First-Year English Class, tape 2

DATE: 28 April 1958

OCCASION: Irby Cauthen's First-Year English Class

TAPE: T-142d

LENGTH: 17:09

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William Faulkner: [...] he was, in his own lights, quite successful. That is, he wanted no more than he knew within his capacity he would have, that he was going to enjoy what he saw and heard and was going to live a long time in peace because he had accepted, coped with environment, without trying to manipulate environment for his own aggrandizement as Snopes did.

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: What was the purpose of the episode about the—the wart or the mole on Old Bayard's face? [He went to see] Lucius Peabody and Dr. Alford and somebody else. He went to see three doctors [...].

William Faulkner: Well, that wasn't too important. It really proved nothing. It—it simply stipulated a—a true fact: that the—the old people that have traditions of going out in the garden to get a few weeds and stewing in tobacco juice can perform miracles of cure, when all the doctors with their fine pharmacopoeia and all the rest of the gadgets sometimes fail, and that's always a—a little amusing to me when I see somebody that will—will go to the—what the trained doctor would call a witch doctor, and get a little piece of salve that will cure something that the doctor or the surgeon himself failed to do anything with. That, by optimism, I mean that man himself is somehow indestructible, that he don't need education and training at all, that—even he can cope with illiteracy. He can cope with science, that all the atom bombs and things like that are not going to destroy man, that he will find some little thing in his kitchen garden to stew down that will efface the atom bomb from threat. I mean, figuratively speaking.

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: Sir, did you have any reason for having Old Bayard live so much longer than all the other Sartorises?

William Faulkner: No. Probably the only reason was a—a dramatic and technical one. I simply needed him. As soon as I didn't need him anymore, I got rid of him. [audience laughter]

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: In The Unvanquished, the theory of the McCaslins, that people belong to the land, is that to represent the belief of a general class of people at that time, or was that just an individual case of [...]?

William Faulkner: It was—well, not quite individual because there were more McCaslins in that county than that one family. They didn't—well, they might've represented a—a type, the type that didn't have the—the education of the Sartorises and the Compsons, but had some of the same traditions. They were close enough to the land, probably, to have a little more toughness, that none of the McCaslins, MacCallums would have—have produced the—the—the Caddys and Quentins of The Sound and the Fury. That they would've—have solved their problems, would have faced their problems better than—than Compsons and maybe Sartorises did, that no MacCallum would have—would have wrecked a car in which his grandfather died and then simply walked out of the scene.

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: This question is related. Were Colonel Sartoris and your great-grandfather, the Colonel Falkner—I mean—or how much did you—how much did you draw on Colonel Falkner to get the picture of Colonel Sartoris?

William Faulkner: That's difficult to say. That comes back to what we spoke of—the three sources the writer draws from, and—and I myself would have to stop and—and go page by page to see just how much I drew from family annals that I had listened to from these old, undefeated spinster aunts that—that children of my time grew up with. Probably, well, the—the similarity of raising of that infantry regiment, that was—that was the same. The—his death was about—was pretty close, pretty close parallel. But the rest of it I would have to go through to—page by page and remember, did I hear this or did I imagine this?

Unidentified participant: Sir, I wonder what—if you intended to—to make us think was the future of the—the young—young baby, John Sartoris, would be. I know—or whether it's just I read between the lines, [but] I remember that Aunt Jenny said that when old Simon died, that he was the last of the real Sartorises, and then again, Narcissa said that—when she wanted to change the name, Aunt Jenny said, "Well, you'd better not. He'll turn out to be one anyway." So, is there any prediction that you would make that he would turn out to be just like—as—as violent as all the rest or whether he would turn out to be a new generation?

William Faulkner: Probably, he wouldn't be as violent as the others. I think that what the old aunt meant was that—that these people were—were her kin, and—and she would have to be on their side and have to see that all this was fine and gallant, but that—that they were obsolete, that the men, the southern men, were the ones that—that couldn't bear being—having lost the war. The women were the ones that could bear it because they never had surrendered. The men had given up and, in a sense, were—were dead and—and even generations later were seeking death. And, in her opinion, the sooner this quality in the Sartoris men died out, the better for Sartoris, for the Sartoris clan, race. And she—probably she believed that—that this boy would have all the best of the Sartorises and none of the vices.

Frederick Gwynn: Mr. Faulkner, toward the end of "An Odor of Verbena," she says to Bayard, "Damn you Sartorises," even though she seems to approve of his not going out and getting revenge. Is it some quality of heartlessness that she feels even in an act that she approves of?

