Comparing Faulkner's Light in August and James' Portrait of a Lady Essay

Comparing Faulkner's Light in August and James' Portrait of a Lady Essay

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Comparing William Faulkner's Light in August and Henry James' Portrait of a Lady


Light in August  and Portrait of a Lady are two novels which embodies within them, life affirming morals. Authors like William Faulkner and Henry James possess the art of making the reader learn by experiencing for themselves.  William Faulkner uses the technique of introspection as well as by showing how characters and their actions can affect one another. Henry James also shows that a character’s actions and decisions can greatly affect one’s future and happiness.  Both authors focus on the power of words that function only to categorize individuals into certain races or social classes.

                William Faulkner, in Light in August, centers his novel around the sensitive issues dealing with race, sex, social status and personal history.  Faulkner shows the reader that people who are placed in such categories receive certain expectations from society.  The characters generally accept these categories as truth, and cannot escape from their expectations, both from society and from themselves. Characters are placed under labels. These labels dictate how the characters should or should not act.  These labels determine the character’s potential for good or evil.

                Race is the most prominent label in Light in August. The race of the characters dictates how they are treated among others in society. A person’s race is translated into an image.  Characters affected by racism include Joe Christmas, Old Doc Hines.

                Joe Christmas was born an illegitimate child, from a white mother, and a father of unknown ethnic origin. From a child, he was called “nigger” by his peers, even before he knew the meaning of the w...


... middle of paper ...


...ertain situations. The reader really “sees” that labels have the power to change people and to alter their priorities, if the individual accepts them as truth.

Works Cited

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

James, Henry. The Portrait of a Lady. Ed. Geoffrey Moore and Patricia Crick. New York: Penguin, 1986.

Works Consulted

Volpe, Edmond L. "Exploring Independence ." Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Portrait of a Lady: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Peter Buitenhuis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Krook, Dorothea. "Two Problems in The Portrait of a Lady." Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Portrait of a Lady: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Peter Buitenhuis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Pitavy, Francois. Faulkner's "Light in August." Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973

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