Contrasting Lucas Beauchamp of Go Down, Moses and Joe Christmas of Light in August

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Contrasting Lucas Beauchamp of Go Down, Moses and Joe Christmas of Light in August Lucas Beauchamp, found in Intruder in the Dust and Go Down, Moses, is one of William Faulkner's most psychologically well-rounded characters. He is endowed with both vices and virtues; his life is dotted with failures and successes; he is a character who is able to push the boundaries that the white South has enforced upon him without falling to a tragic ending. Living in a society which believes one drop of black blood makes a person less than human and implies criminal tendencies, a society in which men like Joe Christmas are hunted and killed for fear of racial mixing, Lucas is a character who contradicts all that we have come to expect from a typical tragic character of mixed blood, such as Joe Christmas or Charles Bon. By contrasting the Lucas Beauchamp we find in the "The Fire and the Hearth" section of Go Down, Moses to a model tragic figure such as Joe Christmas from Light in August, one can measure Lucas' success by his own merit, not by his white ancestry. Environment is key to understanding Faulkner's characters. Daniel J. Singal argues Faulkner's intentions of creating Lucas Beauchamp as a "model transitional identity," a bridge from Jim Crowism to the end of segregation (268). Segregation produces a structure of society that feels threatened by that which cannot be arranged into the roles of hierarchy. Andre Bleikasten states, "To divide is to pass judgment, to name the categories of good and evil, to assign them to fixed locations, and to draw between them boundaries not to be crossed" (326). Jefferson society divides its citizens into categories of black and white. Each individual knows where he or she stands; each knows at a glance which category every other citizen belongs to, and treats others accordingly. Any deviation from this structure is a threat to the society (326). In Light in August, Joe Christmas poses such a threat to Jefferson society because he is able to cross the boundaries. He looks white, but allegedly has black blood. He never acted like either a nigger or a white man. That was it. That was what made the folks so mad. For him to be a murderer and all dressed up and walking the town like he dared them to touch him, when he ought to have been skulking and hiding in the woods, muddy and dirty and running.

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