of its characteristics: "I think the story of The Sartoris in Bayard's narrative is suspended between the past and the present for some reason or other" 1 . He means that the past is the time of each story in this work, and the present is the time of Bayard's narration. In other words, the past is "the purely historical past" (245), which is separated from the present. The past can't lead to the present. We can assume the dates of the stories from the fact that the major character, Bayard, was 12 years in the first story, "Ambuscade" and was 24 years in the final story, "An Odor of Verbena". Yet, it is difficult to decide the date of his narration. As Ohashi said, we know that Bayard died in 1919 in the earlier novel The Flagin The Dust. Though The Unvanquished was written and published in the 19 30's, the time of Bayard's narration can't be any time in the 1930's. So any dates in the 1930's can't be linked with the past in this work. This effect of the narrative is strategy taken intentionally by the narrator Bayard, or by the author Faulkner himself. As Creighton pointed out (80-81), Faulkner added many descriptions about relationships between the whites and the African Americans when he collected the stories published already in magazines and revised them into The Unvanquished. Having the past sealed from the present can make it possible for the narrator Bayard to avoid the race problem in his narrative. At the same time, the author himself could avoid facing the race problem ethically from the standpoint in the 1930's. Weinstein said that while we have interpreted the theme in The Unvanquished as Bayard's maturation or as the moral responsibility to find out a coherent narrative of male courage under stress among the 7 stories, they have been overlooked assigns of racial conservatism in this text (34). His statement expresses an aspect of acceptance of the text well, but it isn't necessarily proper as a comment on the history of the criticism about this text in 1995 because there are some different criticisms such as pointing out racial conservatism in this text, the influences of the life of Faulkner's great-grand father, or re-evaluation of the female characters, Drusilla Halk and Rosa Millard, from feminist perspective. Especially, Donaldson deals with the influences of the nature of the magazine The Saturday Evening Post in which many stories in The Unvanquished were originally published on Faulkner's revision. I am considering the way of the text represents the Civil War and avoids the race problem in a framework consisting of the major character Bayard and the narrator Bayard.
There is a scene where the African American boy, Ringo and Bayard were
looking forward to listening to a story about the Civil War which Bayard's father, John, usually told after dinner. But it seems strange that a room where they listened to John's narrative was given two names in the Sartoris.
John and his African American slaves called this room "the Office" (15), and on the other hand Bayard's grandmother Rosa called the library. The narrator Bayard explains why it was called "the Office" because a patroller checked
in this room to see that the slaves were on the plantation after dark. Then
, the narrator starts to describe about various books such as Napoleon's Maxims and works by Dumas or Scott. As the fact that John lost a book of Dumas
at the battle at Manassas shows, this book is his favorite.
|Behind the smoke house that summer, Ringo and I had living map. Although Vicksburg was just a handful chips from the woodpile and the River a trench scraped into the packed earth with the point of a hoe, it (river, city, and terrain) lived, possessing even in miniature that ponderable though passive recalcitrance of topography which outweighs artillery, against which the most brilliant of victories and the most tragic of defeats are but the loud noises of a moment. (3)|
Of course, Bayard and Ringo didn't see battles with their own eyes because they were only 12 years. Though the narrator calls it "living map", this
couldn't represent Vicksburg exactly. This Vicksburg must be originally based on what they got from John's narrative about the battle at Vicksburg. So
it was represented twice because they constructed their Vicksburg from John's narrative. Untill the Sartorises'slave, Loosh laughed at their Vicksburg and implied that Vicksburg was already conquered, the character Bayard regarded their Vicksburg as an exact representation of Vicksburg in reality. Yet, there is discrepancy between the fact and its representation because the
battle at Vicksburg itself was finished. The narrator Bayard wasn't a 12 years old boy but an adult, so the narrator himself knows the historical fact
and the inaccuracy of their Vicksburg. Though, the narrator calls the stage
where the children played at soldiers even a "living map". It is clear that
the narrator gives greater importance to the representation of it than to Vicksburg itself and a characteristic of his narrative is superiority of representation over historical facts.
After Loosh left there, Bayard flung the dust at Ringo and imitated the battle at Vicksburg between the white boy and the African American boy. Despite the fact his narrative is told against the background of the Civil War, there are no scenes of describing battles. The narrator can't tell about battles, and the antagonism between the whites and the African Americans without the condition of playing. Presumably his father's heroic or romantic narrative about the War are different from Bayard's experiences in the War, so he begins telling his own narrative. But he takes over the strategy of his father's narrative. As the focus of John's narrative is heroic deeds, the narrator Bayard doesn't refer to slavery and avoids touching it in his narrative.
