Virginia Sartoris Du Pre

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Virginia Sartoris Du Pre
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Du Pre, Virginia Sartoris
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Virginia Du Pre - or as she is called more frequently, Aunt Jenny - is the sister of Colonel John and the first in the series of formidable dowagers in the Yoknapatawpha fictions. She traveled to Yoknapatawpha a few years after the end of the Civil War that saw her father and husband killed and the family mansion in Carolina burned down. She brought with her a handful of flower cuttings from the ancestral estate which in Mississippi's less congenial soil she nurtures into an equally lush garden. She also tends the 'Sartoris' legend with a mixture of feigned exasperation and genuine affection, keeping alive the stories of past greatness before and in the War. She is not as un-Reconstructed as some of Faulkner's ladies, but in "All the Dead Pilots" she does tell her great-nephew to quit fighting in that "Yankee" war - i.e. World War I (531). She is most impressive in Flags in the Dust; in Sanctuary (where as usual she does a lot of scolding but is not named) she is already in the wheel-chair in which she is sitting above her garden when she dies at twilight in "There Was a Queen." How highly Faulkner's imagination regards her is indicated by the title of that story, which Faulkner also considered calling "An Empress Passes." There is no one to take her place in the Sartoris family - in fact, the precipating factor in her death is the way the current 'Mrs. Sartoris,' Narcissa, betrays the ideals Jenny has sought to preserve - but in the fiction Faulkner writes she will be re-incarnated more than once.