More coursework: 1 - A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I - J | K - L | M | N - O | P - S | T | U - Y

Faulkners the unvanquished

Faulkner's "The Unvanquished"

Though Faulkner's The Unvanquished is set during the Civil War, another

war is being fought simultaneously. This second war is not one of guns and

thievery, but one of beliefs. It is a conflict between two philosophies:

idealism and pragmatism. This war rages on throughout the novel, but is decided

by one event: Bayard's decision not to avenge his father's death.

An idealist is one who is guided by ideals, especially one that places

ideals before practical considerations. Life in Yoknapatawpha was idealistic, as

was life everywhere in the South at the time. The Southern Code was entirely

idealistic. Throughout the book, idealism seems dominant over pragmatism. For

example, all of the Sartoris women were idealists; almost everyone in

Yoknapatawpha was an idealist. The fact that John Sartoris was able to get away

with murder and be elected into public office soon after is a strong example of


There were not many pragmatists in the novel. By definition, a

pragmatist is one who believes that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought

in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action,

and that truth is preminently to be tested by the practical consequences of

belief. Bayard Sartoris was a pragmatist. He 'let his conscience be his guide'.

Telling his father about Drusilla's attempt to seduce him and refusing to avenge

his father's death are two good examples of this. In the beginning of the novel,

Bayard is shown to be simple minded, but as time passes on and Bayard grows into

a young man, his mind develops and he ultimately ends the battle between

idealism and pragmatism in one carefully thought out decision.

The battle between the two philosophies is very subtle in the beginning.

But it grows and strengthens, and since there can only be one winner, the

pragmatist is victorious. When Bayard's father is killed, and Bayard denies

Drusilla the satisfaction of vengeance, Drusilla's idealistic beliefs are

shattered, and she is forced to leave, thus ending the war. The Southern Code

becomes nothing, because one person refuses to obey it.

When Faulkner wrote The Unvanquished, the Civil War appeared to be the

main event, but hidden behind was another war: a war of beliefs. It appears that

the South lost two great wars during that time period, one for lack of manpower,

and the other for lack of reason. Perhaps things would have been different if

the South had won the Civil War. Maybe Bayard would not have had the opportunity

to decide the fate of the Southern Code all alone.

Source: Essay UK -

About this resource

This coursework was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.

Search our content:

  • Download this page
  • Print this page
  • Search again

  • Word count:

    This page has approximately words.



    If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

    Essay UK, Faulkners The Unvanquished. Available from: <> [26-05-20].

    More information:

    If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal: