Isolation in Light In August
In William Faulkner’s Light In August, most characters seem isolated from each other and from society. It is often argued that Lena Grove is an exception to this, but I have found that I cannot agree with this view. Consequently, this essay will show that Lena is lonely too, and that the message in Faulkner’s work on the issue of human contact is that everyone is essentially alone, either by voluntary recession from company or by involuntary exclusion, and the only escape from this loneliness is to have a proper family to comfort you.
As a child, Lena was involuntarily isolated from a society she wanted to be a part of. We are told that “six or eight times a year she went to town on Saturday” (p. 5), which obviously was not enough for her. “It was because she believed that the people who saw her and whom she passed on foot would believe that she lived in town too” (p. 5). Lena had a need to be a part of society and join the ranks of ordinary people in an ordinary town, which presumably includes marrying and starting a family.
Living with McKinley in a far off mill hamlet continued to keep Lena isolated, and this condition was further aggravated by the fact that she was kept busy with housework much of the time. Admittedly, housekeeping for a large family is one kind of community, but it is not the kind that Lena wants. She would rather have a family of her own than care for someone else’s, and so she seeks love in the form of Lucas Burch. Unfortunately, Burch does not want to start a family. He only uses Lena for his own pleasure, and as soon as she tells him about the pregnancy, he leaves town (p. 16-17).
Lena takes off on a quest to reunite herself with her would-be hu...
... middle of paper ...
...g the society she loves. When she no longer has any hope of putting her family together the way she reckons it should be, she can no longer face society because she will never fit in. Even if she married Bunch, he would still not be her child’s father, which would make their family an anomaly. Lena has turned into a voluntary outcast, dragging Byron Bunch around to help her run her daily life but never letting him get intimate, never really making him a part of her life. After being forced into isolation from society for most of her life, Lena has now chosen to remain isolated. She is just as alone as any other character in Light in August.
The conclusion I inevitably reach is that Faulkner wanted to portray family as the ultimate unit of society. Without a family, you cannot fit into society, and if you do not fit into society, you are essentially alone.
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