Summary of Part I
The white-trash family watches Major Saucier Weddel and Jubal approach their cabin in Tennessee. They recognize the Confederate cloak Weddel is wearing, and Vatch returns with a rifle. His father tells him to put it away because the South has surrendered. The mother of the family opens the door for Jubal, the black ex-slave of Weddel. He asks if he and his master can spend the night, and offers to pay. Then Major Saucier Weddel approaches and introduces himself very politely. The father lets him in, and Jubal brings the horses to the stable.
Summary of Part II
The girl listens through the kitchen wall to the men's conversation in the other room. Vatch and her father are sitting at the table, and Major Saucier Weddel introduces himself. The girl repeats his name. She watches intently as Vatch threatens Weddel, at the same time offering him whiskey. Weddel asks for some for Jubal, too, and almost heads into the kitchen on his way to look for the stable; Vatch says, "Come away from that door, you damn nigra." He is referring to Weddel's dark skin, which the reader later learns is because of his Indian heritage.
Summary of Part III
Jubal is polishing shoes in the barn. Weddel offers him the whiskey and he drinks it, though he is skeptical of alcohol that looks like water and thinks it might be poisoned. Weddel tells him he's going out to bathe at the well, and tells Jubal to go tell the family to close the curtain on the window.
Summary of Part IV
Jubal goes into the kitchen, where he finds the mother at the stove and the girl "standing in the middle of the room, doing nothing at all." When he opens his overcoat, the girl notices that his legs are wrapped in fur. When she asks him where they're from, he tells her about Contalmaison in Mississippi, which is the plantation of the late Francis Weddel, Saucier's father. He tells the story of Francis Weddel's trip to Washington, which is the plot of "Lo!", talking with a "lazily intolerant" air.
The girl asks if Weddel is also black, and Jubal is outraged. He asks for some more whiskey, though he doesn't know what it is called, and the girl gives him some. She is interested to know whether the girls at "Countymaison" wear shoes all the time, and whether Major Saucier Weddel is married. Her hopes are made clear when she says, "I don't reckon he'd have any time for a girl that didn't have any shoes."
Summary of Part V
Weddel, the father, Vatch, and Hule sit at the supper table, and Weddel explains to them who he is. He justifies Vatch's hostility toward him:
"I think I know how you feel. I expect I felt that way once. But it's hard to keep on feeling any way for four years. Even feeling at all.
Vatch accidentally splashes the liquor onto him. Weddel continues relating his history, which is a slightly more detailed and accurate version than Jubal provided the girl. He explains that his father, Francis Weddel, died in the Mexican War, and that his mother died two years ago, but Jubal refuses to believe it.
Vatch says that he's seen a rebel major before, and relates how the man was injured, lying by a tree, and asked for water. Instead of giving him any, Vatch shot him in the face. The father tells him to stop being so hostile, telling Weddel, "Don't you mind Vatch, stranger. The war is over now." Vatch offers him some more whiskey.
The girl enters, and goes over to the Weddel's cloak on the chair. She looks inside and sees that it is missing its fur, concluding: "You cut hit out and gave hit to that nigra to wrap his feet in." Vatch grabs her, and the father grabs Vatch and tells the girl to "Go back." He says her name twice, but Weddel is totally unaware of it, and Faulkner does not tell the reader what it is. Then he says to Weddel, "Take your horses and go."
Summary of Part VI
The girl is in the hall, thinking about how Weddel has cut out the lining of his cloak "for a nigra." Her father comes out and whips her, then tells her to go to bed.
Summary of Part VII
Jubal is in the kitchen alone, still drinking. He comments on how strong the whiskey is, then falls on the floor.
Summary of Part VIII
Weddel, the father, and Hule are debating what to do with Jubal, who has nearly passed out from drunkenness. The father and Hule carry him, and the father tells Hule to get out the horses. Weddel protests, saying Jubal can't ride in this state. The father suggests he just leave Jubal there, pointing out, "He is nothing but a nigra." But Weddel refuses to part with him, and says he must move him up into the loft of the barn, so he doesn't freeze. Hule helps him move Jubal, even though his father tells him not to.
Summary of Part IX
Weddel and Jubal lie in the barn loft, and Weddel realizes he is afraid. He is glad that he can still feel something, and looks forward to getting home. Hule climbs up the ladder, and sees Weddel pointing the pistol at him in defense. He says, "Go ahead and shoot... I wish I was dead." He explains that he wishes this because his sister was about to come herself, but was caught by their father and Vatch. So she sent Hule in her place to tell Weddel that she wants him to climb up to her window where she sleeps in the attic. Weddel refuses, and the boy moves as if he is about to strangle Weddel.
