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Comparing Bayard Sartoris of Faulkner's The Unvanquished with the Caveman of Plato's Republic

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Comparing Bayard Sartoris of Faulkner's The Unvanquished with the Caveman of Plato's Republic

Bayard Sartoris in William Faulkner's The Unvanquished is enlightened from an ignorant boy unconcerned with the horrors of war to an intelligent young man who realizes murder is wrong no matter what the circumstances. His transformation is similar to the caveman's transformation in Plato's Republic. Bayard Sartoris journeys through Plato's cave and finds truth and goodness at the end of the novel.

In the beginning of the novel, Bayard was as ignorant as the caveman. Bayard heard only the stories of war, "the cannon and the flags and the anonymous yelling."1 He didn't consider the reality: death, bloodshed, and disease. His father's stories of war were just reflections of the reality, shadows on the wall. Bayard paid no attention to the reasons behind the war. Bayard just imagined what it would be like to be General Pemberton or General Grant. Faulkner's diction in the first chapter is full of descriptive references to shadows and darkness

similar to the description of the wall in Plato's cave. Plato described the cave and its prisoners in the following way:

Imagine human beings living in an underground, cavelike dwelling, with an entrance a long way up, which is both open to the light and as wide as the cave itself They've been there since childhood, fixed in the same place, with their necks and legs fettered, able to see only in front of them, because their bonds prevent them from taming their heads around. Light is provided by a fire burning far above and behind them. Also behind them, but on higher ground, there is a path stretching between them and the fire. Imagine that along this path a low wall has b...

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5. Faulkner, 18.

6. Faulkner, 28.

7. Faulkner, 25.

8. Plato, 169.

9. Faulkner, 60-61.

10. Faulkner, 61.

11. Faulkner, 61.

12. Faulkner, 66.

13. Plato, 169.

14. Faulkner, 153.

15. Faulkner, 171.

16. James Hinkle and Robert McCoy, Reading Faulkner: The Unvanquished. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995), 141.

17. Faulkner, 178.

18. Julia Annas, "Understanding and the Good: Sun, Line, and Cave," In Plato's Republic: Critical Essays, ed. Richard Kraut (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997), 152-153.

19. Plato, 168.

20. Iris Murdoch, "The Sovereignty of Good," in Plato's Republic: Critical Essays, ed. Richard Kraut (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997), 174.
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