Summary and Analysis "Raid"


Whereas the first two stories of this novel are tied together by the pranks and the childish games of Bayard and Ringo, the third story introduces the concept which will ultimately cause the death of Granny, Miss Rosa. The Sartoris house has been burned; the Sartoris mules, the family's silverware, and two blacks have been taken (confiscated or stolen) by the Yankees, and Granny, Bayard, and Ringo set out on a long journey to recover these properties. In the process, Granny is given a document signed by a Yankee general which will ultimately become the instrument responsible for her death. The concept of whether something is borrowed or stolen or confiscated is intertwined with many of the actions in this story. The horses which they are driving, for example, are "borrowed," and this story and the next one, "Riposte in Tertio," deal with Granny's "borrowing" — requisitioning illegally — and using Yankee mules (many of which have been confiscated from the southerners) in order to help the poor, struggling people in Granny's own Yoknapatawpha County.

In conjunction with the above, Faulkner attempts in this story an almost impossible task. He wants to communicate and convey a sense of the horrors and the chaos caused by the war. He wants to show the destruction and confusion that accompany the various aspects of the war. Furthermore, he wants to show the huge, homeless masses of black people, who have just been given their freedom, wandering aimlessly around the countryside, looking for the fabled River Jordan of biblical tales. At the same time, he shows us the burned houses throughout the land and the destroyed railroad tracks. He shows us a bridge being blown up by the Yankees, regardless of the potential deaths of many black people whom the Yankees are supposedly fighting to free. In other words, the story captures the horrors attendant on any war and the various effects which it wreaks on large groups of people and on individual members of society. The total effect of the story is that of disunity and confusion. And yet, all of these serious episodes are narrated through the eyes of a young boy who does not see the literal horrors of war; instead, he sees more often than not the humorous aspects of his and Granny's and Ringo's adventures in a war-torn countryside.

"Raid" is divided into three parts, and each part further develops Granny's concept of honor and her allegiance to the values of the old South, which will influence most of her actions.

In the first section, Granny will not allow Ringo and Bayard to use the "borrowed" horses to go into town to Mrs. Compson's to borrow her hat, her parasol, and her hand mirror. Yet in terms of the entire story and the story that follows, she will "borrow" about two hundred and forty-eight (the exact number might be a few more or a few less) horses and mules from the Yankees — and sell them back to the Yankees — so that she can "borrow" them back again. The reader must keep in mind that at the beginning of this story, the Sartoris mansion has been burned to the ground and that most of the black slaves have wandered off to unknown places. There is absolute disorder and chaos upon the land, and the borrowing of the mules becomes more acceptable in this world turned upside down, this new world of disorder.

Granny cannot understand how the continuing, needless destruction by the Yankees and the burning of the Sartoris mansion is going to help the enemy win the war. The Yankees' logic is unfathomable. Yet she decides that she must endure even in this chaos — having no house to live in, having no food, and very little money. She must begin again, and, thus, she and Bayard decide to go and live in the slave quarters, which were not burned and are now largely empty. In addition, Granny has a goal: to repossess the Sartoris things that were needlessly taken; for that reason, she and Bayard and Ringo set out for Alabama, where her sister, Louisa, lives and where Colonel Dick, the gentlemanly Yankee officer, is stationed. He is the officer who intervened at the end of "Ambuscade"; Granny considers him a "gentleman," regardless of which side of the war he is fighting on. She believes that because he is a gentleman, he will replace her stolen property. The purpose, then, of this journey is to retrieve the trunk of silverware, the Sartoris' two mules (Old Hundred and Tinney) and the Sartoris' two black slaves (Loosh and Philadelphy); however, by a fluke of misunderstanding, Granny returns home with far more than she hoped for, or bargained for. Actually, in terms of the first section of this story, the motivation for the trip to Alabama is never given, and it is only later in the story that we are able to conclude that Granny knew that Colonel Dick was stationed in that region.

Returning to the narrative, we read that after some six days on the road, Granny and the boys have passed so many burned houses and so much gruesome destruction that they know they are following the path of General Sherman, a Yankee general who is systematically and maniacally destroying everything that lies in his path. Later, Granny even blames him for leading all of the blacks to what they believe is the River Jordan. As was noted, it is on this sixth day that a large group of vagabond blacks passes the wagon during the night. One black woman, carrying a baby, falls behind, and Granny stops the wagon. She hears the black woman say that she "couldn't keep up . . . and they went off and left me." Granny tries to make her go back "home," but is unsuccessful; she then asks if the woman's husband is with the group. Finally, she offers to let the black woman ride in the wagon, but later the black woman wants to get off the wagon. Ringo tells Granny that the woman thinks that she has found the group of blacks she is looking for — even though they can't see them. Ringo also says that he is sure that the black woman will "lose um again tonight."

