We never did overtake them, just as you do not overtake a tide. You just keep moving, then suddenly you know that the set is about you, beneath you, overtaking you, as if the slow and ruthless power, become aware of your presence at last, had dropped back a tentacle, a feeler, to gather you in and sweep you remorselessly on. Singly, in couples, in groups and families they began to appear from the woods, ahead of us, alongside of us and behind men and women carrying babies and dragging older children by the hand, old men and women on improvised sticks and crutches, and very old ones sitting beside the road and even calling to us when we passed; there was one old woman who even walked along beside the wagon, holding to the bed and begging Granny to at least let her see the river before she died.
This passage from "Raid" describes the migration of slaves toward the river, on the other side of which is the Union army. The entire black community is on the move, from children to the very elderly. Faulkner's tidal metaphor shows the slaves' incredible yearning. That metaphor suggests that their desire is a natural force that cannot be stopped for any reason. Their hidden power is also apparent: if black people ever chose to rise up and free themselves, whites could not prevent it, any more than a wagon can prevent being swept along on a flood. Twenty years after the novel was published, the civil rights movement would begin in the South in earnest, fulfilling Faulkner's prophecy.