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Sartoris


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Novel by Faulkner, published in 1929 with editorial cuts. Flags in the Dust (1973) is the full text.

Bayard Sartoris comes home to Jefferson, Miss., from combat as an aviator in World War I, in which his twin brother John, also a flyer, has been killed. His grandfather, old Bayard, head of the Sartoris banking interests, and Miss Jenny, old Bayard's aunt, and others, including prewar associates and black tenants, frame young Bayard's attempted reentry into normal life, along with a complex family background of feudal tradition, stubborn pride, and a certain “glamorous fatality” bound up in the family names themselves. The names recall old Bayard's father, John, the founder of the Sartoris house in Mississippi, and his brother, another Bayard, killed in the Civil War, as well as young John, who all exist as active presences and influences, “palpable ghosts.” Desolated by his twin's death, and the deaths of his wife Caroline and their infant son, Bayard rides, drives, drinks, and hunts with cold recklessness, alone in the “bleak and barren world” of his despair, deliberately courting death. He marries Narcissa, of the prominent Benbow family, to whom Byron Snopes, a bookkeeper at the bank, has been sending anonymous letters of crazed lust, and whose brother Horace, like Bayard, has returned from the war obsessed with a poetic image of “the meaning of peace.” But neither Narcissa's love nor their expected child, nor even his guilt over old Bayard's death from heart failure during a wild auto ride, can alter his despair. He leaves home, wanders in South America and the U.S., and is killed testing a new kind of aircraft he seems to know is unsafe. On the day he dies his son is born and named Benbow Sartoris, Narcissa's gesture away from the Sartoris nomenclature, the “dusk” of names “peopled with ghosts of glamorous and old disastrous things.”

Subjects: Literature.


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Authors

William Faulkner (1897—1962) American novelist


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