It is ironic in this scene and in others like it that throughout the novel Granny will act as though she is a great humanitarian, when, in fact, she considers the blacks to be no more or no less than slaves. She will share her food with them, give them rides, money, or help of any nature, but, at the same time, she will remain a lady of "the old order," one who cannot understand the concept of a black person desiring anything other than serving his white master. Several times, she tells the blacks to "go back home," not realizing how empty her advice is. For the blacks, now that they are free, what — and where — is "home"? To Granny, "home" means the plantations where they worked for their white owners. In each encounter with a black, Granny asks, "Who do you belong to?" Therefore, as a representative of "the old order" of the South, she is, in one sense, a humanitarian, yet she is, at the same time, totally incapable of understanding the causes which motivated the Civil War itself, and she contents herself, instead, with helping the individual, unfortunate human beings she encounters — black or white — to survive in a time of destruction and chaos.

After the sixth day of their journey, Granny and the boys go past a graveyard, and Bayard sees the town of Hawkhurst, where Granny's sister lives. This is the place where Bayard had earlier seen the railroad, a mysterious marvel which Ringo has never seen. (This fact, for a while, makes Bayard superior to Ringo.) As soon as they approach Louisa's house, they see Bayard's ten-year-old cousin, Denny, whose house has also been burned and who is now living in the slave quarters with his mother and with his sister, Drusilla. Immediately, Denny wants to take Bayard and Ringo to the railroad and show them what happened: the railroad ties were dug up and burned in a heap, and the steel rails were pried up and wrapped around trees.

The scene is unreal to Ringo; anticipating the chance to actually see a railroad and a locomotive, he is crushed when his dreams are suddenly shattered; finding the rails torn up, wrapped around trees, or gone altogether, Ringo's reaction reemphasizes on a simple level the contrast between the child's view of war and, on the other hand, the horrible destructive acts of war. For the boys, their simple dreams of might and magic, embodied in the locomotive and its shining steel tracks, have been destroyed. Yet in the larger sense, the destruction of the railroad represents the destruction of the entire southern culture — that is, for the members of "the old order," the war is rapidly becoming a lost cause.

While they are looking at the ruins of the railroad, Denny's sister, Drusilla, rides up on her prized horse, Bobolink. During the evening, Denny tells how Drusilla saved the horse from the Yankees. When they were going to take Bobolink by force, she put a pistol to the horse's head and told the Yankees, "I can't shoot you all, because I haven't enough bullets, and it wouldn't do any good anyway; but I won't need but one shot for the horse, and which shall it be?" After this confrontation, the Yankees let Drusilla keep the horse.

That night at the slave quarters, Drusilla tells them all about the night movement of the blacks and that the blacks believe that the river not far away is their chance for freedom; to the blacks, the river is like the River Jordan and, therefore, synonymous with freedom, salvation, and eternal happiness. Later in the night, the family goes outside and listens to the blacks pass by. Drusilla expresses her concern over their welfare. Aunt Louisa feels that "we cannot be responsible" for the fate of the blacks. If there are now thousands of them swarming about the river and on the bridge — which the Yankees plan to blow up — Aunt Louisa believes that "the Yankees brought it on themselves; let them pay the price." But Drusilla disagrees: "Those Negroes are not Yankees." Once again, this is a part of Faulkner's double structure of the novel, emphasizing the double standards that inform its entirety. Drusilla and Granny consider the blacks to be southerners, and Granny wants to protect and help them, but as we will see in "Skirmish at Sartoris," the blacks must ultimately remain blacks — that is, they can expect no rights even if, in theory, they are free. Later, for example, they cannot vote, even though they have been declared to be "free."

Drusilla, who lost her fiancé in the war, is totally committed to the war effort. At bedtime, she tells Bayard that she no longer sleeps: "Why not stay awake now? Who wants to sleep now, with so much happening, so much to see? Living used to be dull, you see. Stupid." Drusilla then makes one of the most fantastic and incredible requests that any southern woman of that time might imagine: she tells Bayard, "When you go back home and see Uncle John, ask him to let me come there and ride with his troop. Tell him I can ride, and maybe I can learn to shoot." (Even though she calls Colonel Sartoris "Uncle John," there is no blood kinship between the two.)

