Race and Racism in William Faulkner's "Light in August"

Bachelor Thesis, 2013

33 Pages

Free online reading

College of Foreign Languages Czestochowa

Faculty of Modern Languages

(Wyzsza Szkola Lingwistyczna w Czestochowie)


(B.A. Thesis)

Joanna Grzenia

Czestochowa 2013

Table of contents













Conclusion. 26




The plot of Light in August takes place in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, created by William Faulkner as a stage for most of his books. The word "Yoknapatawpha" comes from the Chickasaw language and is composed of two separate units: "yocona" (split) and "petopha" (land), which denotes "split land". However, Faulkner gave "Yoknapatawpha” his own meaning: "water flowing slow through the flatland," [1] in my opinion, the first connotation more accurately renders the social situation in the American South for which the Yoknapatawpha County is an allegory.

In my thesis, I would like to present the situation of a maladjusted individual, in the context of social relations, illustrated with an example of the main character. I will seek to prove that the novel is a metaphor for the conflict between the individual, who fights for his place in the society, and the system, in which the struggle is doomed to be lost. Because the notion of race in Light in August is a metaphor for differences between people, the book has the universal dimension that goes far beyond the political and social relations of the American South.

The work is divided into three chapters. The first one describes the history of racial segregation and explains the concept of race and racism. The second chapter is devoted to the social situation in the South of the United States in the context of the protagonists' life. The last chapter is an analysis of the protagonist as an individual living in a specific socio-cultural context and as the symbol of the uniqueness of each person.


Slavery and race belong to the most important factors which shaped the United States of America. At the beginning there was no distinction between races. In 1616 the Virginia Company brought ninety women as wives for settlers. The price was "120 pounds weight of best tobacco leaf." [2] “Indentured servants paid their tickets to America signing contracts which made them work up to seven years on plantations: "Only about 40 per cent of indentured servants lived to complete the terms of their contracts.” [3]

The first twenty black Africans were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. The status of black Africans was not clear till 1660 when the laws which started racial segregation were passed. The next thirty years brought several regulations which separated the poor white Europeans from Africans or Indians. The White felt into "free" category of people whilst black Africans (as the most vulnerable part of society) were turned into slaves.[4] According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: “By 1723 even free African Americans, descendants of several generations then of free people were prohibited from voting and exercising their civil rights. Colonial leaders thus began using the physical differences among the population to structure an inegalitarian society." [5] It was caused by the economic situation in colonies. There were two types of colonies: those set up by companies to make profit and the other created for different - mostly religious - purposes. [6]

The first settlement - Jamestown - was set up by Virginia Company as a business venture in 1607. The first years were very hard for settlers. During the “starving time" winter, between 1609 and 1610, only 60 of the original 214 colonists remained alive. [7] The colony survived only because it had perfect conditions for growing tobacco. The tobacco and rice cultivation became a profitable business for the whole South. After 1793, when the cotton gin was invented, the cotton production became an additional source of wealth. “With only 30% of the nation's (free) population, the South had 60%

of the ‘wealthiest men’. The 1860 per capita income in the South was $3,978; in the North it was $2,040." [8] This would not have happened without the institution of slavery. Whilst the slavery as “condition in which one human being was owned by another” [9] is as old as the history of mankind, the race element was added in the USA as an inseparable part of that concept.

There are many definitions of the word "race" at present. I have chosen two of them: ”race, the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioural differences. Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races, and scholars now argue that ‘races’ are cultural interventions reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15the century” [10] and “each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics: people of all races, colours, and creeds [...]. Although ideas of race are centuries old, it was not until the 19th century that attempts to systematize racial divisions were made. Ideas of supposed racial superiority and social Darwinism reached their culmination in Nazi ideology of the 1930s and gave pseudoscientific justification to policies and attitudes of discrimination, exploitation, slavery, and extermination. Theories of race asserting a link between racial type and intelligence are now discredited. Scientifically it is accepted as obvious that there are subdivisions of the human species, but it is also clear that genetic variation between individuals of the same race can be as great as that between members of different races.” [11] Both definitions, although different, stress that "race" is not linked with personality features and it is how the word is understood today. However, by the beginning of the 20th century the term, which was based on people’s biases only, evolved into set of beliefs - that led to institutional racism and has its consequences till today. It includes among other things:

· Phenotypic features, or visible physical differences, are markers or symbols of race identity and status.

