Religious Symbols and Symbolism in Faulkner's Light in August Essay

Religious Symbols and Symbolism in Faulkner's Light in August Essay

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Religious Symbolism in Light in August   


William Faulkner’s, "Light in August" has many references to Christianity. He employs a great deal of religious symbolism in all of his characters. These parallels seem very intentional, even though, Faulkner himself says he did not do it purposely. The Christ story is one of the most popular stories invented and it seems right that at some point someone is going to write similar to it. William Faulkner says he did not put the Christian parallels in intentionally. Many critics argue that there is no religious symbolism in this novel and that other critics are looking too deep into the novel. After reading Faulkners’ novel, it is hard not to make some connections to Christianity. The most obvious of his ties to the Catholic background and knowledge is in his writing of "Light in August".

William Faulkner was born in New Albany. His family was a mixture of Presbyterians and Baptists. As an adult, he became a communicant of the Episcopal Church in Oxford, but he rarely attended services there. In response to a question on Faulkner’s Christianity, he said: "I have the sort of provincial Christian background I feel that I’m a good Christian—whether it would please anybody else’s standard I don’t know" (203). According to Amy Dooley (who is the research assistant of the Center of Faulkner Studies Southeast Missouri State University), Faulkner spoke about religion being something a Southerner absorbs as part of the culture, and he can’t stop using it. He said it doesn’t matter if he believes it or not. It appears as if Faulkner uses Christianity in his writing to aid his themes of human suffering, renewal of rebirth, human continuity, and death.

The most significant example of Fau...


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...that is never specified either. Christmas might have Negro blood in him so he could be black or he might be white. This gives him a character, which does not fit in with the other people; he is different. This is similar to Jesus Christ in that there was something different about him to separate him from the other people. That fact and the fact that his initials are the same as Jesus’ can lead a person to believe that William Faulkner did this intentionally. If one looks at Joe Christmas’ personality and his entire life and death, one will see that there are no parallels. If Faulkner says he did not put the parallels in intentionally, then it seems only ironic that there are some. In conclusion, Joe is a character in William Faulkner’s novel, "Light in August", and nothing more.

Works Cited:

Faulkner, William. Light in August. 1932. New York: Vintage, 1987.

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