The Legitimacy of Faulkner's Revision of The Unvanquished



     This essay establishes the legitimacy of the 17.35 percent revised descriptions1 in the first six chapters in The Unvanquished (1938), updating the interpretation of Bayard Sartoris' vendetta avoidance in the final seventh chapter of "An Odor of Verbena." The rewritten parts and his avoidance, whose juxtaposition seems to be far-fetched at a first glance, can be viewed as interdependent from the perspective of the framework of The Unvanquished in which "you set [a conflict] up, then solve it" (John Faulkner 212). According to Blotner's Biography, the revision of the six stories, which were carried from 1934 to 36 in the popular magazines, and the newly written final chapter, "The Odor of Verbena," were intended "to complete what 'Ambuscade' had begun"(379-81). If the solution is his avoidance, it is cogent to think that the embellishments "unify the material" (Carothers 86) in the six short stories and bridge the material in the first six chapters with his performance in the final seventh chapter. The validity of the revised portions relies upon whether or not they contribute to our understanding of why Bayard chooses to disarm himself when dueling with Ben Redmond.
     However, any coordination between the revised pieces and his pseudo-revenge is difficult to construct, if the latter is construed as a reconciliation of the past with the present that has been discussed. For example, the interpretation of Bayard's "no bloody moon"(247) as the emphasis on the absurdity of "a endless feud of an eye for an eye" or his evasion of "the sin of pride and the overweening assumption of privilege" (Creighton 82), would make some of the additions appear "stylistic inconsistencies" (Ferguson 162) or redundant references to race problem (Creighton 83). Therefore, finding a meaning of his vendetta avoidance that coordinates with the revised sections is a potent approach to the legitimation of the revised pieces in The Unvanquished.


     The new meaning of his disarmament emerges from understanding his appreciation of the deeds of John Sartoris during the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era, which he has seen in the previous six chapters. His disarming is due to not just superiority of morality over the relic of a vendetta, but his comprehension of the motto which is clearly stated by John,