Because an individual may belong to a racial category and not have any or all of the associated physical features, racial scientists early in the 20th century invented an invisible internal element, “racial essence,” to explain such anomalies.

· Each race has distinct qualities of temperament, morality, disposition, and intellectual ability. Consequently, in the popular imagination each race has distinct behavioural traits that are linked to its phenotype.

· (...) Distinct races should be segregated and allowed to develop their own institutions, communities, and lifestyles, separate from those of other races. [12]

With reference to the above paragraph, the world "racism, also called racialism [describes] any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview—the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called "races," that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioural features, and that some races are innately superior to others." [13]

The “racial world-view” appeared in 17th century. Creating the idea of race and a strict description of it, the southern policy-makers solved two problems at one time: gained slaves to work on the plantations and placed the white poor higher in social hierarchy which prevented the possible riots against the upper-class plantations owners. [14] Slavery shaped the whole USA. At the beginning it was colonies wide and only in 1820, almost forty years after the American War of Independence, The Missouri Compromise, which divided the American states into "slave" and "free", was passed. [15] The act fashions people's attitude towards the phenomenon mostly according to their place of living. American Anti-Slavery Society led by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan was an answer of the part of Americans to the "Peculiar Institution." [16]

Nevertheless, the "coloured" people and particularly Afro-Americans became stereotyped as "inferior elements"- the term first used in racial sense by an American writer- Lothrop Stoddard in 1922 in his pamphlet "The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-man." [17] The whole tendency was supported by institutional racism together with the laws which sanctioned the system throughout the decades. The famous "slavery culture" was based on socio-economic factors which gave big powers to a small privileged group of people but survived for such a long time because of the human nature. Melvin J. Lerner, Professor of Social Psychology, "a pioneer in the psychological study of justice," in one of his experiment, proved that people tend to blame a victim if there is no other reason for the victimisation. People just want to see the world as a rational and fair place. [18] The slavery in the USA of America was abolished by The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution on January 31, 1865. But the racial segregation which affected all areas of life was supported by law (the segregation de juro) till 1954 when the Supremes’ Court decisions after „Brown v. Board of Education" were passed. [19]

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery but paradoxically brought deterioration in quality of life among the former slaves, supporting the common belief that they are unable to live as free people. There was no clear idea how the situation should be solved, because the abolition of slavery was in fact one of the causes, but not the main reason of the war. Lincoln’s Ten-Percent Plan caused an outrage among congressmen but the situation became even worse when Lincoln’ successor, Andrew Johnson, ordered the Freedmen's Bureau (whose main aim was to help the freed people to find themselves in new situation) to return confiscated land to former owners. Confederate Leaders regained power, and the restrictive Black Codes were passed by the southern government. However, the Black Codes were overturned by Civil Rights Act of 1866 - the Fourteenth Amendment passed in 1868 was rejected by most of the southern states. [20] The introduction of the Civil Rights Act caused the establishment of Ku Klux Klan, the organization whose aim was to limit the power of Republicans and which is known for its brutal methods (the last lynch by KKK took place in 1981 in Alabama). [21]The battle with the enforced segregation lasted till 1970s with the turning point in 1954 when the "Separate but equal" doctrine (introduced by Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896) was overruled. However, it was as late as in 1964 when most of the discrimination acts were disestablished by the introduction of the Civil Rights Act (followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965).

The discriminatory system can be illustrated by the Georgia Supreme Court statement, 1869: "[...] moral or social equality between the different races does not in fact exist, and never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it. There are gradations and classes throughout the universe. From the tallest archangel in Heaven, down to the meanest reptile on earth, moral and social inequalities exist, and must continue to exist throughout all eternity." [22] There were many forms of discrimination in the American South. The "Separate but equal" doctrine stated that both races had the right to the same public services and facilities, but they should be separate for each group. In practice, it meant the worse service quality for African-Americans. Jim Crow laws, passed between 1876 and 1965, authorised the unequal access to the public facilities.

