Narcissa Benbow Sartoris

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Narcissa Benbow Sartoris
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Sartoris, Narcissa Benbow
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Narcissa is born into one of Yoknapatawpha's leading families and marries into another. She plays a major role in three early fictions, which together even form a kind of asymmetrical trilogy. In Flags in the Dust she is the most eligible young woman in Jefferson before she becomes Mrs. Bayard Sartoris. In that novel her role is essentially passive, as she is courted or stalked by men from three very different classes; by the end of it she is a young widow with a newborn son, whom she names Benbow Sartoris. In Sanctuary, on the other hand, she plays a more active and less attractive role, as she tries to protect her reputation against her brother Horace's quixotic involvement with a former prostitute and a moonshiner. The narrator of Flags repeatedly associates with her with the adjective "serene" - her brother even calls her "O Serene" (172); that word recurs in Sanctuary, but now it is often paired with the word "stupid" (25). The narrative of "There Was a Queen" returns to the story of the anonymous quasi-obscene letters Byron Snopes sent her in Flags. The means by which she recovers them may not prove, as one of the Sartoris servants says, that she is "trash" (734), but it does make it clear that despite her pedigree and her possession of the Sartoris estate, "She won't never be a Sartoris woman" (730). Unlike her brother, she is mentioned, briefly, in later texts, though her role in the final two volumes of Faulkner's better-known trilogy about the Snopeses is very minor.