Unlike his father's narrative, Bayard's narrative represents battles not so much as heroic or romantic acts as tricks in order to win property such
as the African American slaves, horses and mules.
|I was dreaming, it was like I was looking at our place and suddenly the house and stable and cabins and trees and all were gone and I was looking at a place flat and empty as the sideboard and it was growing darker and darker and then all of a sudden I wasn't looking at it, I was there: 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; that's what it was and then Ringo made a choked sound and I was looking at the road [...]. (24-25)2|
Bayard recognized the phrase "we were forever free" as losing the house,
where he and his family including his African American servants lived. Losing his house and wandering in his dream are expressed as losing the place
symbolically, yet, in fact, it can be thought as losing his property or ownership. The word "free" is threatening to his ownership for Bayard at 12 years. The representation of the Civil War is shifted from heroic battles in his father's narrative to the threat to their ownership. Of course, Bayard clearly misunderstood the word "free", but his misunderstanding isn't correct
ed, rather it is treated as proper understanding for the threat to the owner
ship of the African American slaves in this text.
When Rosa demanded return of her silver from the Union Army, she got 110 mules and 110 African American slaves because of misunderstanding of an orderly in the story "Raid". Nicolaisen says that this episode is like tall-tale, but on the other hand, the African Americans are treated as property like mules (84). There is no antagonism between the North and the South over slavery in this text. African Americans slaves gave up following the Union Army and at last, they agreed reluctantly to regard Rosa as their master and follow her order. As this clearly shows, they only moved between two masters, that is, the Union Army and the white lady of the Southern aristocracy. Following the Union Army is shown as a stupid or unreasonable act, and, in the text, the explosion of the bridge prevented them from following. As this explosion shows symbolically, Afro-American slaves are stuck in the South as property. When Loosh asked "I dont belong to John Sartoris now; I belongs to me and God." (75) and "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. [...]" (75) in the story "Retreat", he had doubt about owning his race. But this doubt is suspended in the text and is shifted into the question about to whom this ownership should be given. Because the officer behaved as a gentleman, Rosa succeeded in getting back her property. The ownership of the Southern lady of ruling class was re-justifed in the name of respecting her honor.
Even the battle seems to be narrated in terms of stealing or owning in Bayard's narrative. The only battle in The Unvanquished is a scene in "Retreat" where the cavalry led by John captured the Union soldiers without fighting. He took the possessions of the Union soldiers as booty and allowed them to run away. The battle was represented as plundering. An captain told Bayard about an prisoner's opinion on his father: "[C]olenel Sartoris didn't fight, he just stole horses" (53). This opinion expresses the nature of the battle in Bayard's narrative.
Rosa punished Bayard and Ringo by washing their mouths with a soap for lying in "Ambuscade". False words without substances can be cleaned by a soap, and there is superiority of acts over words in Rosa's punishment. But this superiority is reversed in "Retreat". Bayard and Ringo said that they borrowed the horse which, in fact, they stole it (62). In addition, Rosa herself who had punished them for lying said that she borrowed horses rather than stealing them (71). The act of stealing is concealed in words and shifted into an innocent act. Words has superiority over acts.
Words played an important role in the tall tale-like scene when silvers and mules and the African Americans were returned in "Raid". As mentioned above, Rosa demanded the Union should return her chest containing her silver and African American slaves, Loosh and Philadelphy, and mules named Old Hundred and Tinney, but a misunderstanding by the Union orderly caused proper names to shift into numerals, place names or adverbs. The Union Army returned not Loosh and Philadelphy and Old Hundred and Tinney but other slaves, chests and mules, substitutions for them. When Rosa accepted these substitutions , differences between originals and substitutions disappeared. Proper names for them shows the relationship between the owner and his or her possession, but this misunderstanding nullifies the effectiveness of proper names. Rather, the reason why she succeeded in committing the fraud on the Union Army and making a profit is in "Riposte in Tertio" is that she could take advantage of the nature of substitutions with losing this relationship. Rosa deceived the Union Army by the forged order and got mules and sold them back to the Union Army itself. She threatens the property of the Union Army to counter the threats of the Union Army to her property. Though Rosa forged orders based on the real one which she got and took advantage of its authority, it is ironical that even the real one was based on the misunderstanding. This fraud shows the conception of possessing is mocked by the repetition of buying their own property again. It is the disclosure of the system of the fraud and Rosa's death that reconfirms the justice of possessing.