You are doing well in the law, Judge Wilkins tells me. I am pleased to hear that. I have not needed you in my affairs so far, but from now on I shall. I have now accomplished the active portion of my aims in which you could not have helped me; I acted as the land and the time demanded and you were too young for that, I wished to shield you. But now the land and the time too are changing; what will follow will be a matter of consolidation, of pettifogging and doubtless chicanery in which I would be a babe in arms but in which you, trained in the law, can hold your own --- our own. Yes. I have accomplished my aim, and now I shall do a little moral housecleaning (231-2).
     The motto is an axiom that, to make your way, you should adapt yourself to a specific coordinate of time and place at which you are. John just "acted" as a surprise attacker, a thief of horses, and a murder, as "the land and the time demanded." But the time lapses into another era in which he "would be a babe in arms;" therefore, he gets his son to study the law, one of the most effective weapons to hold not only his own but also "our own." This is why he says, "I'm happy to hear that" Bayard is "doing well in the law." From this point of view, it is obvious that Bayard's vengeance is based on the awareness that his actions should not be against the law. More important, the vendetta avoidance Bayard intended to realize needs the two law masters, Bayard and Redmond as an attorney. Redmond's twice-deliberate mistakes in shooting Bayard and his self-exclusion from town is due to the recognition that he has placed himself in the impossible impasse in which he would be convicted or otherwise murdered by "George Wyatt and the other six of Father's old troop" (249) even if he did not shoot Bayard. He is trying to find a way out of it; therefore, he understands what Bayard's gesture of walking "steadily" with no gun toward him with a gun in his hand suggests. In this respect, Redmond as a lawyer is easier for Bayard to handle than those who are not knowledgeable in the law, like Drusilla, George, and even Ringo. Bayard writes, "He [Redmond] was brave: no one denied that" (249), because Redmond risks his life when walking "through the middle of them [George Wyatt and Father's old troop] with his hat on and his head up" (249).
     This sort of settlement based on the law may have satisfied William Clark Faulkner, Faulkner's great grandfather, because his non-violence was accepted at last about forty years after he showed it in the case in 1889. He, unarmed, was shot by Richard J. Thurmond, the model of Redmond, who was not convicted in the trial with much help of an eminent lawyer hired by the great wealth of Thurmond (Duclos 258). John Faulkner called the trial "bitter"(12), while, to his elder brother, it mattered whether or not his great grandfather's non-violence was appropriate or loyal to the coordinate at which he was. Non-violence looks good at a glance, but its value depends upon the time and the place at which it is displayed. Actually, his non-violent act was not only neglected, but also caused the kind of "bitterness" which forced the Faulkners to move to Oxford (John Faulkner 12) and to sell off the Railroad company owned by William Clark and loved by Murry, the father of William Faulkner. In Oxford, as was not attributed to William Clark's non-violence, the Faulkners encountered the rise of poor whites (Taylor 4-17) which put the Faulkners in tightness of money out of which The Unvanquished appeared as a potboiler. Faulkner did not have plenty of money until in 1950 (John Faulkner 175). To put the long history of the Faulkners in a wider perspective, the death of William Clark seemed to his great grandson to be one of the biggest turning points, and Faulkner may have thought that his great grandfather's non-violence was "pure escapism," like "The men all brave and the women all pure" in The White Rose of Memphis (Cantwell 55).
     Here relevant is the case of Rosa Millard, Granny of Bayard, who experienced the struggle between morality and need, which is stated by Faulkner to be the main theme of The Unvanquished (Selected Letters 106). John shared this similar plight throughout the novel. The only difference between them lies in whether each of their deeds was proper. She failed to see that her sacrosanct quality had a limited applicability to "a coward" whom "nobody dared frighten" (151). The consequence was her death, which, against her will, forced Bayard and Ringo into the dangerous duel with Grumby. They survived it, but their victory was contingent. Though John made no comment on it, he would have said, "don't make a bet of your life on a precarious game. For whom have I ever been working?" Millard as well as William Clark could not shield the persons whom she wished to protect.
     On the contrary or that is why John Sartoris equipped his son with a knowledge of the law, to prepare him for the future of not only his own but theirs. In this sense, it is affirmed that "John Sartoris had accepted the responsibilities of his time and his region" (Meriwether 129), and that he was ahead of them. This awareness encourages Bayard to do "what I have taught myself is right" (215), that is, a lawful act, even if he did not persuade himself not to kill Redmond. He concludes the conversation with Aunt Jenny on the last night, with "I must live with myself" (240). These words of his shows his decision to inherit the responsibility for his own time and region from his father.

     Faulkner revised the six short stories to underscore the principle that his vendetta avoidance is built on the motto behind his father's deeds. They are significantly revised to show not that he was not always brave and brilliant but that he was trying to conform to the time and the place at which he was. The most salient revised portion which illustrate this principle is found in the initial part in The Unvanquished, as follows (the words underlined below are the rewritten parts in the excerpt, thereafter),

Behind the smokehouse that summer, Ringo and I had a living map. Although Vicksburg was just a handful of 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. To Ringo and me it lived, if only because of the fact that the sunimpacted ground drank water faster than we could fetch it from the well, the very setting of the stage for conflict a prolonged and wellnigh hopeless ordeal in which we ran, panting and interminable, with the leaking bucket between wellhouse and battlefield, the two of us needing first to join forces and spend ourselves against a common enemy, time, before we could engender between us and hold intact the pattern of recapitulant mimic furious victory like a cloth, a shield between ourselves and reality, between us and fact and doom (3-4).
     This is a Bayard's reenactment of what John Sartoris was doing in December 1862. The prospect of a Southern victory over Yankees in the Civil War was so fading through "artillery", and the imminent defeat was so bitter for southerners to accept, that they needed "a romantic fiction designed to accommodate unacceptable fact" (Harbison 292). The creation of "a romantic fiction" is to "engender between us and hold intact the pattern of recapitulant mimic furious victory" (4). This was realized through outdoing or outwitting Yankees in as many respects as possible, like surprise attacks and stealing by John Sartoris and his troop. In this sense, one of the best "pattern[s] of recapitulant mimic furious victory" was the fact that "they [Yankees] never caught it [the Confederate cars]" (98). Of the significance of the fictive architecture, Drusilla said,
They tore the track up so we couldn't do it again; they could tear the track up but they couldn't take back the fact that we had done it. They couldn't take that from us (98-9).
     Another burden that oppressed John was a limited amount of time to forge the "pattern" firmly because in addition to their depressing prospect of victory they had less than one month before President Lincoln declared the Emancipation. That is why "a common enemy [is] time," and one of John's purposes in outdoing the Yankees was to prolong the war (96). This kind of "desperate gamble" (96) is compared to the "prolonged and wellnigh hopeless ordeal." It is just a childish play, but the map they made on "the sunimpacted ground" mirrors the real condition in which John was trying to do what he thought was appropriate or necessary to remain unvanquished. Lurking under his derrings-do which looked not so much brave as reckless was "the will to endure, a sardonic and even humorous declining of self-delusion" (10), the 24-year-old Bayard knows inside-out.