In a world where being black or white became a crucial issue, the laws were passed to keep “racial purity". The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 just reinforced the existing anti-miscegenation laws which were enacted before the USA came into being. The first colony which banned mixed-race marriages was Maryland (1660).The laws stated that a person could be considered as a non-white if had "any African or Indian ancestry". So called "one-drop rule" prohibited interracial marriages. The law was changed as late as in 1967 as a result of Loving vs. Virginia case. Before the case of legally married couple found its happy-end, Leon Bazile, the judge, stated in his ruling: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix." [23]

The statement which at the moment of issuing was against “the principle of separation of church and state as well as the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution” [24] illustrates in the best way how deeply rooted was the racial attitude in the American South and how far the state interference influenced the common people’s life.


Social relations prevailing in the American South play a key role in Light in August. They are invisible but pervasive forces that direct events described in the novel.

Faulkner grew up in the American South and was regarded as a typical representative of the white part of that community. His novels are insightful pictures of the social and psychological life of this part of the USA in the Jim Crow era. The social pattern in Light in August, is illustrated by the character not matched to this pattern completely - Joe Christmas. Because his connection with a particular race was enforced by effective social stigma, Christmas does not fit into the existing model. Creating an individual devoid of any bond of belonging, Faulkner shows the relationship between social exclusion and suffering. The theme affects not only the protagonist but also other characters in the novel (like Hightower or his wife).

Man is a social being and as such most fully identifies himself with his immediate circle: family, neighbours and nation (people). In the American South, the category of race was added. Race determined the way of thinking, speaking and acting. People of uncertain origin could not be a part of the society where everyone had a well-defined place.


The society in the American South was very strongly polarized. The line of demarcation was drawn between white Protestants (identified with masculinity, hardness, sexual purity, intellect, domination) and Catholicism, femininity, belonging to a particular race (associated with weakness, sexual promiscuity, chaos, filth and darkness). It should also be noted that the dark skin colour was synonymous with sin. [25]

The social order was part of the Puritan ethos that shaped the American way of thinking:

Puritans divided their time between hard work and discussions on church matters, praying and working, because they believed that each work brings honour. They developed, the Protestant burghers rule brought in from overseas, that fruits of the work are evidence of God's blessing. They began to identify wealth with an evidence of God's grace, and consequently poverty seemed to indicate God's disapproval. At the same time, the temporal world was for them "valley of tears". (...) Puritans treated the issue of salvation very seriously and devoted a large part of their free time for a thorough analysis of their thoughts, exploring ruthlessly the most private secrets. Going to church, praying and listening to sermons describing the wrath of God (who holds the sinners on the edge of hell and is ready at any time to knock them into burning hell), was part of their daily ritual, which included, as well, saving the everyday events and thoughts in diary, which was a book of account of their souls. They were also interested in the souls of their neighbours. The situation of people in closely related societies, which are adhered to the principle of neighbourhood solidarity led to intolerable meddling in other people's lives, and the small-town narrowness of mind. [26]

Light in August is a critique of a society based on the protestant ethic and religious fundamentalism. [27] This patriarchal attitude is most fully expressed by Euphues Hines character, who considering himself as an instrument of God's will, leads to his daughter's death, kills her partner and turns his grandson's life in a living hell, by sending him to an orphanage, where he takes a job as a janitor to be able to watch and hate his daughter's son. In doing so, he stigmatizes Joe Christmas in the eyes of other children while excluding him from the white community. As a result, the children in the orphanage begin call him "Nigger" (with one of the few words for strangeness available to them). Hines does it all, because he believes in the superiority of white race, men over women and the patriarchal society, but also because: "weak people with low moral values always need a scapegoat. It makes them feel strong and superior" [28] The scene in which Doc Hines causes his daughter's death (not allowing a doctor to come), also indicates that the stronger in that community has the power of life and death over the weaker.

The very moment when McEachern, Christmas' foster father, gives him a heifer, which is "owns under God's sufferance," [29] is in fact a symbol of domination which has its source in a perverted Christianity. Changing Christmas' name, McEachern tries to impose his values (faith and work ethic) on him. As the values are more important than the child taken from an orphanage, it is impossible for the child to identify with the values. What is more, at this stage Christmas has already known about his uncertain origin, whilst the values belong to the white Protestant community.

