The Unvanquished

William Faulkner
Characters

Colonel Sartoris

Characters Colonel Sartoris

If Bayard represents the possibility of a new order in the South, Colonel Sartoris is the epitome of the old, the ideal man of the traditional system exaggerated to the point of stereotype. The list of his positive qualities is remarkably long: gallantry, intelligence, courage, honor, integrity, devotion to family, proud masculinity. Indeed, Colonel Sartoris would be too strong to be believable if his character were probed too deeply. However, we only see him through the eyes of a worshipful son, who understandably emphasizes his father's heroic qualities. Colonel Sartoris is onstage at relatively infrequent intervals—he is usually away at war, and makes a brief appearance in several chapters and none at all in others; only in "Skirmish at Sartoris" and "Retreat" does he have an extensive role. As a result, his character is more legitimately clouded in an aura of legend. Finally, the novel is narrated by an adult Bayard at a time long after the war, when the mundane realities of his father's memory have been supplanted by a mythology he has partially invented. If Colonel Sartoris were the narrator or the protagonist, his larger-than-life qualities would overpower the book and make it cartoonish; through the eyes of a boy and in small doses, his presence gives the war majesty and grandeur.