2 Ringo

    It is deduced that what Ringo did with Rosa Millard also contribute to the vendetta avoidance of the 24-year-old Bayard in the seventh chapter, from his comment on Ringo,

[Ringo] had outgrown me, had changed so much that summer while he and Granny traded mules with Yankees that since then I had had to do most of the changing just to catch up with him (216).
     Here, Bayard shows his recognition that he, when dueling with Redmond, has to do the same thing as Ringo did then. The same thing is also suggested in the sentence rewritten: "[he] learned to draw simply because somebody had to" (125). That is, he adjusted himself to the coordinate of time and space at which he was, like John was doing in his life. More important, in the performance of the duel with Redmond, Bayard is required to do that for the first time in his life. As told above, his revenge on Grumby was just imprudent and contingent, not approved by his father. He was not able to prevent the black servants in Sartoris Family from taking the silver service away with them. In retrospect, the 24-year-old Bayard is made to brood on the reasons of his failures, and finds that each of them was caused by his not being loyal to each coordinate. This awareness dawns on Bayard through Ringo's eyes. For instance, in the first chapter, the fact that "Ringo didn't move, he just looked at me" (6) allows Bayard to perceive his misconception of the prospect of the Civil War, and leads him to rethink about the meaning of the derrings-do of his father (9-12).
     Such a role is attached to Ringo, because "[he] was a little smarter than [Bayard] was" (81) in rivalry in which [w]hat counted was, what one of [them] had done or seen that the other had not" (81). When they saw Loosh sweep "the chips flat" (5), in the story version, Bayard found his action unusual, but did not give adequate thought to or pretended not to notice it in order to keep intact the fictive architecture forged in his mind, while the revised version illustrates that Ringo is more responsive on his feet than Bayard to what is happening to the Confederate army including John Sartoris, asking, "What you reckon he know that we aint?" (6). What lies behind his prudence is shown in one of the rewritten pieces. Originally, Ringo just answered, "Cokynut cake, Granny" (19), to the question what kind of cake he asked Granny to read about, but 139 words are added, as shown below,
"Cokynut cake, Granny." He said coconut cake every time because we never had been able to decide whether Ringo had ever tasted coconut cake or not. We had had some that Christmas before it [the Civil War] started and Ringo had tried to remember whether they had had any of it in the kitchen or not, but he couldn't remember. Now and then I used to try to help him decide, get him to tell me how it tasted and what it looked like and sometimes he would almost decide to risk it before he would change his mind. Because he said that he would rather just maybe have tasted coconut cake without remembering it than to know for certain he had not; that if he were to describe the wrong kind of cake, he would never taste coconut cake as long as he lived (19-20).
     The last three lines indicate that even the 12-years-old boy is able to leave what was indeterminable indeterminable, instead of jumping to conclusions. Bayard takes the same attitude as Ringo's in revising the descriptions in the magazine version. For example, when he depicts himself seeing Millard burying the trunk with the silver inside, he thinks,
I either looked out or dreamed I looked out the window and saw (or dreamed I saw) the lantern (40).
     With his meticulous eyes, Bayard finds it possible to have stopped Loosh and Philadelphy taking the silver service away; therefore, he gives words to those signs of their imminent escape in the delineation of the voice of Philadelphy, as follows,
"Come on here, Loosh," Philadelphy said from the woodpile. There was something curious in her voice too --- urgent, perhaps frightened. "If you wants any supper, you better tote me some wood." But I didn't know which, urgency or fright; I didn't have time to wonder or speculate, because suddenly Loosh stooped before Ringo or I could have moved, and with his hand he swept the chips flat (5).
     Bayard discerns that he should have understood, behind "something curious in her voice," Philadelphy's dilemma whether she should go with Loosh or not, for though she opposes his plan to run away, she thinks she should follow her husband (75). This observation is expressed through the change of the word "queer" in the magazine version into "curious" seen in the novel version. According to Webster's New Dictionary of Synonyms, "queer" implies "dubious" or "questionable," while "curious" suggests "the thing so described merits notice or investigation."
