In the novel The Unvanquished, the narrator, Bayard Sartoris, unleashes some serious admiration for his Confederate officer father, John. With the passage of time, however, that admiration starts to dwindle, and instead of gushing with pride he's rather leaking disappointment based on the way things turned out.
Even though the way he felt about his father doesn't last, Bayard recognizes that the trappings of war, like the shiny uniforms and weapons, not to mention the gigantic horse, all inspired boyhood admiration for his daddy-o. By looking back from a more mature place, however, he starts to see the tarnish along with the shine.
Bayard's his dad's biggest fan as a child, but doesn't respect the old man at all once he's grown.
Even though Bayard's admiration for his father diminishes as he gets older, he still harbors a lot of respect for his dear old dad as an adult.
North and South, Blue and Gray, Union and Confederacy: the Civil War is what The Unvanquished is all about. It's from the perspective of the losers, which means it gets pretty violent, pretty quickly. We're talking burning down houses, killing little old ladies: the horrors of war are alive and well in this novel.
The violence doesn't just end lives; it also changes the ways of life. Granny, for example, alters her whole moral system to survive. Not to mention the whole freeing-the-slaves thing, which took a lot of the plantation owners off of their high horses (and literal horses) and gave them a taste of life in a dirt-floor cabin.
There is no real difference between the Union and Confederate soldiers as individuals; Faulkner reveals the basic humanity that they all have in common.
Even though Bayard is a Southerner, he seems to have a secret appreciation for the Northern officers during the war.
The Sartoris plantation, the main locale of The Unvanquished, is sort of a microcosm of the slaveholding south. There are the owners, John Sartoris; his mother-in-law, aka Granny; and his son Bayard. And then there are the slaves: Louvinia, the caring mother-figure; Loosh, the bitter one who can't wait for freedom to escape with his wife, Philadelphy; Joby, so old that it's hard to know much about him; and, of course, Ringo, a sort of version of Bayard who, if he had the chance, would probably run circles around his owner.
Louvinia and Ringo are so used to being slaves that they cannot imagine life as free people; in fact, the prospect scares the daylights out of them.
Granny is cruel to many of the slaves, but seems to favor Ringo. That affection probably would have run out as soon as he got old enough to be called a man.
It takes courage to ride a bike without training wheels or go to summer camp in the next state over. That's not exactly what the kids in The Unvanquished have to summon up, however. Whether it's Yankee soldiers burning down their house, pointing guns at them and their Granny, or trying to take them prisoner, they've got a lot on their plate.
Bravery really has to take a starring role when the unthinkable happens, and the boys must grow up quickly so they can avenge their Granny. They leave home behind, go out into the big, scary woods, and face a big, bad villain. If that doesn't take courage, we don't know what does.
Granny is the most courageous character in the novel because she has to set aside her ladylike ways, which is much harder than being a wild warrior.
Bayard is the most courageous character in the novel for his crazy face-off, unarmed, against Benjamin Redmond.
The difference between how boys are supposed to act and how girls are supposed to act is still a pretty stark line; people who cross it might find society looking at them funny or even shunning them. During the Civil War, however, the line was even darker, bolder, and maybe even had some cute dots running alongside it.
When Drusilla, Bayard's cousin, puts on some pants, sits astride a horse, and goes off to "hurt Yankees," she's not only breaking taboos, she's mailing the pieces to their mothers! The good ladies of the South are completely scandalized, but we think it's pretty refreshing to see that gender roles aren't natural and set in stone; they're flexible and invented by society.
When Drusilla puts on a dress, she is defeated, because it is the ultimate symbol of femininity.
The war gives people a chance to experiment with different gender identities because all of society is so mixed up.
The Unvanquished is narrated from a point way past all the events it describes. We're digging into the narrator, Bayard's, memory and his version of history. The novel is filled with moments where he compares what he felt at the time with his new, revised, feelings about what happened.
That contrast between past and present, between memory and life-as-it-happens, gives us a little insight as to why the unvanquished are, well, unvanquished. The Southerners in the story have their own version of the war and don't admit defeat, even after the war is long over.
Bayard's distance from the events of the novel allow him to judge them as well as remember them.
We can't trust Bayard as a narrator because so much time has passed since the war.
It's common to associate duty with the military, and there's enough warfare flying across the pages of The Unvanquished to bring tons of soldierly duty to the front. But there's more to it than just that.
In Faulkner's South, duty is more than something you're assigned along with your uniform. It has to do with tradition, with what is expected of men and women, and with being brave in the face of danger.
The big kicker of the novel is the way that Bayard, the narrator, arranges it so that he's fulfilling his duty but rejecting the culture of violence and revenge that he grew up with. The fact that he can't just put his foot down and say, "No, thanks," to killing his father's murderer, but has to go face him, makes us think that duty is a powerful thing.
Bayard evolves from a vengeful teenager to a zen-master pacifist through the course of the novel.
Bayard does not fulfill his duty to his father's memory when he goes unarmed to meet his killer.
It won't get you into heaven, but sometimes being bad is necessary. Granny will tell you all about it. She's a prim and proper Southern belle, but she is reduced to mule-theft and all sorts of trickery when the Civil War reaches her plantation.
In The Unvanquished, sin is ever-present, but Bayard treats it with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Granny's sins are committed out of necessity, and her insistence on kneeling down and praying for forgiveness after every lie, theft, or curse word is kind of a silly ritual for him. However, it's serious business for her; she's completely frank with God about her reasons for doing what she does, and while she doesn't expect forgiveness, she does hope for it.
When Granny asks God for forgiveness, her real intention is to show the boys that what they are doing is wrong, but necessary.
Granny always asks forgiveness for her own sins, but doesn't seem to expect others, like Ab Snopes, to do so.