Drusilla Hawk is a fictional female character in Faulkner’s novel, The Unvanquished. She is the cousin of Bayard Sartoris of the Sartoris family. The females in this novel defy the conventional traditional role of the Southern Woman, and Drusilla is one of them. In the midst of the Civil War, women were temporarily given freedom to partake in masculine roles. This is known as the Confederate Woman (Roberts, 234-5). The Confederate Woman took on the masculine role due to the absence of men in the household who were fighting in the war. Traditionally, women's roles revolved around the home life, which meant taking care of the house, as well as the children. However, Drusilla finds comfort and freedom within her new role as the Confederate Woman, allowing her to question her previous role as the Southern Belle:

Who wants to sleep now, with so much happening, so much to see? Living used to be dull, you see. Stupid. You lived in the same house your father was born in and your father’s sons and daughters had the sons and daughters of the same negro slaves to nurse and coddle, and then you grew up and you fell in love with your acceptable young man and in time you would marry him, in your mother’s wedding gown perhaps and with the same silver for presents she had received and then you settled down forever more while your husband got children on your body for you to feed and bathe and dress until they grew up too; and then you and your husband died quietly and were buried together….(Faulkner, 100-101).

Drusilla’s commentary on what life was like pre-War denotes that it was very routine and monotonous. It also indicates that she has awakened from a dream in which she understands the confines that have been constructed for women and that she does not want to return to that mundane lifestyle. Drusilla’s use of the word “sleep” places her in her current reality of freedom. If she were to sleep, then her freedom would be wasted.

Aunt Louisa, who is Drusilla’s mother (Bayard’s aunt), believes in the traditional role of the Southern woman and believes that Drusilla has abandoned her womanhood by “unsexing” herself and is therefore considered a “lost woman” (Faulkner, 189). But it is not so, Drusilla is not lost, in fact, when she joins John Sartoris’ troop she claims she is fighting for a cause; to defeat the Yankees, not to find another husband. This is a problem for Aunt Louisa who blames Drusilla’s dramatic crossover on the death of her fiance, which was caused by the war. Louisa believes that every Southern woman has suffered at the hands of their dying husbands, but she does not believe in the everlasting role of the Confederate Woman which Drusilla clings on to for self-worth and identity. For a Southern woman, to have suffered through the loss of their husband via warfare only reinforces their belief to uphold those traditions and values of the South, “But that Mrs. Compson was a woman too, Aunt Louisa believed, a Southern woman too, and had suffered too. [...] Southern principles of purity and womanhood that our husbands had died for…(Faulkner, 193). Aunt Louisa believes that the the men were fighting to preserve the traditional South, and for Drusilla to defy her womanhood would be considered disrespectful to what her fiance and father died for.

The unsexing of Drusilla further disrupts the role of a Southern woman even after the war is over, but for a limited time. When the war is declared over, Drusilla is forced back into the conventional role, which is ultimately her unraveling. The fact that Aunt Louisa is convinced Drusilla has a “condition” only enforces her to drag Drusilla back into the classic southern woman, as a means to save her from being the “lost woman.” Drusilla’s freedom is taken back when she is forced to wear dresses again after wearing men’s clothing for three years, “Aunt Louisa made her put on a dress that night; we watched her run out of the cabin in it and run down the hill toward the spring while we were waiting for Father” (Faulkner, 201). As much as Drusilla tried to continue living as a Confederate Woman, it just wasn’t possible. This is symbolic of how the South lost to the North during the Civil War, and like the defeat of the South, Drusilla too was defeated.

[Carla Scollo]

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. The Unvanquished. Vintage, 1934.

Roberts, Diane. "A Precarious Pedestal: The Confederate Woman in Faulkner's Unvanquished."Journal of American Studies 26.02 (1992): 233-46.Jstor. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.