According to the criteria of today's reality, the McEacherns family is deeply dysfunctional, but as the fundamental unit of society, is its miniature model. The strict division into: female - male, weak-strong, and the absolute patriarchal rules performed by the father of the family, where every attempt of disobedience leads to corporal punishment (flogging, which is linked to slavery) - is an image of society in which the protagonist tries to find his place.

Joanna Burden is another character in the novel who, like McEachern and Hines, uses religion in order to impose her dominance. Her attempt to force Joe to kneel at gunpoint "I don’t ask it. It’s not I who ask it. Kneel with me." [30], leads, as a result, to her death. For Christmas it was probably something of a deja vu - back to the ruthless world of his childhood. A similar scene with McEachern shows the suffering of abused child who has never known love, and whose character was regularly broken by the people for whom he was just a thing:

‘Kneel down’, McEachern said. The boy knelt; the two of them knelt in the close, twilit room: the small figure in cutdown underwear, the ruthless man who had never known either pity or doubt. McEachern began to pray. He prayed for a long time, his voice droning, soporific, monotonous. He asked that he be forgiven for trespass against the Sabbath and for lifting his hand against a child, an orphan, who was dear to God. He asked that the child’s stubborn heart be softened and that the sin of disobedience be forgiven him also, through the advocacy of the man whom he had flouted and disobeyed, requesting that Almighty be as magnanimous as himself, and by and through and because of conscious grace[...] [31]

Christmas frees himself from McEachern killing him, and he does the same with Joanna.


Joanna and Joe seem to be alike: both have no bonds with the community where they live. She is white but works for the sake of Afro-Americans which automatically excludes her from the society where she belongs. He is not sure of his family background and does not want to be assimilated because of his personal fight for his place in the split society. This makes them both outcasts. The motive behind Joanna's work for the black community portrays fully the white Southerners' attitude towards racial differences. It can be illustrated by the following quotation:

I had seen and known Negroes since I could remember. I just looked at them as I did at rain, or furniture, or food or sleep. But after that I seemed to see them for the first time not as people, but as a thing, a shadow in which I lived, we lived, all white people, all other people. I thought of all the children coming forever and ever into the world, white, with the black shadow already falling upon them before they drew breath. And I seemed to see the black shadow in the shape of a cross. And it seemed like the white babies were struggling, even before they drew breath, to escape from the shadow [...] I saw all the little babies that would ever be in the world, the ones not yet even born—a long line of them with their arms spread, on the black crosses. I couldn’t tell then whether I saw it or dreamed it. But it was terrible to me. I cried at night. At last I told father, tried to tell him. What I wanted to tell him was that I must escape, get away from under the shadow, or I would die. ‘You cannot,’ he said. ‘You must struggle, rise. But in order to rise, you must raise the shadow with you. But you can never lift it to your level [...] [32]

This passage represents Faulkner's official view on racial issues. In his speech delivered on February 20th, 1958 to the members of The Raven, Jefferson and Omicron Delta Kappa Societies he said: „For the sake of the argument, let us agree that as yet the Negro is incapable of equality for the reason that he could not hold and keep it, even if were forced on him with bayonets, that once the bayonets were removed, the first smart and ruthless man, black or white, who came along would take it away from him, because he, the Negro, is not yet capable of, or refuses to accept, the responsibilities of equality. So we, the white man, must take him in hand and teach him that responsibility.” [33]

From the white Southerners' perspective, Afro-Americans are cursed by God because they are black. Dark skin colour is associated with sin. Joanna can never lift African-Americans to her level, which (apart from the supernatural aspect of the imposed "duty") sets her much higher in the social hierarchy, and satisfies her need for dominance (also in a sexual context). As Doc Hines, whose theory of "the devil’s walking seed" [34] is supposed to justify his brutality against his family, Joanna tries to push Christmas in the role which is the most desirable for her.