William Faulkner: No, no, she loves these people, and they have constantly—all of her life, they have given her anguish and trouble. That she can't help but love them, and she believes in them, not in what they do, and they do these reckless, completely self-centered things that have caused nothing but anguish and grief to all their womenfolk. That's all that meant. That she's proud of this boy, but he too has done something unexpected, that when she expects them to act like human beings they act like Sartorises, then when she expects the next one to behave like a Sartoris he behaves like a simple human being, [audience laughter] and she has no—will never have any peace from them. That's all that meant.
Yes, sir.

Joseph Blotner: When the boy's aunt says, "Go upstairs until this blows over. It'll be all right," is she saying that because she just doesn't want him to get hurt?

William Faulkner: Yes, that's it. That's—that's the woman—this is the last one. And—and she knows that—that she expects him to go out and get himself shot, because he's a child compared to this man, and he wouldn't come out of a—of a duel with—with this man, and she's willing for him to be a coward just so he stays alive. She knows that he's not going to do that. But that's—that's—that's the woman. She's been his mother. She's telling him to do something that she herself probably wouldn't really want him to do.

Unidentified participant: In that—that final section of The Unvanquished, are you developing a notion of a changing and developing tradition, and that Bayard doesn't reject the whole tradition. He keeps the honor and the courage, but he rejects the—part of the old tradition, and that—that is the vendetta. And I wondered if you—that if the sprig of verbena represented the old mechanical, unchanging tradition that he was building from and rejecting partly but not altogether. I noticed that you present that sprig of verbena as having the petals stamped out as if—as if by a machine. I wondered if—if you—in your mind, that meant that this was the—the mechanical, unchanging tradition, that he was rejecting partly, [what] he was growing away from, but still keeping the—the honor and the courage.

William Faulkner: No, the verbena—the fact that sprig of verbena was alive, was—was an accolade, that the—the verbena, even though it looked like it had been stamped out by a machine and was traditional, was still alive, and there would be another one next year. And that was an accolade of—of optimism, too. That she could have left a—a note scrawled on a—a piece of paper, but that would have been dead paper and dead ink. This was—was alive, a promise of—of renewal for next year.

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Unidentified participant: Sir, in the earlier chapters of The Unvanquished, Colonel Sartoris is shown to be a very brave man and a very—could do all sorts of wonderful things, and then in the last chapter, he seems to be shown in a slightly different light, that he's not—not quite all these things that he appeared to be earlier. Just what is your estimation of Colonel Sartoris as a man?

William Faulkner: As a—a simple human man. In the—the first stories in that book, that was—was how this little boy saw him. Later, that little boy got older and—and had some perspective. He could see that this man who had seemed incapable of—of weakness or evil was human, too. It wasn't that the—that Sartoris changed so much, but the boy had changed, could see more than he had seen at first. The picture he had of him at first was someone that would be gone away fighting in a war, and then he'd come back for a day or two, and then be gone again, the picture that his grandmother and his aunt and the servants that remained on the place had given him of what his father was. Later, when he got older and had some perspective and could—could see that—that war is—is not all that fine and—and gallant and that the people that engage in war probably are—are harmed a little by it, too. That he got a—he knew more about people, about man, about his grand—his father as he got older. That was the reason, not that Sartoris changed, anymore than—than anyone changes by getting old, and his arteries beginning to harden, and his blood running slower. His ideas becoming a little more rigid.

Frederick Gwynn: Mr. Faulkner, were there many girls in the war who went off like Drusilla, rode astride and went with the troops?

William Faulkner: Probably not. Probably she was the only one. [audience laughter] I mean, her prototype, whoever it was that I got the idea for her from, I imagine I read that somewhere, too, and just don't remember it. Just like whoever wrote about the [Iversons] don't remember where he read that.

William Faulkner: Yes, sir.

Joseph Blotner: Is there any romantic attraction between Drusilla and the boy?

William Faulkner: I don't think so. They were nearer akin in age, but I don't think so. I think certainly Drusilla would have made no effort to—to bring that out in that boy because her husband, older than she though he was, was—was—was her—her knight. He represented the best of—of the masculine to her, to be ruthless and—and—and brave and to demand—to brook no insult, to demand blood for blood, that was exactly what she would have been if she'd been a boy. And she probably never saw this boy other than someone who was close to her in age. And he had never thought of her romantically, I am quite sure, because his father had—had stamped the whole tone of that household with his, the father's, importance, that nobody would have dared tamper with his wife, for instance. And this boy, that would have—might have been the one thing he would have shot a man for, for an insult to his father's wife, not his mother necessarily, but his father's wife, because he would be preserving his father's honor.

Irby Cauthen: Mr. Faulkner, let me thank you on behalf of the class [and the visitors].

William Faulkner: Well, thank you.

[end of recording]