We will not read beyond Chapter Five as I think it is enough material for this assignment and enough text to give you a taste of William Faulkner who is considered one of the greatest Southern writers of all time. But what about that accolade? Just because William Faulkner is highly regarded does not mean you have to like him or his descriptive writing style. (Note: you can access his other works in Our Online Li
ary under author's biography)
So my question is what do you think of the first five chapters of Light in August?
Is it a pleasant read so far? Would you want to read further if you had to? If so, why? If not, why?
Compared to our other works read Is there a character in Light in August who you find sympathetic or likeable or to whom you can relate to in any way?
Or are these early 20th-Century Deep South (largely uneducated) white (some racist) characters too alienating for you?
Light in August passes the test for Southern Gothic (Lena as female in distress; Joanna Burden's
utal killing; Hightower's wife's suicide; Joe Christmas's bleak childhood and savage murder) but should I remove it from my Syllabus anyway Your opinions count.
See attached file for reminder of list of characters.
MAIN CHARACTERS in Light in August
Joe Christmas is the closest to a protagonist that we have in Light in August. He is a young man growing up biracial in the American South.
Joanna Burden is the daughter of an abolitionist family. She has lived in Jefferson for over forty years. Her anti-slavery views make her an outcast in the town.
Gail Hightower is haunted by his family's past. He is the son of a Civil War medic and the grandson of a Confederate cavalryman.
Byron Bunch is characterized by his Christian work ethic and moral values.
Lena Grove believes that her baby should be near its biological father and she is determined to make it happen.
Lucas Burch is the name that Lena Grove has for the man who was supposed to send for her.
Joe Brown is the father of Lena’s baby (who likes to use aliases) -- a “rakish” kind of guy with little moral fiber who boozes, gambles, and bootlegs, and he doesn't seem to have any sense of ethics or responsibility to anyone.
Simon McEachern is Joe Christmas's foster father. He is a strict, stern man who's deeply associated with a
and of Christianity called Calvinism. Calvinists believe that humans are utterly sinful after the Fall (when Adam and Eve submitted to temptation and ate the fo
idden fruit) and must atone by
utally hard work.
Percy Grimm is characterized by a “fascist zeal” for protecting the white South by lynching blacks [Faulkner claims he created a Nazi with this character]
ie Allen is a waitress at a local diner who also moonlights as a prostitute. Joe Christmas loses his virginity to her.
Miss Atkins is a paranoid, racist dietician at a white orphanage who is responsible for placing Joe Christmas with the strict McEachern family.
PROHIBITION in the U.S. – excuse for the illegal business run by Joe Christmas and Joe Brown
LECTURE: William Faulkner’s Light in August - Lena Grove’s First Encounters
William Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in Literature – the highest acclaim in the Western Hemisphere – in XXXXXXXXXXThis class was first introduced to Faulkner’s writing with “A Rose For Emily” and no doubt you then immediately recognized the difference in his literary approach to storytelling from everyone else whom you had read before him. Of course his highly regarded writing also demands full attention to decipher his text and one of our greatest writers, Toni Mo
ison did just that. Initially using Faulkner’s text for her graduate school thesis Mo
ison went on to become a formidable writer greatly influenced by Faulkner’s style, finally becoming the first African American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, forty plus years after Faulkner and almost 100 years after the Prize had been established.
William Faulkner’s writing (and Toni Mo
ison’s for that matter) is considered so complex that it is usually not taught to undergraduate students outside of the English Major discipline but I believe his novel Light in August fits our Southern Gothic genre and is one of his rare works that also has an accessible writing style appreciated by all discerning college students. At any rate this course IS subtitled “Studies in Literature.” Note that we will not finish the entire novel but the amount of reading that we DO complete will suffice for total comprehension of his story relevant to the assignments.
The first chapter of Light in August introduces us to Lena and a few minor characters that Lena encounters in her travels: some roadside observers, the ma
ied couple, Mr. and Mrs. Armstid and the “squatting and spitting fellows” at the store. Faulkner likes to use the Omniscient Na
ator (third person) but he usually goes a step further and has characters relay stories about themselves to other characters or even have characters express one thought while speaking of another thought so that you may have a voice within a voice giving you information.**
One more important thing – as you know our genre covers the early 20th century deep South (in this case Mississippi which is as deep as you can get metaphorically and geographically) which means that all characters are assumed to be white (regardless of their Southern speech pattern) unless we are told otherwise. (You saw an example of this in everything you have read so far.) But if you cannot discern the race, economic standing or general education of these characters from the text do not hesitate to ask me via the Professor’s Office Hours Discussion Board (POH DB). See the CHARACTER LIST at the end of this file.
**Third Person (Omniscient): With this approach, the na
ator is able to convey all of the feelings and unconscious thoughts and desires of the characters and allows the na
ator to move through time and space. In addition to the third person technique, we also get many characters telling their stories and back-stories through first person dialogue. For example, Lena Grove tells her story to Armstid in Chapter One and later on Joanna Burden tells her family history to Joe Christmas. This writing style mixes things up a bit and allows us to differentiate characters by the way they speak and their perspective on the world. It also allows characters to speak in their own language, giving the stories more originality and variety than they'd have if only one na
ator delivered them all to us. [This info edited, revised and paraphrased from “Shmoop” - MM]
1. Can you determine the Na
ator’s attitude towards Lena: admiring? scornful, sympathetic or indifferent?
2. Do most strangers -- like the roadside observers -- who encounter Lena and her predicament during her journey in the 1920s deep South have compassion for her or are they insensitive to her plight?
3. How would you describe Mr. Armstid’s actions towards Lena: Curious? Humane? Dutiful? Sympathetic? Indifferent?
4. What is Mrs. Armstid’s true reaction to Lena’s predicament? Scorn? Empathy? Sympathy? Disgust? Pity? Exasperation? Reluctant Concern? Cynical?
5. Do you discern a difference in attitude from the different males Lena encounters or are they all the same in attitude?
6. Which word best describes Lena’s personality in these early pages: tenacious, stu
orn, determined, defeated, resolved, obstinate, troubled, blind, burdened, innocent, young, poor, proud or a combination of words?
7. Does the conversation between Lena and Mrs. Armstid that takes place in Mrs. Armstid’s kitchen show an unspoken gender-based bond between the women or is there an impossibly wide distance between them caused by Lena’s circumstances?
8. Does Lena show any awareness of the real Lucas Burch in these chapters?
*exemplified text is text that is an example of your answer (backs up your contention)