The existing model of social structure in the American South was explained by the breakneck rhetoric, based on racial prejudice. It can be illustrated by the District Attorney, Gavin Stevens', monologue on "white" and "black" blood:

Because the black blood drove him first to the Negro cabin. And then the white blood drove him out of there, as it was the black blood which snatched up the pistol and the white blood which would not let him fire it. And it was the white blood which sent him to the minister, which rising in him for the last and final time, sent him against all reason and all reality, into the embrace of a chimera, a blind faith in something read in a printed Book. Then I believe that the white blood deserted him for the moment. Just a second, a flicker, allowing the black to rise in its final moment and make him turn upon that on which swept him by his own desire beyond the aid of any man, swept him up into that ecstasy out of a black jungle where life has already ceased which he had postulated his hope of salvation. It was the black blood before the heart stops and death is desire and fulfilment [...] [35]


The ideology justifies status quo and has quite solid foundations. As many white Southerners, Faulkner followed the authority of the greatest American and European thinkers. Thomas Jefferson in "Notes on the State of Virginia", Query 14. says:

I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.(...)But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture. (...)The improvement of the blacks in body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites, has been observed by every one, and proves that their inferiority is not the effect merely of their condition of life. [36]

Thomas Jefferson is accompanied by David Hume who in his work: “Of National Characters” states:

I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general all other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. […] Not to mention our colonies, there are Negros slaves dispersed all over Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity, though' low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In JAMAICA indeed they talk of one negroe as a man of parts and learning; but 'tis likely he is admired for very slender accomplishments like a parrot, who speaks a few words plainly. [37]

Immanuel Kant in his essay "Of National Characteristics, so far as they Depend upon the Distinct Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime" writes:

The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises about the trifling. Mr Hume challenges anyone to cite a single example in which a Negro has shown talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousands of black who are transported elsewhere from their countries, although many of them have even been set free, still not a single one was every found who presented anything great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality, even though among the whites some continually rise aloft from the lowest rabble, and through superior gifts earn respect in the world. So fundamental is the difference between these two races of man, and it appears to be as great in regard to mental capacities as in colour. [38]

Under such conditions, a real emancipation of African Americans was impossible. The established in the collective subconscious image of "Negro" was alive, and (regardless of the real states of affairs) sanctioned racial segregation. It is presented indirectly in Light in August; Faulkner recognizes the pattern of exclusion, and shows in which way the "otherness" has been linked to race, on the other hand, he officialy agrees with the ideology which prevailed in the American South (as it can be seen in his speech). The ideology was based on stereotypes and stereotypes went into being because of ideology.


The paragraph of the novel describing aroused Joanna: "She would be wild then, in the close, breathing halfdark without walls, with her wild hair, each strand of which would seem to come alive like octopus tentacles, and her wild hands and her breathing: “Negro! Negro! Negro!” [39] - is the reverse of the cliché which was created by Thomas Jefferson that every black man dreams of having sexual intercourse with a white woman. [40] However, it is difficult to say if Joanna would have this kind of needs if this stereotype would not have been made up.

Racial stereotypes act here as perpetual motion. No one have taken seriously the Burch/Brown' words that Christmas murdered Joanna till the moment when he mentions also that Christmas is black. From then on, the chase begins, as the context fits the stereotype mentioned above: “ ‘Nigger?’ the sheriff said. ‘Nigger?’ [...] ‘You better be careful what you are saying, if it is a white man you are talking about,’ the marshal says. ‘I don’t care if he is a murderer or not.’" [41]

Also, a razor used by Christmas is associated with a stereotype: "When Joe Christmas cuts Joanna Burden's throat with a razor, his story alludes not only to the archetypal weapon of the black murderer in popular fiction (and to the actual 1905 crime in Oxford committed by Nelse Patton, who was subsequently lynched) but also by implication the antebellum several texts as well." [42] Using the razor, Christmas assumes the role which Joanna has tried to impose on him. Killing her with a weapon stereotypically associated with black crime, he fulfills her needs in a perverse way.

