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Narrative Techniques In Faulkner’s The Unvanquished And Barn Burning

796 words - 3 pages

Narrative Techniques in Faulkner’s The Unvanquished and Barn Burning

The Unvanquished is composed of a series of stories during which Bayard Sartoris, the narrator, grows up from a twelve-year-old boy to a young man of twenty-four years. The narrative style makes it obvious that events are being related by an adult who is looking back at his past. There are several indications of this: in the very first story “Ambuscade”, the narrator, while describing his war games with his coloured friend, Ringo, states: “We were just twelve then”. (5) He tells the readers how they fantasized about the military exploits of John Sartoris, Bayard’s father, seeing them as heroic and exciting adventures. The narrator describes himself and Ringo at this stage of the novel as “the two supreme undefeated like two moths, two feathers riding above a hurricane” (7), drawing attention to the fact that while the two boys are positioned in the midst of war with all its attendant destruction and insanity, they have no understanding of its horror.

When his father first appears on the scene, the Bayard says: “He was not big, it was just the things he did… that made him seem big to us” (9). Swept up in the romance of war, with the dust of battle clinging to him, John Sartoris seems to assume a larger than life persona but even as the narrator delineates his father before us, he attaches a caveat that in actuality, the Colonel was different from how he saw him as a young boy. This statement presages the mature understanding of his father’s character that Bayard develops as the novel progresses. In “The Odor of Verbena”, he has reached such clarity of vision that he can say without much difficulty that his father was a difficult man to get along with, he acknowledges that it was a “record” for John to have been friends with Ben Redmond for three years (220) and refers to his “violent and ruthless dictatorialness and will to dominate” (224). Another indication of the fact that the narrator is actually an intelligent older man who understands the nature of things rather than a young boy who simply records his impression of events as they impinge on his consciousness, is the ironic tone that often creeps into his narration. For instance, he depicts how his kind and determined grandmother could sympathize with the plight of the Black slaves but could not see them as human beings...

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