"waiting for old Colonel Sartoris to come down and sit with them"
Gravestone of William Clark Falkner, the model for Colonel Sartoris, Ripley Cemetery, Mississippi
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGravestone of William Clark Falkner, the model for Colonel Sartoris, Ripley Cemetery, Mississippi - Credit: Joseph A

Colonel Sartoris is a character from Sartoris (1929), the novel which Faulkner published shortly before The Sound and the Fury. The deceased patriarch of a once-wealthy family, the Colonel is based on Faulkner’s own great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner. Many incidents in the Colonel's life — fighting in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, being deposed by his own troops, constructing the local railroad and being killed in a feud with his business partner — are recreated from those that befell Falkner.

 

Colonel Sartoris would later feature prominently in The Unvanquished (1938), as well as making appearances in novels including Light in August (1932) and Absalom, Absalom! (1936), and short stories ‘A Rose for Emily’ (1930) and ‘Barn Burning’ (1939). This process of transposing the characters of a novel into different works fascinated Faulkner and the Compsons too have alternative lives in different works. Quentin is the principal narrator of Absalom, Absalom!, in which his father also plays a crucial role, whilst Jason figures in The Town (1957) and The Mansion (1959). The family also crop up in short stories such as ‘That Evening Sun’ (1931) and ‘A Justice’ (1931).