Light in August by William Faulkner Essay

Light in August by William Faulkner Essay

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Light in August by William Faulkner



Light in August, a novel written by the well-known author, William Faulkner, can definitely be interpreted in many ways. However, one fairly obvious prospective is through a religious standpoint. It is difficult, nearly impossible, to construe Light in August without noting the Christian parallels. Faulkner gives us proof that a Christian symbolic interpretation is valid. Certain facts of these parallels are inescapable and there are many guideposts to this idea.

For instance, there is Joe Christmas, one of the main characters in the novel. His initials are J.C., which can be an acronym for the name Jesus Christ. There is the fact of his uncertain paternity and his appearance at the orphanage on Christmas day, as well. Joe is approximately thirty-three years of age at his lynching; This event is prepared for throughout Light in August by Faulkner’s constant use of the word crucifixion.
Also, there are many more convincing Christian symbolisms that seem to have lead readers to believe that William Faulkner arranged his events and directed his themes to parallel the twenty-one chapters of the St. John Gospel. These religious symbols, however, stray from the text of Light in August and seek to unify the novel through biblical allusions alone. They attempt to answer the questions of how Light in August functions as a work of literature by avoiding the novel itself. Because of this, they each fall short of being an exact interpretation of the novel. Still, the Christian parallels cannot be ignored and must function for some firm purpose in this novel.

If Light in August has enough surfaces corresponding to warrant the claim of a direct parallel in both theme and action to the Gospel of John, then where is the crucifix, the most important symbol of Christianity? This significant tool should be in a book with such religious relevance. The important symbol was not left out, however; they were only distorted to a degree. Faulkner may have been giving a clue to the way in which he distorted the crucifix. For example, wood imagery is relevant in this case. There are several wood mills: Doane’s Mill, and then the planing mill in Jefferson. Lena asks Byron Bunch, “Is there another planing mill?” Byron replies, “No, ma’am. There are some sawmills, a right smart of them, though”. Faulkner may have been alerting his audie...


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...not been a part of Christmas’ “wooden world”, now rides with a furniture repairman. Typically, Lena’s narration does not call attention to poles or posts of any kind. It is only after Christmas is dead that Lena notices the cross-like images. This would seem to suggest not only that she is perhaps a Virgin Mary figure carrying a Christ figure inside her, but also that she herself is the resurrect “life” after Christ’s (Christmas’) crucifixion. It seems highly possible in a novel that distorts the Crucifix that the process of Christ’s death and resurrection could also be distorted. Ironically, however, Lena exists at the same time with Christmas, but never meets him because within the context of the New Testament, resurrection comes only after death. In turn, Lena and Christmas never meet because it would be illogical for the Virgin Mary figure to meet her baby while she is carrying her baby.

All of these characters’ narrations, which can appear incoherent, are, connected through the distorted image of the wooden cross. The posts and other symbols link Christmas and the Testaments together. Light in August functions as a fluid novel though structured distortion of the Gospels.

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