Bayard and Ringo eavesdropped on the conversation of Loosh and the other African Americans, and told Rosa about it in "Ambuscade". As Bayard's saying "Loosh saw them [the Union Army]! They're just down the road. It's General Sherman and he's going to make us all free!" (23) clearly shows, he misunderstood what Loosh said. This misunderstanding is based on Philadelphy's
saying "You mean they gwinter free us all?" (23). Bayard interprets the word "us" as all his family members including the African American slaves. Though 12 years-old Bayard was ignorant of slavery and his misunderstanding was
innocent, the text itself doesn't clarify his misunderstanding. Contrary to
his expectation, Rosa wasn't surprised at what he said and he was scolded for not going to bed. Rosa didn't correct his misunderstanding and changed the subject. As Rosa's attitude shows, his misunderstanding is left uncorrected and, moreover, it seems to be treated as proper understanding in this text.
|"Do you know what I aint?" he said. "Whay?" 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 and he showed me what he had in his hand. It was a new scrip dollar [... ] . (199)|
It is necessary to understand carrying out the abolition from what Ringo said, and Hinkle and McCoy (162) interprets the word "nigger" to imply not having the legal right to vote. If Ringo's saying is interpreted literally, it means that he is no longer "nigger" and himself is "abolished". It may be because Ringo didn't speak English properly. But it is important that the narrator succeeds in avoiding using the word "slave". This word slips out during the conversation between Bayard and Ringo, and the narrator Bayard doesn't focus on this word. Though, different from 15 years-old Bayard, the narrator Bayard at more than 24 years old at least knows about the incorrectness of what Ringo said, yet he doesn't make any comment on it at all. And he tries to avoid facing slavery. The problem of slavery is shifted to the problem of a range of application of the word "nigger", the problem of use of the word. Bayard asked what Ringo was after he wasn't a "nigger", Ringo show ed him a new script dollar instead of answering. Ringo couldn't find a new word referring to his race, so his question is diverted.
Bayard said to Ringo, " Father said that Louvinia would have to watch him [Loosh] too, that even if he was her son, she would have to be white a little while longer." (21) in "Ambuscade". The word "white" can be interpreted as keeping faithful to her masters, but it means becoming "white" literally. Becoming "white" has something to do with keeping faithful to the Sartor is in the text. We can easily get the impression that Ringo is treated the same as Bayard in the Sartoris. This impression confirms it. As Jenkins points out, it is necessary for Ringo to identify with the whites and reject identification with the African Americans in order to achieve the ideal relationship between Bayard and Ringo. He asked Drucilla to tell about the rail road, saying "I been having to hear about niggers all my life" in "Raid". This sounds as if he thought himself as the white, and it seems crucial to the Sartoris because of his trespassing the boundary between the whites and the African Americans. But the narrator Bayard doesn't regard his saying as an outrageous attitude. The boundary of race is shifted in the text to the boundary between the African Americans who belong to the Sartoris and the ones who don't. The dangerous trespassing boundary of race is concealed in Bayard's narrative. The more sympathetic the friendship between Bayard and Ringo is, the more shrewdly the problem of slavery is avoided.
Bayard and Ringo continued to keep intimacy between themselves during the Civil War, but such relationship isn't maintained in "The Odor of Verbena". Bayard tells about Ringo borrowing a good horse from an livery stable, but he denies that it was because of Ringo's tears. He said "[s]ome outrageous assurance gained from too long and too close association with white people: the one whom he called Granny, the other with whom he had slept from the time we were born until Father rebuilt the house" (218). It is not until the postwar time that the relationship with Ringo is told from a point of view of race in his narrative. The difference of race is emphasized against the collapsing of slavery.
|I had not looked at him again. I had started to before I left the house but I did not, I did not see him again and all pictures we had of him were bad ones because a picture could no more have held him dead than the house could have kept his body. But I didn't need to see him again because he was there, he would always be there; maybe what Drusilla meant by his dream was not something which he possessed but something which he had bequeathed us which we could never forget, which would even assume the corporeal shape of him whenever any of us, black or white, closed our eyes. (252-53)|
Bayard's criticism against his father disappears in "what Drusilla meant by his dream was [...] something which he had bequeathed us". His father's dream evades any criticisms because it lacked substance and had not any clear shape. What his father bequeathed is embodied in the house. At the same time, the house functions as a sign occupying a special position in the text. The criticism against his father and the race problem lose their effect iveness by this sign. The narrator says uncritically that the whites and the African Americans shared "the corporeal shape of him". He avoids giving clear words to his father's dream to fend criticisms and dreams about the house which could accommodate the whites and the African Americans and achieve the ideal relationships.
As mentioned above, the narrator doesn't tell us about the time from which he begins to narrate and confines his narrative in the past so as not to be criticized from "the future". The house makes it possible to reproduce nostalgia for the past without reference to the future in the text.
|1. Originally written in Japanese, I translated into English.
2. According to Blotner (US 681), the sentence "we were wondering [...] we were forever free" is written in the typescript, but was left out of the magazine version of this story in The Saturday Evening Post and the novel The Unvanquished.
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