John Sartoris III

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John Sartoris III
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Sartoris, John III
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Johnny Sartoris, the twin brother of Bayard, is one of the two Sartoris ghosts who haunt the present in Faulkner's first Yoknapatawpha fiction, Flags in the Dust. Confederate Colonel John haunts all his living descendants. 'British' aviator Johnny is instead the shadow that his brother cannot emerge from. He is remembered very fondly by the novel's other characters, and with a great deal of survivor guilt by Bayard. Before World War I Johnny attended the University of Virginia and Princeton University. Serving in France, he is killed in aerial combat while his brother looks on helplessly, embracing his death with a gesture that combines noblesse oblige with modern insouciance, and apparently fulfilling his destiny as a 'Sartoris' in a way Bayard can never compete with (though his own death in an airplane in the skies over Ohio has to be understood as a diminished echo of John's in the skies over France). Most of the other five texts in which Johnny is mentioned don't add anything to the story that in a sense is already over before Flags even begins, but Johnny is a major character in "All the Dead Pilots," one of the short stories Faulkner set in World War I Europe. There his experiences in the 'Great War' are considerably less mythic. They involve an ongoing rivalry with another pilot named Spoomer, where they fight over women rather than a more noble cause. In that story Johnny is "humorless" (515), sardonic, and self-confident, all of which appear in his offer to teach Spoomer how to fly just to "run him out of the sky in four minutes. I will run him so far into the ground he will have to stand on his head to swallow" (521). Even this ironic (anti)war story, however, is introduced by a narrator who says he is telling it to explain how "all the pilots" - especially the ones who survived physically - were killed by what happened to them in the war.