William Faulkner's Light in August

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William Faulkner's Light in August

William Faulkner’s study of 20th century’s man search for self, in the novel Light in August, shows us the darker side of humanity – the sense of being alienated. Among many of his books, he uses alienation as one of his major themes. Alienation occurs in humans when there is a sense of isolation, depersonalization, disenchantment, estrangement, or powerlessness. Alienation has been considered an especially important issue during the twentieth century. It's often noted as being at the heart of modern dissatisfactions-- especially of youths, women and racial minorities. (Artlex, al-am) In Light in August, Faulkner presents us with the major theme of alienation through several techniques. Three techniques I will discuss in my essay are: the setting – how it emphasizes the alienation, the shifting in time in the plot – as we are explained how alienation came to be apparent at that present time, and how the misogynistic tone of the novel adds to the theme of alienation.

The central setting in Light in August takes place in the town of Jefferson. We are presented with several areas in this small town. Many of which are secluded from the rest of the community. Faulkner’s choice of setting adds to his central theme of alienation. For example, Jefferson’s ex-preacher, the Reverend Gail Hightower, has taken residence in a small cabin deep into the woods of Jefferson after the scandal of his wife’s mysterious suicide. After being forced to resign from the church, he becomes a recluse in the woods; having only one contact – his advisor to the outside world, Byron Bunch. Faulkner describes Hightower’s cabin in the beginning of chapter 3, “From his study window, he can see the stre...

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...their community because of the disapproval of their lifestyles. The misogynistic tone is meant to give the reader the feeling of alienation. Joe Christmas’s hatred towards women adds to his alienated character. While the use of negative female roles, adds to the theme of alienation.

Alienation is a concurrent theme in many of the Faulkner’s novels. He presents us this theme clearly in Light in August with his descriptive choice of setting as we are walked through Jefferson from the Reverend Gail Hightower’s cabin to the mysterious estate of Joanna Burden. The slightly complicated plot tells the story of each character and how they reached to the present time of alienation. And his use of tone, misogynistic in nature, adds to the central theme. Faulkner’s use of these three techniques allowed the reader to recognize and relate to the feeling of alienation.

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