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The Unvanquished

William Faulkner

Vendée

Riposte in Tertio

Skirmish at Sartoris

Summary

The entire community gathers for Granny's funeral, which is preached by Brother Fortinbride despite the presence of a fancy minister brought from Memphis. Afterward, when Bayard is in the hills, approaching by a secret path, they spot Grumby's telltale horses in Ab's pen. Bayard suspects Ab might actually be Grumby, but Uncle Buck says Ab is too shabby—the horses are just hidden here for the time being. Instead, he says, Snopes's bumbling and greed will provide clues leading them to their real prey. A woman in Ab's house tells them he has gone to Alabama. Buck knows she must be lying, so they decide to begin their search in the south, deeper into Mississippi.

The revenge party tracks Ab and Grumby and his men for almost three months, through rain and snow, following a trail of houses ransacked and families attacked by the bandits. At one point near the end of the journey they come so close that Ringo accidentally stumbles upon Grumby's men in a shed at night: he climbs onto the roof and peeks through the window, but as soon as he spots them the shed gives way and they flee. In their evening camp four days later, a well- dressed, vaguely suspicious man on horseback arrives and asks if he can warm himself by the fire. The man claims to have ridden down from Memphis in pursuit of Grumby, who, he says, killed one of his workers and stole his horses. The man tells them that he believes Grumby plans to return to Alabama, apparently to put them off the scent. But when Ringo rashly admits that they are indeed hunting Grumby and Uncle Buck confirms, the stranger threatens them and rides off. As the man disappears he shoots at them, wounding Buck in the arm; rather than pursuing him, Ringo and Bayard dress the wound. Buck conceals the enormous pain, and the next morning they continue their ride.

Before long, they hear gunshots and horses' hooves, and find the men's tracks in the mud; when they ride up the trail a little further, they see Ab Snopes lying by the road, tied hand and foot to a tree. As soon as he thinks they have spotted him Ab thrashes and calls for help. He claims to have been robbed, but Bayard can see in his eyes that he is lying. Sure enough, Buck's mention of the name "Grumby" stops him cold. Realizing the game is up, Snopes admits his lie and begs for mercy. Bayard knocks him down and grapples with him in the mud. Once they are separated, Ab whines that he is outnumbered and refuses to stand up. They whip him but decline to kill him. In the morning, Uncle Buck (whose arm is now too infected to travel) leaves Bayard and Ringo and takes Ab back with him.

Ringo and Bayard continue the pursuit through the constant rain. They can tell Grumby is growing more and more frightened, for they find a threatening note pinned to the body of an old black man hanging in the road. The next morning, the well-dressed stranger and another man suddenly appear in their path. Parading in front of them, hands tied behind his back, is Grumby. He pleads with them not to abandon him, but the men say he has earned his retribution for hastily killing Granny and ruining their profitable routine. They cut Grumby loose, toss him a pistol and ride off. He shoots after them, but they are gone. Grumby turns to face Bayard and Ringo, trying to disarm them with pleasant words; then, without warning, he leaps at Bayard. In the struggle, Grumby almost breaks Bayard's arm, but Ringo pulls him off, he turns to run and Bayard shoots him dead. Bayard and Ringo carry the body to the compress where Granny was murdered and nail it to the door. They cut off Grumby's right hand and attach it to Granny's grave marker in Jefferson, so "she can lay good and quiet." At home, they are greeted by the news that Colonel Sartoris and cousin Drusilla are home from the war and are out looking for them. They return home that night, and Uncle Buck congratulates them for their heroic deed.

Analysis

Granny's death marks a turning point in the book. In the preceding four chapters Bayard is essentially still a child, protected by adults who constrain his actions—hiding him from the Yankees, rescuing him when he and Ringo set out to chase mule thieves, leading the expeditions he travels on. They are marked by doses of games and lighthearted humor. But in "Vendée," Bayard truly lacks adult supervision for the first time. He has only Ringo for a companion—even Uncle Buck drops away with Ab Snopes midway through the hunt. Colonel Sartoris and Drusilla go out looking for them but do not find them until the deed is already done. This difference is emphasized by a chronological detail and a symbolic one. "Vendée" is the first chapter to begin right where the preceding chapter left off. There is no time for the narration to pause, for the anecdote to wrap up comfortably and a new story to begin. The usual gap of weeks or months after a chapter requires some kind of resolution to be plausible and orderly. But this chapter begins at Granny's funeral, only a day or two after her death; the emotions her murder creates have not had time to settle and glaze over. For the first time, a chapter leaves major unfinished business that must be taken up in the next, thus throwing off the established, episodic rhythm of the novel and signaling a major change. Symbolically, the shift from sunlight to rain is a physical manifestation of the newly dark mood. Toward the end of "Riposte," Bayard remarks on the fine October weather. It is only on the day of Granny's death that the rain sets in. The cold, wet, muddy days hardly let up throughout the boys' pursuit of Grumby. The weather is a heavy-handed symbol of Bayard's loss of innocence, and of the bright days of childhood.

Grumby's death represents a partial restoration of justice, but even with this act of vengeance the traditional code of honor has been dealt a serious blow. Grumby is a villain not just because he killed Granny but because he did so when she was harmless and unarmed—the clear mark of a coward. Grumby's associates, who are marauders but also Southerners, recognize his cowardice and decide he deserves his fate. The well-dressed man says that their decision is a practical one—Grumby spoiled their profits in the region—but underneath such pragmatism, his disgust about Grumby's "delicate" way with children suggests that he too is offended by Grumby's amorality on some level. They leave Grumby a pistol, so that his struggle with Bayard is officially a fair fight, a peculiar variant on the time-honored duel. By killing him in direct combat and then attaching his severed hand to Granny's grave, Bayard removes some of the taint of Grumby's cowardly actions, the hand a public marker of order restored, like the heads of executed criminals put on prominent display in medieval towns. Yet even though Grumby, the worst offender, is purged, Ab Snopes's cowardly treason goes unpunished. Ab refuses to fight Bayard fairly—he cowers on the ground, complains that he is outnumbered and passively accepts a whipping—and so Bayard cannot kill him with honor, even if he had wanted to. Unfortunately, this leaves Ab a free man, one whose descendants will thrive and replicate their ancestor's pettiness and greed.

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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 24 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.

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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