Significantly, Drusilla, who is introduced in this story, will become one of Faulkner's strongest, most determined women and one of the most fierce defenders of "the old order" of the South. From the time we learn that her fiancé was killed at Shiloh until Denny tells the story of her defying the Yankees, threatening to kill her horse Bobolink rather than let them take it, we see a woman who does not need or require sleep, one who spurns the ordinary things that ladies are expected to do and asserts her own brand of individualism. When she introduces the idea that she wants to ride with the soldiers — a thing unheard of in that society or virtually any other society in that time — we are prepared for a woman of strong principles. Historically, however, war has always been the business of men, not of women, and Faulkner further emphasizes the universality of the idea of war's being for men when he writes that "old men have been telling young men and boys about wars and fighting before they discovered how to write it down." In this passage, he is, of course, referring to the oldest piece of literature in Western civilization — Homer's Iliad, which deals with men in war. Consequently, Drusilla's desire to go ride with her "Uncle John" (he is later referred to by Drusilla as Cousin John in "Skirmish at Sartoris") has to be viewed as an act that transcends all regional customs since the beginning of time; this unheard of, shocking request sets her apart from all the other women in the novel. This request also prepares the reader for Drusilla's unusual role later in both "Skirmish at Sartoris" and "An Odor of Verbena."

The following day, Granny, Bayard, and Ringo leave with Drusilla to cross the river before the bridge is blown up in order to reach Colonel Dick, but there are such swarms of blacks converged around the river that, in the confusion of the crossing, the wagon is upset, and the horses are drowned. The entire narration of the river-crossing emphasizes once again the absolute confusion associated with the war and its destructive power. The Yankees are determined to blow up the bridge — regardless of how many blacks are on it or anywhere near it. Significantly, Granny is almost killed; in fact, there is so much chaos and confusion that Faulkner's narrative takes on added dramatic emphasis because it parallels the chaos he writes about. Using Bayard as his narrator, Faulkner is able to make us unsure what is actually happening, and, therefore, the end of the second section of this story becomes an attempt to capture the utter confusion of one single episode associated with the total chaos of the war.

In the final section of the story, after the Yankees have helped recover the wagon from the river and have given Granny and the boys two of their own horses, Granny insists upon being taken to see Colonel Dick. Once there, Granny is promised that her property will be returned, along with the blacks taken from her. Describing the lost property, Granny's southern speech confuses the Yankees; she describes the two mules, the two blacks, and the chest of silver, and the comparison of her description with the orderly's written requisition is the source of a rich vein of humor in the story. "Loosh" becomes "loose"; "Philadelphy" becomes a city; "Old Hundred," the mule, becomes one hundred mules, and "Tenny" becomes ten mules, making some one hundred and ten mules. Ultimately, the orderly thinks that Granny means, besides the one hundred and ten mules, one hundred and ten blacks and, in addition, ten chests of silver. Granny is also supplied with sufficient food to expedite her passage home — food, it should be noted, which she willingly shares with all of the blacks.

When they are stopped by a cavalry of Yankee troops, Granny shows them the requisition papers; the officer mistakenly thinks that she has not been supplied with enough mules, and so he gives her forty-seven more mules. Ironically, Granny wants to acquire the extra mules so that none of the blacks will have to walk. Thus, again we have the ironic double vision of a woman who is willing to deceive for humanitarian reasons so as to ease the immediate pain of people she would permanently define as slaves. And throughout it all, Granny is determined to have her own way. Ringo expresses a key statement concerning her character. He says, "And don't yawl worry about Granny. She 'cide what she want and then she kneel down about ten seconds and tell God what she aim to do, and then she git up and do hit. And them that don't like hit can git outen the way or git trompled." This quality is the key to her greatness and, ultimately, the cause of her death when she confronts Grumby (the leader of a group of depraved renegades) against the advice of everyone.

In the final scene of the story, we have another example of the double values that have operated throughout the story. It was all right to take one hundred and ten mules because the piece of paper requisitioned that many mules and because many of the mules were stolen from southerners in the first place. Yet, since Granny and the boys eventually have one hundred and twenty-two mules, instead of one hundred and ten mules, illegally obtained, they must all kneel down and pray.

Basically, however, this story emphasizes the mass confusion caused by the war, and this confusion is best depicted in the river scene where the blacks are wandering around lost, without any direction to their lives. The blacks have seen their masters' houses burned by the Yankees and they have heard that they are free; blindly, they now try to correlate these events with the River Jordan and salvation. As a result, we realize that untold numbers of them are fleeing into the (unnamed) river, drowning in their attempt to find the "promised land."

The values of the entire South are reversed in this wartime story. In any war, the innocent suffer, of course. Here, Granny and the others wonder about the needless destruction and the needless loss of life which they witness; at the same time, both Granny and Drusilla are concerned for, and are very protective of, the blacks. Yet neither of them ever conceives of the blacks as being anything other than slaves.