     Furthermore, by the time of their escape he has had several chances to detect their escape wrapped in his vacant looks, such as,
it was as if his redcornered eyes had reversed in his skull and it was the blank flat obverses of the balls which we saw (5).
He was almost close enough for me to have touched him and he did not see us at all; all of a sudden he was just kind of hanging there against the lighted doorway like he had been cut out of tin in the act of running and was inside been cut out of tin in the act running and was inside the cabin and the door shut black again almost before we knew what we had seen (22).
     The 24-year-old Bayard adds, "if we watched him, we could tell by what he did when it was getting ready to happen" (21).
     Besides, two black people emerge with something blank and hollow; Louvinia, a grandmother of Ringo characterized "as a ghost" who "seemed to have no feet" (41), and an African American woman left on the road to Hawkhurst, with a baby in her arms (84-5). She is already obsessed with "Jordan" in the magazine version, as shown below,
"You see you cant keep up with them and that they aint going to wait for you," Granny said. "Do you want to die here in the road for buzzards to eat?" But she didn't even look at Granny, she just squatted there.
     "Hit's Jordan we coming to," she said. "Jesus gonter see me that far" (84-5).
     They are "blank" because they do not conform to the coordinate at which they are. This problem is why they looked imprudent. The reason is thrown into relief in the revised description of the woman with a baby. In the magazine version, after Granny "gave the woman a piece of bread and meat" (85) the woman disappeared, but in the revised description,
When I looked back she was still standing there, holding the baby and the bread and meat Granny had given her (85).
     This foregrounds the fact that slavery, even if it was a source of much bitterness and distress, made it possible for them to survive in the South. More helpful for understanding Faulkner's view of slavery are the words that Millard said to Philadelphy who is about to leave with Loosh: "Dont you know he's leading you into misery and starvation?" (75). This is a controversial suggestion, yet deducing from this sort of description James B. Meriwether clearly states,
Faulkner, at least in The Unvanquished, appears to be trying to show that the sudden mass emancipation by force of arms in the Civil War was worse for the slaves, in the long run, than the sort of emancipation which McCaslins stood for (Meriwether 77).
     More noticeable, the 24-year-old Bayard even understands what the drive was, that made "the tide of niggers," including Loosh, run out of control (104), and articulates it as
"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).
     In other words, it is the kind of leap that one takes who is not loyal to the coordinate where s/he is. The plural word, "races," suggests that the 24-year-old Bayard sees this event in a wider historical perspective. Historically speaking, it "had already seethed to a head among" (81) African Americans except Ringo. He is smart, because he sublimes it into something shared with Bayard as a white Southerner in the Civil War, to let it go past him. This is embodied in Ringo's sayings, "I been having to hear about niggers all my life. ... I got to hear about that railroad" (91). As shown above, the story of "that railroad" is one of the best "pattern[s] of recapitulant mimic furious victory"(98). As he states "Seem like I been waiting on hit all my life" (86), "a head" and the best pattern becomes one in his mind. The 24-year-old Bayard knows that "[Ringo] hoped to see [that railroad] symbolized it" (81).
     In the end, what relationship was proper then in the South between Whites and Blacks? Faulkner appends two episodes as the answer to the question; the relation between Millard and Joby "like a man and a mare" (44-5), and "a game with rules" performed by two McCaslins and their slaves (47-8). In either case, slavery is just a fictive architecture in which each of them plays a role as a black or white to let the society work smoothly. Thrown into relief in both cases is the conformity to the time and the place to the extent Faulkner thinks it is appropriate when saying,
I was against compulsory segregation. I am just as strongly against compulsory integration" (Essays, Speeches, and Public Letters 86).


