The tragic irony of these scenes is that while the slaves believe they are about to cross the river Jordan—the Biblical symbol of freedom, the entrance to the Promised Land—their migration will have no effect. The water is not the Jordan, just a muddy river in Alabama, and there will be no crossing—the Yankees even blow up the only bridge, leaving the slaves stranded on the near shore. The Northern troops do not feel any more compassion or mercy than the Southerners, and Colonel Dick is more than happy to return dozens of slaves back into bondage, because their presence inconveniences the army. Despite an uncomfortable emphasis on the slaves' smell, these scenes show Faulkner at his most far-sighted. They display a real historical perspective and a capacity for empathy.
Another significant feature of "Raid" is the first appearance of Drusilla and the initial sketch of her character. The portrait of Drusilla here sets up a conflict between a strong yet vulnerable young woman and an oppressive society. Drusilla delivers a stinging condemnation of the old Southern way of life, as predictable and secure to the point of being deadening. Her attack on the antebellum system, in which a woman married an "acceptable young man" and died alongside him, casts doubt on the suggestion made elsewhere that her character was shaped by the death of her fiance Gavin Breckbridge at the battle of Shiloh. Drusilla's heartfelt criticism of the pressures that women felt to marry implies that the end of her engagement might have come not just as a blow but a relief, an escape from the constraints of femininity and respectability represented by Aunt Louisa. Elsewhere in the chapter, particularly in her emotional description of the doomed locomotive chase, Drusilla begins to fill her role as a priestess of violence, an icon of Southern fatalism and pride. That role becomes more significant in "An Odor of Verbena," but even in "Raid" Drusilla identifies herself with the refusal to surrender, even against impossible odds, that Bayard will later tell us is characteristic of all Southern women.