The appearance of guns in Bayard’s story in The Unvanquished personify turning points in his life, and each of these events holds remarkable significance in the journey as a whole. Bayard’s encounters with firearms parallel his journey from adolescence to adulthood, from old to new, from son of the Sartoris to the Sartoris himself. Bayard first encounters a gun in the novel as he and Ringo decide to shoot at a passing Yankee. Faulkner describes the scene as an awkward and juvenile one: the boys knock down furniture trying to reach the Sartoris family musket and carry it “like a log, one at each end, running” (26). They then work together to cock the gun and recklessly fire upon the soldier, as they have seen John Sartoris do many times. To the boys, this act is no different than playing with toy soldiers in the dirt. They mirror the world around them, yet by doing so recognize something monumental about the occasion—right before preparing the shot, Bayard asks Ringo twice “Do you want to be free?” (26). As ironic as these connotations may be, considering the Yankees’ ultimate role in freeing the slaves, something in Bayard recognizes the connection between killing and creating freedom. His young spirit relishes in it. This, however, does not remain the case.Bayard’s second encounter with a gun is a direct result of Granny’s murder. He and Ringo, with the guidance of Uncle Buck, form a makeshift manhunt in pursuit of Grumby immediately following Granny’s burial. Buck refuses to surrender his pistol to the boys when Bayard asks and insists upon accompanying them, saying “Me and the pistol, or you and this damn nigger horse thief and a fence rail” (159). He keeps the gun in his britches at all times during their journey. However, Uncle Buck is shot and grows ill, and eventually must leave the boys. Bayard has grown since his last rendezvous with gunpowder; this time he engages in no clumsy thievery but an almost ceremonious transfer of firearm from Uncle Buck’s neck to his own. Bayard finally takes the leap from larger-than-life puppeteer to actual toy soldier, from accidental horse killer to active blood-thirst. At the moment he messily shoots Grumby, Bayard is living in a vision of what his life would be like if he lived in the old ways. This is what makes their quest an underworld more than the dank colors and grave references, for what is an underworld if not a place where one can see the possible next step in one’s own story? Bayard lives what before he dreamed, and this would change him before his final encounter.Bayard’s third and final encounter with guns radically counterbalances his previous two, though the circumstances are almost identical to the second: avenging the death of a loved one. Following John Sartoris’ murder, Bayard returns from school to a home laden with expectations. The young man is not even allowed time to mourn his father’s death before being presented with firearms right and left. Drusilla offers him his father’s dueling pistols in a manner comparable to seduction; this grown Bayard no longer has to scramble over furniture or wait for the authorities to leave to have what he once so desperately wanted. She tells him, “Take them…I give them to you. [I] put into your hands what they say is an attribute only of God’s, [I] took what belongs to heaven and gave it to you” (237). Drusilla confirms that insightful childish notion Bayard held in his first encounter with guns, when he asked Ringo if he wanted to be free. Things stolen from heaven and given to man—whether it be the fire-and-knowledge package deal or some forbidden fruit—have always led to man’s freedom. However, Bayard challenges the appeal of that freedom, and his following actions confirm his transformation from the first and second encounters. He takes the guns Drusilla forces upon him, but he does not use them. His situation has completely reversed from his horse-shooting days; he is in a changed time; he is a changed man. His guns hold the unfired evidence.Each time Bayard faces a firearm, he finds himself face to face with a decision–such decision is inherent to the very nature of a firearm. However, because of the nature of the epic journey, this decision isn’t simply a matter of spark igniting powder and metal propelling through the air. These moments stand for something, each one of them somehow leading to the next, each another step in the story and the journey. By connecting these happenings, we connect two worlds and bring them together to form one, just as epic itself connects the natural and the supernatural. Once these two are one, change can occur and eyes can be opened, and we have been given a gift of understanding beyond what we had before. This is the epic realm. Here be dragons.
