Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 805
Colonel John Sartoris
Colonel John Sartoris, a Civil War hero, an entrepreneur, and progenitor of the Sartoris family. Colonel Sartoris led a Confederate regiment during the Civil War and returned from the war to found a railroad and become a community leader in Jefferson. He shot and killed two carpetbaggers who were enrolling African Americans to vote, and he was shot and killed in 1876. To his descendants, he represents a code of honor that has become unfashionable in the twentieth century. At the time of the action of the novel, he has been dead for many years, but he remains a vital force in the lives of his descendants.
Bayard Sartoris, the son of Colonel Sartoris, a banker known as old Bayard. He worships the memorabilia of the colonel’s wartime exploits and deplores modern inventions such as the automobile. He rides in a fast car with his grandson, young Bayard, only to try to keep him from going too fast, but in the end this leads to a near-accident and old Bayard’s fatal heart attack. Nothing he does can stem the tide of modernization.
Bayard Sartoris, known as young Bayard, the grandson of old Bayard. A fighter pilot during World War I, he comes home obsessed with the death in combat of his twin brother, John Sartoris, feeling guilt for not saving John but also for not dying heroically as his twin did. He continually flirts with danger, driving a powerful car at high speeds over crude country roads, riding an unbroken stallion while drunk, and taking other risks even after swearing that he will not. His first wife and child having died, he reluctantly marries Narcissa Benbow and gets her pregnant, but he is no more restrained in his behavior. After old Bayard dies in his car, he flees. He takes sanctuary with the McCallums, a clan of yeoman farmers who were friends of his brother John, but eventually he leaves. Young Bayard tries to live up to the code of bravery and honor typified by the original Bayard, who died in an impossibly romantic raid as a junior officer in J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry, but the postwar world provides no fitting arena for such heroics. He is killed in Dayton, Ohio, in the crash of a rickety airplane he was told was not airworthy.
Virginia Sartoris DuPre
Virginia Sartoris DuPre, known as Aunt Jenny, a widow from the Carolina branch of the Sartoris family. She rules the domestic side of the Sartoris household. She bosses the black servants with a fatalistic acceptance of their laziness, and her attempts to control old Bayard and young Bayard meet with a similar lack of success. She encourages the match between young Bayard and Narcissa Benbow.
Narcissa Benbow, Horace Benbow’s sister, a self-absorbed, twentyish resident of the town of Jefferson. She professes a hatred for men, preferring romantic dreams, but she is fascinated by a series of semiliterate letters she receives from an unknown admirer expressing his love for her. She fears young Bayard but eventually agrees to marry him and bears him a son,...
(The entire section contains 805 words.)
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