The Diminishing Southern Code in
William Faulkner’s The Unvanquished
In the novel The Unvanquished, by William Faulkner, most of the characters strictly follow by a code of laws and moral values called the Southern Code. At the beginning of the book, the characters follow the Southern Code more strictly than at the end . Some of the rules which start to diminish during the course of the novel are as follows: no stealing, no profanity, no lying, treat women and the elderly with respect, and seek revenge on those who have caused you pain. The characters obey these during the start of the novel, and eventually as the novel progresses, the rules are broken.
The first two rules, no profanity and no lying, are the first two to be broken in the book. In the first chapter, the character Granny visibly and strictly abides by the Southern Code. The main character, Bayard, and his friend Ringo sprint towards their family’s house after they have shot a Yankee with their father’s gun. Bayard retorts, “We shot him Granny. We shot the bastud!” (Faulkner 27). Proceeding this, Granny applies soap to each of the boys’ mouths as a punishment for uttering the word “bastud” . Granny does this because she strictly obeys the Southern Code no matter what the circumstance. Nevertheless, Granny eventually breaks the code by lying to a Yankee colonel. She tells him, in response to the colonel’s question that “There are no children in this house nor on this place.” (Faulkner 28) The colonel asks about the whereabouts of the children, because they have killed one of the colonel’s men. This is probably the first time Granny has ever told a lie. The is also probably the first time Granny has ever been in a “life or death” situation, which accounts for her lie. This life-saving lie that has just occurred is a little hint as to what will become of the Southern Code at the end of the novel.
Stealing is the third rule to be broken. Ironically this “stealing” incident involves Granny.
Granny, along with the help of Bayard and Ringo, steals horses from the Yankees. Granny forges a colonel’s signature on forms which claim that she has permission to take possession of mules from certain posts of the Union army. This act of forgery is once again an example of lying. Granny steals hundreds of mules with this technique and then sells the stolen mules back to the Yankees. As Granny steals these animals, she realizes that it is wrong and clearly against the Southern Code. However, she brushes away her guilty conscious with the thought that stealing the mules is for a good cause. This is also an example of the human heart in conflict with itself. Bayard and Ringo also steal a horse, after they retreat from their burning home. Bayard’s father. Colonel Sartoris, asks Bayard where he apprehended the horse, “Where did you get that horse?” Bayard replies, “We borrowed it.” (Faulkner 62) This is a nice way of saying that Ringo and he stole it. Once again, this incident occurs early in the book and Bayard does not lie to his father that he stole.
The rule, “treat women and the elderly with respect”, is also broken. In the beginning of the book, Granny hides Ringo and Bayard under her dress from a Union colonel. The colonel questions the elderly women about the children, and is responded to with a lie from Granny. Although he is a member of the Union army, it is obvious he follows a code of moral values similar to the Southern Code. He knows that Granny is lying, but he has respect for her because she is a woman, and elderly. Because of his respect for her, he does not question her anymore.
This shows the strong use of the Southern Code at the beginning of the book. However, near the end of the novel this rule of the Southern Code is not followed by as strictly. The ruthless character, Grumby, does not follow the Southern Code. Grumby hears of Granny’s operation involving stealing mules and decides to take the job himself. For some unknown reason Grumby shoots Granny and kills her. He shoots her in his own home, when she visits him. The Southern Code is obviously not a part of Grumby’s mind. To add to his heinous crime, he also breaks the age old hospitality rule of treating guests in your home with respect. This incident involving Granny and Grumby is a perfect example of the diminishing Southern Code in the book.
The rule, “seek revenge on those who have caused you pain”, is more easily explained as the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” saying. This guideline is also broken. After Granny’s death Bayard and Ringo seek revenge on Grumby. They finally find Grumby and shoot him to death. To honor their dead grandmother, they hammer Grumby’s lifeless body to the door of the compress. In addition to this, they cut Grumby’s right hand off and hammer it to Granny’s grave. His right hand was the hand that killed her. Bayard and Ringo clearly get revenge on Grumby.
However, at the end of the book, Bayard does not seek revenge on the death of his father, John Sartoris. John Sartoris works in the railroad business with a man named Ben Redmond. The two men cannot agree on anything, so each offer a bid to buy the other out of the business. John Sartoris eventually buys the railroad. Later Redmond runs for the legislature, and John runs against him. He runs against him just for spite, and wins. He goads Redmond very much, and he becomes so envious and angry that he kills him. Bayard later confronts opems;a’js;dkopc;salsjdhc.xirehk.xxxxizhnsl ifp,d,vt pewip o;fiodf ofljmn8t94miew8w,m94 6t 8566thnhfidvnufnuiaj vc hflsamiodmifopaud nnoeli’mstillusingthecomputer