Colonel John Sartoris

Character Key: 
Display Name: 
Colonel John Sartoris
Sort Name: 
Sartoris, John
Race: 
White
Gender: 
Male
Class: 
Upper Class
Rank: 
Major
Vitality: 
Dies
Family: 
Sartoris
Family (new): 
Occupation: 
Management
Specific Job: 
Confederate Officer, Planter, Railroad Builder
Date of Birth: 
Wednesday, January 1, 1823 to Wednesday, December 31, 1823
Origin: 
Carolina
Biography: 

John Sartoris is the patriarch of the Sartoris family, one of the founders of Yoknapatawha, and one of the major figures in Faulkner's fiction. He had two daughters (unnamed in Faulkner's works) and a son, Bayard. His wife apparently died during Bayard's childbirth (1849), so Sartoris was a widower by the time of the Civil War, in which he served as both a regular and an irregular Confederate Colonel. He is seen through the eyes of the narrator, his son Bayard. As such (in the beginning of the novel), he appears as a larger than life figure who raised a regiment and came "within spitting distance" (52) of Washington D.C. while fighting with Stonewall Jackson in Virginia. After he gets voted out of his command by the "politicians and fools" (51) in his regiment, he returns to Mississippi and, with his troop of irregular Confederates, harasses and fights the Union army in that area. Later in the novel, an older Bayard sees him less as a hero and more as man with "intolerant" eyes (236); the eyes of a man who has "killed too much" (231). After the South's surrender, Sartoris returns to his home to rebuild the plantation house that was burned by Yankees during the war, to build Jefferson's railroad, and to make sure that the newly emancipated slaves do not vote. (Faulkner tells how he killed the Burdens to prevent the latter three times: first in Flags in the Dust, and again in Light in August. This third time the killings are intertwined with the comedy of his marriage to a cousin, Drusilla Hawk. Throughout the novel, Bayard's attitude towards his father changes (just like the reader's); in the end, the once larger-than-life hero becomes a taunting bully who brings on his own death by tormenting his former friend and business partner, Ben Redmond.

Note: 
John Sartoris is the patriarch of the Sartoris family, one of the founders of Yoknapatawha, and one of the major figures in Faulkner's fiction. He had two daughters (unnamed in Faulkner's works) and a son, Bayard. His wife apparently died during Bayard's childbirth (1849), so Sartoris was a widower by the time of the Civil War, in which he served as both a regular and an irregular Confederate Colonel. He is seen through the eyes of the narrator, his son Bayard. As such (in the beginning of the novel), he appears as a larger than life figure who raised a regiment and came "within spitting distance" (52) of Washington D.C. while fighting with Stonewall Jackson in Virginia. The regiment he commanded there fell apart because it was full of "politicians and fools" (51). Later in the novel, when Bayard has grown older, he is not the hero of Bayard's childhood any more but a man with "intolerant" (236) eyes; the eyes of a man who has "killed too much" (231). After he gets voted out of his commission by his regiment, he returns to Mississippi and, with his troop of irregular Confederates, harasses and fights the Union army in that area. After the South's surrender, Sartoris returns to his home to rebuild the plantation house that was burned by Yankees during the war and to make sure that the newly emancipated slaves do not vote. The novel's account of his killing the Burdens to prevent the latter is the third time that Faulkner's fiction describes the event (it first appears in Flags in the Dust, and again in Light in August). Neither of the other two versions marry the killing to the comedy of his wedding to Drusilla. Throughout the novel, Bayard's attitude towards his father changes (just like the readers) and the once larger-than-life hero becomes a taunting bully who brings on his own death by unjustifiably tormenting his former friend and business partner Ben Redmond.
Individual or Group: 
Individual
Character changes class in this text: 
Date of Death: 
Wednesday, October 1, 1873 to Friday, October 31, 1873

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