Light In August By William Faulkner

Light in August by William Faulkner In the novel by William Faulkner, Light in August there is alienation in the novel. The alienation occurs with Joe Christmas. He is a stranger that comes into the town of Jefferson with a unkonwn past. Prior to his arrival, he went under the name of Lucas Burch. Whne Joe Christmas arrives at Jefferson, he alienates himeself from almost everybody for about 2 years. His past has taught him to do so, with all the bad things that has hapened to him.

We get extended interior monologues from Christmas, and the story of his past occupies a third or more of the book. Despite the amount of information provided, Christmas remains hard to comprehend. It isn’t that he is not what he seems to be. Rather, he “seems” to be many things, but the reader can never be quite certain which of these are real. Christmas’ tragedy is that he does not know himself what he is.

He seems certain that he is part “nigger” but there is no reliable evidence that this is true. Certainly, he looks white. Christmas moves back and forth between white society and black society. Every time he does so, he reveals himself as an outsider. In white society he exposes his own “nigger” blood; in black society he portrays himself as white. When he does so, he expects a violent reaction from which he has provoked. Being both black and white he cannot truly be a part of either society.

Nor can he simply deny this dichotomy. Rather, as quoted on page 69, “his awareness of this dichotomy makes him take up the role of antagonist in all situations”. He is born into a social system which has defined the categories of white and black, and has established rituals for dealing with any behavior by either, which depicts an image to the reader of his alienation and difference he is from the rest of the population in Jefferson. Joe believes in these categories and rituals. When a white prostitute is not outraged by his Negro blood, he beats her.

He expects her to reject him. Rather her “indifference challenges the validity of the premise on which he has built his whole life” page 71. These social categories and rituals dominate the novel. A townsman quickly recognizes that Christmas is “unique among the characters in that he is the only one who insists on unifying the forces rather than accepting, indeed depending upon, their separation” on page 13. His attempts to unify the social and moral categories upon which the society of Jefferson is built earn him the violent rejection by that society, black and white which leaved him with no place to go.

Thus Christmas is murdered by a society because his existence challenges its very foundations.