The idea that women on the home front were as important to the war effort as male soldiers was a new one during the Civil War. The Southern chivalric code had always stressed the importance of deferring to women and protecting them from harsh realities, and even Northerners in the nineteenth century subscribed to the notion of women as "domestic angels" who were purer and better than men. Yet as the war progressed, Union generals increasingly began to drive the war home to the women left behind on the plantations. William Tecumseh Sherman, the U.S. general who marched his army from Atlanta to the coast in late 1864, understood that ordinary farms and homes were the engine of the Confederate war effort; as a result, his troops systematically burned even non-military targets like plantations and towns. Sherman's efforts earned him the hatred of a generation of Southerners, but the military necessity of his tactics is reflected in the character of Granny Millard, a seemingly innocent old woman who trades on that appearance of innocence to wreak havoc on the occupying forces.
This chapter reveals Granny to be a kind of Confederate Robin Hood, robbing from the powerful occupying troops to give to the poor and defenseless in her community. Neither she nor her values are perfect. In the church that she presides over, slaves like Ringo are forced to sit in a segregated gallery even though it is clear that he is her full partner in the mule-stealing operation. In addition, she asserts her authority as a privileged member of the community, with no hesitation about asking her poor neighbors how they intend to use the money she gives them, even though she is no longer more "privileged" than they—the Sartoris slave cabins are not superior to the poor whites' homes in the hills. But despite these instances of narrowness of vision, the novel repeatedly stresses the fact that Granny is not working for her own glorification but to help others. Even the hubris and na¨vetè that fatally leads her to confront Grumby is not motivated by personal greed but by the desire to help her family, to give Colonel Sartoris enough money to start over after the war. In this chapter Granny becomes the indisputable hero of the novel, the most selfless person and the one most willing to sacrifice for others. Her murder is the story's climax.
Like many moments of crisis in the novel, Granny's death is not directly depicted. Granny dies offstage; we do not hear the gunshot that kills her, see her blood or even the man who shoots her. The main sensory detail is an indirect one: the smell of the gunpowder. Similarly, the novel does not show us the aftermath of the horse's death in "Ambuscade"—in fact, Bayard closes his eyes. When the wagon falls into the river in "Raid," he does not remember when or how the bank collapses—the wagon is simply on the cliff one minute and in the water the next. And in the next chapter, "Vendée," Bayard cannot remember the sound of his gun going off, but only the image of two bright flashes. In part, these stylistic decisions may reflect an aspect of Bayard's character, an inability to confront violence that contributes to his actions in "An Odor of Verbena." It is also a common device in Faulkner's fiction, designed to emphasize the psychological or narrative effects of violent crisis instead of the lurid details themselves.