Mountain Victory

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"Mountain Victory"
Author William Faulkner
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Southern Gothic
Published in1932

"Mountain Victory" is a short story by American author William Faulkner first published in the October 12, 1932 issue of The Saturday Evening Post . The story is unusual in that it takes place outside of Faulkner's fictional city, Jefferson, Mississippi, in the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha County. However, it deals with historical themes common to much of Faulkner's later work, i.e. social and racial divisions in the defeated South in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Plot summary

The story opens with the arrival of a wounded Confederate officer and his black servant at a small, hillbilly cabin high in the mountains of Tennessee. With the Civil War at an end, urbane, world-weary Major Saucier Weddell wishes only to return to his palatial mansion in Mississippi. He thinks the time for killing is over. Yet ironically, the poor whites who grudgingly allow him to stay the night in their cabin are actually pro-Union sympathizers. The oldest son, Vatch, even served for a time with the Union army. Vatch makes no secret of his hatred for rebels like Saucier Weddell, or for blacks like well-meaning, overly loquacious Jubal. When Jubal drinks too much corn liquor and passes out, Major Weddell finds himself alone, surrounded by enemies, in a land that is a part of the South and yet far removed from the grace and gentility of the great plantations. The stage is set for a tragic finale which reveals both the futility of war and the impossibility of social change.

Themes

Resistance to change

Perhaps the most recurrent theme in the story. Despite the South's catastrophic defeat and his family's fallen fortunes, Major Saucier Weddell insists on carrying on the old traditions of gentility and honor. When his slave endangers his life he has the opportunity to flee; instead he stays to protect his property. On the other hand, the mountain family stubbornly clings to its racism, backwardness, and paradoxically to its own form of honor as well. The father insists on protecting the guests from his son's wrath, and tries several times to warn the Confederate officer to leave before it is too late. By contrast, the daughter and the younger boy Hule are both enchanted by the idea of following Weddell back to Mississippi and sharing in his lavish lifestyle. Yet they too have a sense of honor. They insist that they will work hard and be loyal if he will only take them along. Even the least sympathetic character in the story, Vatch, displays some sense of honor at the end of the story, by pacing off a hundred yards before firing his long rifle at the Major and his slave.


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