He said they would always lose the first battles, and if they were outnumbered and outweighed enough, it would seem to an outsider that they were going to lose them all. But they would not.
In the table of contents of my copy of William Faulkner’s Collected Stories, this story is simply called “My Grandmother Millard”; however, when you actually get to the story, it’s called by the title I put in the title of this post – a slightly longer title.
Granny Millard’s 12 year-old grandson narrates this story without a name – at least in this story. I’ve read that Granny Millard is also in Faulkner’s novel The Unvanquished so perhaps her grandson has a name there.
The story is set during the American Civil War which is a little unusual in that Faulkner rarely sets his stories smack dab in the middle of the war – they are usually after the war with flashbacks before and during the war and even then, we don’t get tons of actual war detail. Granny and her family practice grabbing the things they want to save (family heirlooms, etc.) and burying them in a trunk in case the Yankees storm their house. Granny times the rest of the family to see how fast they can get everything buried. A clock that is valued to the family sometimes goes in the trunk for these drills and sometimes it doesn’t. I find this somewhat funny in that Faulkner seems to always play around with time in his stories jumping back and forth even within the same paragraphs. In this story he does it in a more literal sense.
As with so much of Faulkner’s writing, we get one person’s point of view via someone else. It kind of gives the reader intimate details and the big picture all at once. Granny, as with many older folks, hangs on to her southern traditions, with the attitude of “why wouldn’t things go on staying the same? or why would anyone want things to be any different?” even as her slaves are helping her save her personal belongings.
With the two intertwined points of view, Faulkner is able to show the humor in the fact that Granny’s traditions are headed into history whether she likes it or not no matter how much she wants to hold on to them.