The Unvanquished

William Faulkner


Summary Ambuscade

The main black character, Ringo, seems to be treated with indulgence and warm regard by the Sartoris family. In turn, he serves as Bayard's faithful sidekick: allows Bayard to choose their games, takes orders at a moment of crisis, and knows or cares no more about abolitionism and civil rights than his white friend. Of course, since Bayard is the narrator it is no surprise that he depicts his family as enlightened and caring towards their slaves, or that Ringo is shown to be contented with his situation. Ringo later becomes more complex and nuanced, but in "Ambuscade" he is little more than a stock character, the cheerful, wide-eyed slave boy.

As a side note, it is worth pointing out this chapter's difficult chronology. Vicksburg fell in July 1863, and in "Ambuscade" the boys are supposed to be twelve years old. Since we later learn their birthdays are in September, they must be fourteen when the war ends in 1865. Yet the novel tells us they are fifteen at the time of the surrender. Critics James Hinkle and Robert McCoy explain this apparent discrepancy by claiming that the events of "Ambuscade" take place in 1862, the year when Yankees first entered northeastern Mississippi, not 1863. According to this explanation, Loosh has only heard a rumor that Vicksburg has fallen and is mistaken in his assertion. This explanation is not fully satisfying, since Colonel Sartoris seems to believe the rumor as well. However, it is the explanation that best corresponds with the available facts of chronology—we must conclude that "Ambuscade" takes place in 1862, the time when the Yankees really did enter northeastern Mississippi (that is, the area around Jefferson) for the first time.