In the very beginning, Faulkner was going to create a novel about the Snopeses, but after starting that his imagination was taken over instead by the Sartorises. If the poor-white but upwardly mobile Snopeses represent what Faulkner found wrong with the "new," 20th century South, the culturally dispossessed, aristocratic Sartorises can be seen, at least at first, as a kind of monument to the greatness of the Old South, and a Modernist symbol of loss, like the exiled Russian aristocrat Marie with whom T.S. Eliot begins The Waste Land. For her the violent agent of loss was the Russian Revolution; for the Sartorises it is two equally violent events, the Civil War and World War I. Sartorises fought and died in both of them. Even though they were on the winning side in 1918, like so many Lost Generation anti-heroes they found that victory did not prevent the destruction of the values they were supposed, as American aristocrats, to embody, or give them a home in the world to which they could return. Sartorises appear in more novels and stories than any of the other recurring families, though Faulkner's primary focus is the generational succession of males. These are mostly named John or Bayard, to the confusion of many readers, a confusion that Faulkner compounds when in some novels he refers to the Bayard who never fought in a war as "Colonel Sartoris," a name that most of the time refers to his father. Neither Colonel John Sartoris' first wife nor his daughters are ever given names. On the other hand, several of the women on the family tree - Rosa Millard, Jenny Du Pre, Drusilla Hawk - are among Faulkner's most memorable characters. Colonel John, the legendary first member of the family in Yoknapatawpha, appears in 21 texts - more than any other character. He is dead in almost two thirds of them, but his legacy as a founding father of both the family and the county provides Faulkner with one of the most dramatic ways to demonstrate that, as he famously put it, "the past is never dead."

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Sartoris Family
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Sartoris Family Biography