War and Grief in Faulkner’s Shall Not Perish and The Unvanquished

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War and Grief in Faulkner’s Shall Not Perish and The Unvanquished It is inevitable when dealing regularly with a subject as brutal as war, that death will occur. Death brings grief for the victim’s loved ones, which William Faulkner depicts accurately and fairly in many of his works, including the short story “Shall Not Perish” and The Unvanquished. While the works differ because of the time (The Unvanquished deals with the Civil War while “Shall Not Perish” takes place during World War II) and the loved ones grieving (The Unvanquished shows the grief of a lover and “Shall Not Perish” shows the grief of families), the pain they all feel is the same. When we first meet Cousin Drusilla, her fiancée Gavin has already died at battle. Some Southern ladies may have handled their grief passively, retreating to their beds to sleep their pain away. However, Drusilla takes a different approach. She becomes a part of the war, actively saving her horse when the Yankees burn her family home and eventually joining her uncle’s cavalry. Drusilla refuses to passively grieve; she becomes a part of the war for which her lover felt so strongly that he was willing to die. In doing so, however, she becomes detached from the Southern life the men are trying to preserve. She thinks Gavin’s death has opened her eyes to a new world and that the old world in which they lived was pointless. “Living used to be dull, you see. Stupid. You lived in the same house your father was born in and your father’s sons and daughters had the sons and daughters of the same negro slaves to nurse and coddle, and then you grew up and you fell in love with your acceptable young man and in time you would marry him, in your mother’s wedding gown perhaps and with the same silver for presents she had received…Stupid, you see” (100-101). However, Drusilla—even though she may not be willing to admit it, even to herself—had always wanted that kind of life. She easily fell in love with Gavin, and once he was gone, she decided to give up her dreams of that kind of life—she wasn’t going to wait for the war to end so she could start the cycle of finding “an acceptable young man” again. Drusilla was going to take Gavin’s spot in the war, out of love and grief and loyalty.

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