The Unvanquished

William Faulkner
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title The Unvanquished

author  William Faulkner

type of work  Novel

genre Bildungsroman (novel of self-development and maturation); war novel

language  English (often uses Southern and black dialects in dialogue)

time and place written  Begun as a series of magazine stories for the Saturday Evening Post and Scribner's in 1934; last story written in 1937. Written mostly in Oxford, Mississippi and perhaps partially in Hollywood.

date of first publication  February 15, 1938

publisher  Random House

narrator  Bayard Sartoris (as an adult, looking back on the events of his childhood)

climax  The most important climax comes in "Riposte in Tertio" when Granny Millard is murdered by Grumby after Bayard fails to keep her from leaving the wagon. Another, secondary climax is Bayard's confrontation with Redmond in "An Odor of Verbena." Each chapter has its own individual climactic event (e.g. the sergeant's questioning of Granny while the boys are hidden in "Ambuscade"; the wagon falling into the river in "Raid").

protagonist  Bayard, and to a lesser extent, Granny Millard

antagonist  Varies at different points in the novel: Yankee soldiers, Grumby and his gang, Aunt Louisa and Mrs. Habersham, the Burdens. More broadly, anyone who does not share the traditional Southern moral code adhered to by the Sartorises.

setting (time)  Mostly from 1862 to 1865, with the final chapter in 1873

setting (place)  Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, with excursions into Tennessee and Alabama

point of view  Mostly told from young Bayard's perspective, although the adult Bayard who narrates the story occasionally describes things he learned later or that occurred while he was absent

falling action  After a confrontation, Ben Redmond boards a train out of Jefferson forever; Bayard falls asleep in a pasture and wakes up sobbing; he discovers Drusilla has left home to return to Alabama

tense  Past tense, told from the perspective of many years in the future

foreshadowing  Little direct foreshadowing, though details in the novel occasionally set up future events, such as the names "Old Hundred" and "Tinney" (which explain the Yankee officer's mistaken allocation of one hundred and ten mules to Granny)

tone  Grand and epic, as befits a heroic adventure story, but more serious as time goes on and Bayard develops to maturity; generally parallels the tone Bayard's thoughts at whatever age he is. The tone of "An Odor of Verbena" is even more dramatic and poetic.

themes  Morality and moral development; racism and injustice; honor; heroism; violence and its effects; the oppressive effects of meaningless social codes (politeness and "respectability"); genuine religion versus religious hypocrisy; the restrictions imposed on women; memory and mythologizing; class distinctions

motifs  Warfare; humor and comical escapades; journeying; schemes and plots; childhood; promises and oaths; the standards of gentlemen; families and alternative families

symbols  Verbena; the chest of silver; the railroad; rain versus sunshine; nature (like the snake in Bayard's path in "Vendée")