1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 179, Light In August, by William Faulkner

William Faulkner’s Light In August is, like most of his works, is a meditative piece on life in the southern united states.  It takes place in a country that has outlawed slavery and given women the right to vote, but it takes place in a piece of the country where legislation has failed to change the attitudes of most.  It follows a number of characters around, a pregnant woman named Lena whose is in search of the man who made her pregnant and promised to marry her, a priest, Hightower, who lost his vocation and seems to be waiting for death to arrive, an enigmatic drifter name Joe Christmas, a working class casualty, Byron, who falls in love with the pregnant Lena, and a wealthy woman, Joanna, who sprung from the loins of an abolitionist family and is in turn spurned by the local.   It is about isolation.  Each character lives in a world all their own.  Christmas is an existentialist hero who allows his past to define him, but who is always trying to break free of any restraints that are placed on him.  Lena likewise is alone.  She seeks to find the man she loves, but when she does he runs from her again.  Byron is prepared to make her an honest woman, but Lena allows him to stay with her only if he helps her find the man she wants to marry.  Hightower has also been isolated from the community as the congregation to whom he preached at boycotted his sermons until he agree to leave the position, and with the exception of Byron, has no contact with the outside world, instead retreating into a modest library within the walls of his own home.  Christmas believes he has “Black” blood in him, but is happy to allow people to believe he is white and then usually confesses for the sole purposes of watching the reactions of others.  He seems unable to accept anything from anybody, and when Joanna catches him stealing food, she offers it to him, and makes a meal for him every day.  Christmas though seems disgusted by the charity offered him and rapes her, but she allows it to happen and offers her body up to Christmas with no conditions, though she tries to make Christmas’s life better, he refusrs to let her.  Each of these characters come across as tragic heroes who one can relate to and empathize with, even when their actions are horrid.

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Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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