Southern stoicism versus Christianity


Cover of "Signposts in a Strange Land: Es...

Cover of Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays

In his 1956 essay “Stoicism in the South” from the collection Signposts in a Strange Land, Walker Percy reflects on the death of Southern stoicism and the differences between it and Christianity. Two brief excerpts:

“The greatness of the South, like the greatness of the English squirearchy, had always a stronger Greek flavor than it ever had a Christian.”

In the following excerpt, Percy refers to Colonel Sartoris of William Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily:”

“The nobility of Sartoris — and there were a great many Sartorises — was the nobility of the natural perfection of the Stoics, the stern inner summons to man’s full estate, to duty, to honor, to generosity toward his fellow men and above all to his inferiors — not because they were made in the image of God and were therefore lovable in themselves, but because to do them an injustice would be to defile the inner fortress which was oneself.”

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