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The Unvanquished

William Faulkner

Raid

Retreat

Riposte in Tertio

Summary

Because the Yankees have burned the main house, the Sartoris family is living in converted slave quarters, and must use substitutes like pokeberry juice in place of ink. Granny sets off in the wagon with Bayard and Ringo for Alabama, to find a Colonel Nathaniel Dick of the Ohio Cavalry—she is going to demand the return of the stolen silver and mules. Louvinia reveals that Colonel Dick is the same man who called off the search for the boys in "Ambuscade." Bayard reflects on his relationship with Ringo: Colonel Sartoris always said that Ringo was smarter than Bayard, but "that didn't count with us, anymore than the difference in the color of our skins counted. What counted was, what one of us had done or seen that the other had not…" The party passes for several days through a countryside of destroyed houses and ruined fields. They cross paths with several large parties of freed slaves, including a sick young woman with a baby who has been left behind. Granny helps the girl and tells her to go home, but she insists on rejoining the others; Ringo predicts they will leave her behind once again.

Finally the travelers arrive at the plantation Hawkhurst, home of Bayard's aunt and uncle. Ringo, who has never seen a railroad, is excited to see the railroad that runs by the plantation. Unfortunately, it has been wrecked by the Yankee troops, who burned the ties and wrapped the rails around trees. The house at Hawkhurst has also been destroyed. Cousin Drusilla rides up on her horse, which, as Cousin Denny proudly tells Bayard, she saved from the Union army by riding off bareback in her Sunday dress, almost trampling a Yankee soldier. Back at the slave quarters, where Drusilla's family is living, she tells Granny more about the party of ex-slaves, one of many that have passed by recently: they are pressing toward the Northern army seeking freedom, and have been detained in a huge refugee camp by the river. Drusilla adds that the troops plan to cross the last bridge over the river and then destroy it, leaving the slaves behind. To Aunt Louisa's dismay, Granny announces that she plans to ride into the Union camp anyway to find her silver.

That night, Drusilla tells the thrilling story of a locomotive chase on the railroad. She describes how a band of Confederates seized an engine in Atlanta and rode off with the Yankees in hot pursuit "like a meeting between two iron knights of the old time, not for material gain but for principle—honor denied with honor, courage denied with courage—the deed done not for the end but for the sake of the doing…" Bayard reflects that despite the war's devastation, he has never experienced the passion and excitement of the fighting itself, a passion he yearns for and which the locomotive chase symbolizes. After the others go to bed, Drusilla calls Bayard out onto the porch to see groups of slaves passing in the night. She tells him what a relief the war is for her—instead of having to settle down, get married and obey her husband, she can be independent free of domestic constraints. She asks Bayard to ask his father to let her join his regiment. In the morning the travelers set off again joined by Drusilla. As they approach the army their wagon is surrounded by a "tide" of black men and women yearning to join up with the Yankees and see the river that represents freedom to them. When they reach the riverbank, the wagon is lifted off the ground by the mass of people. In the chaos, Granny shouts at a Union officer that she wants her silver back, but he ignores her. A moment later, the soldiers blow up the bridge. Bayard is so confused by the mob scene that he barely notices when the bank caves and the wagon and the slaves fall in the water. Screaming slaves clutch at the wagon, as Granny beats them back with her parasol until she faints.

Yankee soldiers help Bayard and Ringo fish the wagon out of the river, and they take the travelers to the Union camp. Granny refuses to go to the hospital and demands to see Colonel Dick. When she is brought to him, she insists on the return of the silver, the mules and Loosh and Philadelphy. The soldier mishears "Loosh and Philadelphy" as "lost near Philadelphia" (a town in Mississippi) and "Old Hundred and Tinney" as "one hundred and ten," and he writes out an order for 110 mules and a slave on each one, along with ten chests.

Analysis

The description of the slave migration toward the river and of the Union army in Alabama are the only passages in the novel that portray the Civil War as something more than a collection of amusing episodes or of heroic deeds of individuals—they reveal it as a grand historical moment, a calamity that swept away an entire society and altered the destiny of the American people. Bayard never witnesses any major battles, and even as an adult is only marginally aware of the political issues at stake. The war brings hardship to the community, but in much of the novel the relationships between ex-slaves and ex-masters seem unchanged—Ringo and Louvinia remain faithfully attached to the family—and Southern society, as represented by its traditions and its code of honor, remains intact.

The scenes of slaves migrating to the river present a very different viewpoint: a war that is impersonal, epic and tragic. The representation of these wandering slaves, too, is much more emotionally powerful than that of the Sartoris slaves, who often seem flat and two-dimensional. Faulkner represents their single-minded yearning as an unstoppable natural force, a "tide" racing to rejoin the river. The Sartoris wagon is like a boat on the flood of humanity, made literal when it plunges off the riverbank into the water. The slaves do not look around, and do not stop for anything. Old people who cannot walk cry out for rides or fashion makeshift crutches; a husband even abandons his sick young wife and child because they cannot keep up. The call of freedom overwhelms these personal connections and sentiments.

The tragic irony of these scenes is that while the slaves believe they are about to cross the river Jordan—the Biblical symbol of freedom, the entrance to the Promised Land—their migration will have no effect. The water is not the Jordan, just a muddy river in Alabama, and there will be no crossing—the Yankees even blow up the only bridge, leaving the slaves stranded on the near shore. The Northern troops do not feel any more compassion or mercy than the Southerners, and Colonel Dick is more than happy to return dozens of slaves back into bondage, because their presence inconveniences the army. Despite an uncomfortable emphasis on the slaves' smell, these scenes show Faulkner at his most far-sighted. They display a real historical perspective and a capacity for empathy.

Another significant feature of "Raid" is the first appearance of Drusilla and the initial sketch of her character. The portrait of Drusilla here sets up a conflict between a strong yet vulnerable young woman and an oppressive society. Drusilla delivers a stinging condemnation of the old Southern way of life, as predictable and secure to the point of being deadening. Her attack on the antebellum system, in which a woman married an "acceptable young man" and died alongside him, casts doubt on the suggestion made elsewhere that her character was shaped by the death of her fiance Gavin Breckbridge at the battle of Shiloh. Drusilla's heartfelt criticism of the pressures that women felt to marry implies that the end of her engagement might have come not just as a blow but a relief, an escape from the constraints of femininity and respectability represented by Aunt Louisa. Elsewhere in the chapter, particularly in her emotional description of the doomed locomotive chase, Drusilla begins to fill her role as a priestess of violence, an icon of Southern fatalism and pride. That role becomes more significant in "An Odor of Verbena," but even in "Raid" Drusilla identifies herself with the refusal to surrender, even against impossible odds, that Bayard will later tell us is characteristic of all Southern women.

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bad

by iluvmabritches, September 02, 2012

this is the worst book i have ever come across, why would someone write something so stupid that the average man could not understand

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12 out of 25 people found this helpful

youre wrong

by leimuu, December 17, 2013

this is the easiest faulker book to read. the rest are so unbelievably complex that this was a relief to read and understand. and the plot is more about characteristics of what a man really is and what a female should be in this era. great novel.

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1 out of 1 people found this helpful

Bad summaries

by wolfea28, February 06, 2014

A ton of vital info is left out of these summaries, especially in the Raid chapter.

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