The Unvanquished Embodies the Qualities William Faulkner Describes in His Nobel Acceptance Speech
“On December 10, 1950 , [William Faulkner] delivered his [Nobel Prize] acceptance speech to the academy in a voice so low and rapid that few could make out what he was saying, but when his words were published in the newspaper the following day, [the speech was] recognized for its brilliance; in later years, Faulkner’s speech would be lauded as the best speech ever given at a Nobel ceremony.”-quoted from http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/faulkner/lib_nobel.html His acceptance speech is much like his literary life- he wrote many novels, poems, and short stories, as many works as most writers produce in their lifetime in just over a decade, but received little recognition for them until after he had retired. In both his career and his speech, he was neither understood nor noticed until the next day, the next decade- after the fact. As a young writer his sales sagged, and he was largely unknown in America for much of his life. Was it because he refused to write anything lacking what he considered the “old verities and truths of the heart?î Faulkner’s speech stressed the writer’s duty to help man endure by keeping alive these truths in his or her work. He did not wish to fuel the American reader’s shallow taste for tales of “lust and not love, defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, victories without hope.î His tenth novel, The Unvanquished, is indeed a compassionate, truthful story in which Faulkner meets his own literary standards. Through his use of Bayard’s innocent, childish recollections as narration, John Sartoris as a minor character, and overall beautiful language, Faulkner wrote a novel that preached the age-old truths of man to his audience. The Unvanquished chronicles the growth of Bayard Sartoris from a child whose early war experience reaches its crest at games with wood chips and scratches in the ground into a man who, when faced with the tragedy of his father’s demise, must make this decision: who lives by the sword shall die by it – is it time to change the Southern tradition of bloodshed? Recalling his childhood memories as an adult, trying to understand what he could not as a child, Bayard’s narration is an honest view of his young life. When adults narrate in present time, they tend to twist details and events to their benefit, to prevent embarrassment or to exaggerate accomplishments. A child’s memories are pristine. They do not know how or when to bend the truth. Their interpretations may not be exact, but they are the genuine emotions the child felt. When Bayard retells his childhood, the reader is given an exact picture of Bayard’s feelings in regard to several important events of his childhood. The events may be clouded, but this is only because it was clouded to Bayard. In this manner, Faulkner delivers a sincere, pure, fulfilling story. The reader has access to both the immature Bayard’s real consciousness and the adult Bayard’s intelligent interpretations. In this passage, for example, the reader experiences Bayard’s infantile fright and is helped to break out of his trauma through the older Bayard’s aid: “-and then there was a bright glare and I felt my insides suck and a clap of wind hit me on the back of the head. I didn’t hear anything at all. I just sat there in the wagon with a funny buzzing in my ears and a funny taste in my mouth, and watched little toy men and horses and pieces of plank floating in the air above the water. But I didn’t hear anything at all; I couldn’t even hear Cousin Drusilla. She was right beside the wagon now, leaning toward us, her mouth urgent and wide and no sound coming out of it at all. “What?” I said. “Stay in the wagon!” “I can’t hear you!” I said. That’s what I said, that’s what I was thinking, I didn’t realize even then that wagon was moving again.” After the bridge was destroyed, the terrible shock of it stunned Bayard. The reader imagines a boy completely bewildered, his senses dominated by the image before him. The adult Bayard relishes the moment as well, but then moves time again when he points out that he didn’t even realize the wagon was moving again. The combination of these two factors in the narration provides the reader with a sincere view into a child’s perceptions and a mature explanation of these perceptions. The child’s voice is the soul and spirit with which Faulkner says all authors should write, and the adult is the endurance, the prop, which supports the novel. An interesting and pivotal character, John Sartoris helped fill out the story and illustrate Bayard’s growth. He is the fine line between a coward and a hero, the space between Grumby and Mr. Redmond. Early in the story, Bayard sees his father as a towering man, not in stature but in character. Ringo and Bayard eagerly await his return to the small