Instead, he listens to Weddel as the man explains that he just wants to go home, though he doesn't know what is waiting for him there. Hule begs him to take him with him, and the girl, too; she and Weddel can get married and they will work for him. Weddel refuses, saying "I only saw her but once. I might not even know her if I saw her again," and admits that he is afraid to climb up to her window. Then they both hear the father down below, and Weddel shows that he trusts Hule by leaving him with the pistol, and going down to investigate himself.
Summary of Part X
The father tells Weddel to go away immediately. Weddel says, "If you mean your daughter, I never saw her but once and I never expect to see her again." But the father doesn't care; he tells Weddel that he has until daylight to be gone. When Weddel returns to the loft, Hule advises him to leave Jubal there and go. When Weddel refuses, Hule tells him, "I can show you a short cut down to the valley." So Weddel rouses Jubal.
Summary of Part XI
Jubal and Weddel ride the horses away from the house. Hule has told them to watch for a laurel copse, and turn to the left. Jubal threatens to stay behind, but when Weddel acts like that wouldn't bother him, Jubal ends up staying. When they reach the laurel copse, Hule runs out to them and points them to the path. When Weddel says they will be fine on their own now, Hule reveals, "they know the path, too," meaning Vatch and his father. Weddel realizes that the men might be lying in wait for him, and hesitates about his decisions.
Hule again suggests going back to the house and getting his sister, then all going back to Mississippi. But when Weddel refuses, Hule still doesn't leave. He leads them to a narrow path, telling Weddel to keep back. His behavior is confusing to Weddel, since it is not clear whether the boy means to lead them to ambush or help him escape. The boy now tries to convince Weddel to turn back, then decides to sacrifice himself, saying, "They think you will be riding the good horse. I told them you would be riding..." and he gets on the Thoroughbred. Weddel rides behind him on the sorrel, and they are both shot dead.
Jubal is on his hands and knees from when Hule shoved him off the Thoroughbred. He sees Vatch and the father, and stares at them as one of them raises the rifle to shoot him, too.
Faulkner's tone in this story is racist in the way he makes Jubal into a caricature. Jubal's speech and habit of drinking make him a stereotypical slave figure; he is even described as sub-human, "a creature a little larger than a large monkey." When Weddel goes to bathe, Jubal "crouched like an ape," watching him. In the last sentence, his "eyes rushed wild and steady and red, like those of a cornered animal."
Although it is Weddel who has kept him as a slave, the Yankee family has much more racist feelings. They even judge Weddel harshly for his dark skin. Weddel points out that, ironically, they have been fighting to free the slaves. Though he is loyal to Jubal and doesn't abandon him at the house to save his own life, he believes he is a member of an "oppressed race, burdened by freedom."
The tragic setting of the story is amplified by the repetition of the word "dissolving." It is used to describe the landscape in the first scene: "...mountains dissolving into the low, dissolving sky." After the father warns Weddel to leave by daylight, "he dissolved into the black slope." Later, the road Weddel leaves on is "muddy, rockchurned, scarred across the barren and rocky land beneath the dissolving sky." This word in particular is fitting to describe the world, as the past fades away abruptly with the end of the war.
Though Weddel means so much to the girl, she means nothing to him; this is demonstrated not only by Faulkner not giving her a name, but by Weddel not catching it. Twice it is spoken in his presence. The first time, "Weddel did not catch it; he did not even know that he had missed it." The second time, he again is not even aware he hasn't heard it. In stark contrast, she listens for his name through the crack in the kitchen wall. When she hears it, she repeats it again and again, thinking, "It's like a music. It's like a singing."
Vatch exemplifies the theme of hatred between the North and the South, even though he was on the victor's side. He is so scarred by war that he cannot imagine being welcoming to Weddel, an ex-Confederate soldier. Hule reports to Weddel that "he can still hear you uns yelling. I used to sleep with him and he wakes up at night and once paw had to keep him from choking me to death before he waked up and him sweating, hearing you uns yelling still." Even though Vatch is the executioner in this story, killing Weddel and his own brother accidentally, he is also a victim of war.
Throughout the story, Vatch keeps offering Weddel whiskey. If it were a friendly gesture, it would be incongruous with his obvious hatred for the visitor. Thus, it is likely he wishes to get Weddel drunk so that it will be easier to kill him. Instead, Jubal is the one who continues to drink the whiskey, and becomes so drunk he cannot hold himself up.
"Mountain Victory" was first published in 1932 in Saturday Evening Post as "A Mountain Victory." It was retitled for its publication in Doctor Martino and Other Stories. It is not a widely known story of Faulkner's, and has been largely ignored by critics. However, Irving Howe called it "Faulkner's best piece of writing about the Civil War" in William Faulkner: A Critical Study.
Its description of a white Appalachian family's first encounter with a black person after the Civil War is echoed in Absalom, Absalom!. The family is traumatized by its interaction with men of different races - Saucier Weddel, who is one-quarter Chickasaw, and Jubal, who is a black ex-slave of the Weddel family - and reacts violently.