Concepts of Masculinity in Faulkner’s The Unvanquished
In The Unvanquished, the reader assumes that the narrator is Bayard Sartoris, a boy born to John Sartoris and his now deceased wife. Bayard's gender is not immediately apparent, though remote understanding of southern customs and common boyhood activities encourages one to guess that he is male. First, Ringo is more easily identified as a black boy, and by the age of twelve, black boys and white girls would likely not be permitted such intimate and unsupervised interaction. Second, the boys' infatuation with "playing war" and the chores which are assigned to them suggest that Bayard is probably male. This conclusion is finally justified for the reader when John discovers that the young lads separated from Miss Rosa. He repeats in frustration, "You damn boys" (63).
Although the opening sentence implies that the narrator is looking back to childhood, the person's exact age cannot be determined. The assigned section indicates that Bayard and Ringo were approximately the same age, twelve years old at the beginning of the story and fifteen when Miss Rosa died. The reader might presume that the narrator has matured enough to contemplate his guilt over neglecting his grandmother in this tragic incident, as Bayard constantly reiterates how he and Ringo "tried to keep her from doing it" (148ff.). Finally, he admits, "I keep on saying that because I know now that I didn't" (153). This perpetual guilt hints that the narrator is an adult.
Faulkner's strategy tells the story through the innocent perspective of a white boy who...