The Unvanquished

William Faulkner
Characters

Drusilla

Characters Drusilla

The portrayal of Drusilla is noticeably wobbly. In "Raid" and "Skirmish at Sartoris" she is an uncompromising warrior with close-cropped hair, who hates the constrictions of femininity and wants nothing more than to be allowed to kill Yankees. But in "An Odor of Verbena" she is depicted as passionate and even lustful, kissing Bayard in the garden and trailing the scent of verbena behind her. Her britches have been traded for a yellow ball gown, her unadorned speech for a fanciful, even purple prose that allows her to describe a pair of dueling pistols as "slender and invincible and fatal as the physical shape of love." Unlike Granny, whose transformation is slow and believable, the break in Drusilla's character is sharp and difficult to account for.

In both incarnations, however, Drusilla seems at first to be unquestionably the strongest female character until her strength yields to reveal a child-like vulnerability. Drusilla is capable of defending herself with a pistol and of sleeping unprotected in a Confederate camp, yet she crumbles before her own mother and a trunkful of dresses. Her raw emotional volatility is no match for Aunt Louisa's manipulative tears or Mrs. Habersham's vicious courtesy; she is at odds with traditional Southern womanhood yet does not know how to protect herself from its encroachment. Her defeat in "Skirmish at Sartoris" is one of the most honestly heartfelt in the book, and an effective indictment of the hollowness of the old social (as distinct from the moral) order.