Racial stereotyping linked to poverty is connected with the Protestants' ethic, identifying the financial success with God's grace. The whole social structure of the South was constructed in order to prevent Afro-Americans' financial emancipation. Underpaid, hard work at the sawmill, performed by Christmas and Burch, is referred to as "negro's job at the mill'' [43]and Burch is complaining about "all day slaving like a durn nigger." [44] Trying to send Christmas to the " nigger college [...] so they wont charge you anything" Joanna shows him his place. For Joanna, "blackness means poverty" [45] and poverty is associated with submissiveness which is connected to subordination. Christmas' attitude triggers aggression in people because at every stage of his life, he refuses to submit to anyone. Starting from the moment when McEachern is trying to force Christmas to obey him, to the day of his coming into Mottstown, where instead of acting like a runaway slave, he is walking the streets "like a white man" - Christmas expresses his disagreement with his position in the social hierarchy. [46]


In the American South, anti-miscegenation laws define social position. Cultural taboo has its roots in the slavery period. Slave status was inherited matrilineally, and therefore female sexual purity became the part of the white culture in the southern part of the United States. Christmas has broken the taboo, and his castration is an expression of the fear of destruction of the existing social order by the people, whose existence was credited to the fact that the taboo was broken. Percy Grimm, who believes that "the white race is superior to any and all other races,” [47] is the personification of the fear. His words after Christmas' castration: "Now you’ll let white women alone, even in hell," [48] illustrate how the status quo of racial segregation was kept in the American South. Such methods, used by the Ku Klux Klan, effectively inhibited any attempts to integrate the two communities and shaped people's attitudes and behaviour. An extreme example of the fear is the scene in the novel, when Hightower delivers stillborn baby because his father is too afraid to ask a white woman for help.

Religion is another factor which preserves existing social order. In other communities, it unites its followers; here it is a segregation tool with separate churches for each group. White people do not respect black’s churches. Hines praying the superiority of the white race in black’s temples is respected, because for black people God is white. The fact that Hines and his wife live at their mercy does not matter. The underestimated African American's self-esteem, shaped by the centuries of racial segregation, also supported that system. Elliot Aronson in his book The Social Animal describes how racial prejudice affect human’s behaviour and self-image:

A white policeman yelled, ‘Hey, boy! Come here!’ Somewhat bothered, I retorted: ‘I’m no boy!’ He then rushed at me, in-flamed, and stood towering over me, snorting, ‘What d’ja say, boy?’ Quickly he frisked me and demanded, ‘What’s your name, boy?’ Frightened, I replied, ‘Dr. Poussaint, I’m a physician.’ He angrily chuckled and hissed, ‘What’s your first name, boy?’[...] Hollywood would have had the hero lash out at his oppressor and emerge victorious. But when this demoralizing experience actually happened, in 1971, Dr. Poussaint simply slunk away, humiliated—or, in his own words, ‘psychologically castrated.’ Feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and anger are the harvest of being the constant target of prejudice. [49]

It is almost impossible to maintain a positive self-image in the case of long term discrimination which is supported by a well-organized system.


The slogan "separate but equal" illustrates methods of disenfranchisement used against black Americans at every level of society. The analysis of the protagonist's life shows that on every stage his rights have been violated. Hines, who murdered his father and led to his mother's death, does not suffer any consequences of his action, because his victims rejected social conventions, and from the viewpoint of community, deserve death. Similarly, Miss Atkins has led up to his racial stigmatization in order to get rid of the inconvenient witness of her debauchery. This reveals that in the case of people of uncertain origin a gossip may lead to social exclusion. Finally, Christmas' death (when Percy Grimm, castrates and murders him without sentence) - portrays that African-Americans had no rights at all.


Another important aspect of social reality in the novel is womanhood. In the world, where the line of demarcation is drawn between the weakness and strength, women fight a losing battle. Patriarchal community, which has control over every aspect of the lives of its citizens, does not tolerate any derogation from social norms, which are strictly assigned. Because women are guardians and victims of the community, they are trapped in a vicious circle of social taboos. The precise division between "good" and "bad" women causes that the former are the guardians of the latter. Because the only area where they can demonstrate their power is the control of other women's moral behaviour, they truly dedicate themselves to it and do not care about the effects of their actions because: „[…] the town believed that the ladies knew the truth, since it believed that bad women can be fooled by badness, since they have to spend some of their time not being suspicious. But that no good woman can be fooled by it because, by being good herself, she does not need to worry anymore about hers, or anybody else’s goodness; hence she has plenty of time to smell out sin. [50]

The life of Hightower's wife shows that system at work. First she is hounded by people who send her to an institution, after that she is "taught" how to behave and dress, next, when it becomes clear that she is not going to follow social norms, women exclude her from their circle. Finally, she commits suicide because it is the only way to escape. A paradox lies in the fact that it is her husband who should be sent to a sanatorium as his behaviour is unusual, and his wife is obviously a victim of his eccentricity.