plantation, running down the drive to meet him, as he is riding gallantly on Jupiter, with mud-caked boots and sabre, every bit a war hero. To his son, John Sartoris smelled of powder and glory. Reflecting, however, Bayard says he knows better now, that the odor is only the will to endure. This juxtaposition of the mature and immature Bayard is brought about over John Sartoris’ character. As Bayard ages, the tone he sets for his father is increasingly vilifying. His retelling of the manner in which his father harassed Mr. Redmond further jades the reader’s opinion of John. Father and son grow apart over the course of the novel, with the climax at the duel with Mr. Redmond. Bayard arrives without any will to fight, unlike his father- a man who lived by the sword- would have. John is placed in the novel as a character whose traits are interminable, while his son’s are in the midst of developing. Without John, one may not be as aware of Bayard’s growth in the novel from a typical, violent Southerner to an intelligent man. John’s absence from his home for a great deal of the story allowed for Granny to become a major character, acting as Ringo and Bayard’s main guardian, teaching them tolerance and stubbornness, love and religion. Her influence on the two growing boys was arguably greater than that of John Sartoris. She deterred them from a life of only bloodshed and pain. John Sartoris’s character also furthered Drusilla’s growth. Riding with his troops, Drusilla was able to explore a way of life ordinarily forbidden to “southern belles.” Faulkner’s use of John Sartoris’s character allowed the reader to better see the changes in his son and in Drusilla, and to create some changes on his own. John showed Bayard and the rest of the cast of characters his take on pride, compassion, and sacrifice. Whether they grew towards or away from his mannerisms, his character nonetheless was necessary for the development of those to whom he was close. Faulkner did an excellent job of conveying these views to the reader, once again writing with the base elements of man. The most moving part of Faulkner’s acceptance speech is his call to writers to remind man of the “courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.” Although it is a run-on sentence, its meaning is received so clearly that the average grammar is lost. In The Unvanquished, Faulkner utilizes an authentic blend of southern dialect and vivid descriptions in his words that make the story believable and lovely. His lush metaphors and solidly stated characterizations bring an artistic quality to the story. Drusilla’s portrayal is blunt yet graceful: “-looking at Drusilla standing there in the sawdust and shavings, in her dirty sweated overalls and shirt and brogans, with her face sweat-streaked with sawdust and her short hair yellow with it.” The reader immediately has a bright image of this tomboy, sawdust coated, working in the yard with the boys. Faulkner uses no extensive words or metaphors to display Drusilla; he uses simple, strong words that cut into the reader’s consciousness. On another page, Faulkner describes a footprint as a half-moon sickle left in the mud by the boot heel. Faulkner can make even a muddy footprint a work of art. The southern dialect is another vehicle Faulkner uses to make his story genuine. When Ringo sees his first railroad track, tied around and annealing into trees, he says: “you mean hit have to come in here and run up and down around these here trees like a squirrel?” Using the actual southern dialect of that time shows Ringo’s ignorance and his upbringing without actually stating it. Having Ringo and Bayard speak in almost identical dialects displays their near brotherhood, regardless of race or relatives. Faulkner’s attractive writing style is beautiful without too much flourish, and allows him to focus on the strong elements of his work while maintaining an enjoyable read. Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for literature, William Faulkner said that he felt the award was not made to him personally, but to his work. He wanted to create something out of the human spirit that did not exist before. His world view was optimistic- that man will not only survive, he will endure supported by pillars that writers build to help him do so. Faulkner wanted to write of pride and compassion, honor and sacrifice, the old verities and truths of the heart. Through skillful narration, intelligent usage of the John Sartoris character, and language of a superb quality, Faulkner not only wrote the way he said the world needed to endure, he put aside profit and glory to sculpt his life’s work into something that never existed before. He wrote The Unvanquished with heart. Bibliography William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. Online. Available- http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/faulkner/lib_nobel.html