     Running throughout the revised descriptions in The Unvanquished is the motto, which Bayard learns and inherits from his father, that to be unvanquished, you have to adapt yourself to a coordinate of time and place at which you are. On the basis of this motto, he chooses to disarm himself when dueling with Redmond, as well as changes his attitude toward or insight into actuality. Consequently, he updates his perceptions of what he has seen in the previous six chapters. The updated perceptions give rise to the 17.35 percent rewritten portions in The Unvanquished, which help us understand the meaning of Bayard's vendetta avoidance based on the motto.
    In the second half of the first six chapters in The Unvanquished, which were less revised than the first three, the motto has already appeared; for example, "I've quit sleeping" (100) of Drusilla, and "Being born too soon and dying too late" (173) of Uncle Buck. Bayard sees the "suffering" (229) in the eyes of Drusilla because she holds onto the moment at which Gavin Breckbridge, her fiance, passed away during the Civil War. Her words, "I've quit sleeping," implies that she clings to or is preoccupied with the time of his death, though she should adapt, according to the changing time. However, it is not easy to switch to a new occasion, when sufferings are too awful, like the deaths of Breckbridge and Rosa Millard. In such a case, there is nothing for it but to let those sufferings go and to try to adapt yourself to the present time. This awareness, which dawns on Drusilla after Bayard's vendetta avoidance is beautifully accomplished, compels her to move away to another land. She should have realized that it is Bayard who properly follows his father, not herself who offers him a pistol. The same is true of the words of Uncle Buck. For it is no use denouncing Ab Snopes for having inducing Millard to frighten the coward, Grumby.
     This sort of transcendental point of view is also represented in an episode included in the first three chapters. There, Uncle Buck and Buddy play a game of poker "in which the victor could know that he had earned his right, the loser that he had been conquered by a better man" (50), to choose which one of them would go with John to the war. In short, the rivals take a detached way to leave no seeds of future trouble between them. Bayard also employs the same method as a device to assuage the bitterness of reality in exploring the causes of his failures. His father and he attribute his failures to the fact that he was "too young" (231). He could not comprehend why his father was trying to outdo Yankees during the war because he was "just twelve then" (5). The reason why Bayard shrunk back from the front when he encountered a surprise attack led by his father and his troop is that "There is a limit ... to what [a child] can accept, a limit in time, in the very time which nourishes the believing of the incredible. And I was still a child at that moment ..." (66). Being too young is a useful excuse to allow you to remain detached from anguish. As this is not the revised part, the death of Rosa Millard, one of his greatest failures in The Unvanquished, is attributed to the fact that Bayard "was just fifteen" (153). Moreover, it seems that the motto was important for Faulkner because it not only justifies The Unvanquished as a potboiler but also sublimes the dilemma he had been experiencing about his great grandfather into something acceptable to him. One way or the other, the motto is the crux of The Unvanquished.


1 The first six chapters in The Unvanquished are based on the six short stories carried from 1934 to 1936 in the two popular magazines, Saturday Evening Post and Subscriber's Magazine. Over the first half of 1937, Faulkner revised the magazine version of the six stories to incorporate them into the novel of The Unvanquished and added, as the final seventh chapter, "An Odor of Verbena," in which Bayard Sartoris, the protagonist and the narrator of the novel, revenged his father's death in his own way, that is, vendetta avoidance. By "the 17.35 percent revised descriptions" I mean the 17.35 percent descriptions in the novel version that are not contained in the magazine version compiled in Uncollected Stories (Faulkner, New York: Random House, Inc., 1979). Below is a display of the percentage of revised descriptions in each chapter, with the publication dates; "Ambuscade" (September 29, 1934): 44.17%, "Retreat" (October 13, 1934): 27.97%, "Raid" (November 3, 1934) 23.16%, "The Unvanquished"("Riposte in Tertio")"(November 14, 1936): 1.73%", "Vendee"(December 5, 1936): 3.40%, "Skirmish at Sartoris"(April 1935) 1.70%.


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