Drusilla Hawk Sartoris

Character Key Number: 
12
Display Name: 
Drusilla Hawk Sartoris
Sort Name: 
Drusilla Hawk Sartoris
Parent Character Key: 
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 
Yes
Biography: 

Although she only appears in the Unvanquished stories, Drusilla Hawk Sartoris is one of the more memorable women in the Yoknapatawpha fictions. She was born in Alabama into the plantation aristocracy, where her role as a lady seemed clearly defined - until the Civil War gave her the opportunity to redefine it. After her father and fiance are killed at the Battle of Shiloh, she "deliberately tries to unsex" herself (189), according to her appalled mother, by refusing to mourn them and instead cutting her hair short and riding off "astride" her horse (not sidesaddle) to join the Confederate unit led by her cousin, John Sartoris, in the fighting. Faulkner never describes her behavior in combat, though she doesn't mince words about saying that she "went to the War to hurt Yankees" (197). When she comes to Yoknapatawpha with John after the surrender, she continues to dress and act like the males rebuilding the Sartoris plantation until she herself is forced to surrender - not to the Yankees but to her mother the other ladies who demand that she put on a dress and marry the man she has been fighting and sleeping beside. When John appoints her ad hoc "voting commissioner" of Yoknapatawpha, a very implausible role for a woman, she is wearing a wedding dress (210). As John's wife she is (briefly) her step-son's temptation in the garden at Sartoris - or as Bayard puts it, the "woman of thirty, the symbol of the ancient and eternal Snake" (228). As John's widow at the end of The Unvanquished she exhorts Bayard to avenge John's death with the pair of phallic pistols she holds out to him; having put the dress back on, she apparently never considers firing them herself. When Bayard resists that temptation, she leaves Yoknapatawpha to be with her younger brother Denny in Alabama. Before she departs, however, she leaves on Bayard's pillow a single sprig of verbena which, according to her, has the only odor one can smell above the "smell of horses and courage" (220).