The whole situation is pictured in the Light in August from the point of view of the whole community:

In the fall the wife came home. She looked better. She had put on a little flesh. She had changed more than that, even. Perhaps it was that she seemed chastened now; awake, anyway. Anyhow she was now like the ladies had wanted her to be all the time, as they believed that the minister’s wife should be. She attended church and prayer meeting regularly, and the ladies called upon her and she called upon them, sitting quiet and humble, even in her own house, while they told her how to run it and what to wear and what to make her husband eat. It might even be said that they forgave her. No crime or transgression had been actually named and no penance had been actually set. But the town did not believe that the ladies had forgot those previous mysterious trips, with Memphis as their destination [...] So nobody saw her when she got on the train that Friday, or maybe it was Saturday, the day itself. It was Sunday morning’s paper which they saw, telling how she had jumped or fallen from a hotel window in Memphis Saturday night, and was dead. [51]

Women accepted in Faulkner’s world are weak and follow rules. Christmas' grandmother allows giving him to an orphanage and has been suffering for the rest of her life. McEchern's wife doesn't even try to stand up for her stepson when her husband bullies him. Bobby, the prostitute, allows Christmas to beat her just to unload his frustrations, and all of this fit to the social convention. However, Lena Grove, who breaks the principle of morality, is accepted by other women, because her journey in search of Bruch is an attempt to remedy the "evil". Her naiveté can be illustrated with her words: “I reckon a family ought to all be together when a chap comes. Specially the first one. I reckon the Lord will see to that.” [52]Everyone is well aware of her naiveté but at the same time it is her simplicity and candor which provides the protection and help of others. Lena is weak and harmed and as such, deserves support and help.

Women, who break rules, always bear the penalty of their behaviour: Joanna Burden is killed by Christmas, who cuts off her head; Christmas's mother dies giving birth to her son, because her father doesn’t call a doctor; Hightower's wife, haunted by the community, commits suicide.

The world of men portrayed in the novel is violent and aggressive. Violence is also a personal choice of the protagonist, as he follows the rules of the world where he was brought up. Christmas repulses femininity and blackness because they are associated with weakness and slavery. Christmas’ hatred of women is also caused by the fact that he is always betrayed by them (Bobbie, Miss Atkins); they have never fought for him (his grandmother, Mrs McEachern) and always reject him if his presence could endanger them directly (Miss Atkins, Bobbie). His hate manifests itself in different ways:

While still a youth, each week he takes from the wash fis garments on which his foster-mother solicitously has replaced missing buttons and he cuts off the new buttons ‘with the cold and bloodless deliberation of a surgeon’. At the age of seven he dumps on the floor food which his foster-mother brings him; and many years later, at thirty-three, he repeats the same gesture of repudiation, hurling against a wall dishes of food prepared for him by Joanna Burden. Whilst fourteen he attacks black prostitute, hired by him and his friends. [53]


The traditional world of the American South, described in the novel, does not give too much freedom of choice. Women are victims of the system in which only two groups exist: those who govern and those who are ruled. Murder becomes a crime only if hits into ruling social norms. Percy Grimm and Doc Hines are not sentenced or even charged for their crimes whilst Joe Christmas is lynched in a presence of silent approval of a community. Neither women nor black Americans protest against their mistreatment. After decades of marriage, Mrs McEachern and Mrs Hines are sexless and unattractive and both live only for their husbands. In a sense, they are "castrated" like Joe Christmas, and like all other victims in this society, turn into obedient, asexual, neutered beings - perfect slaves. Long after slavery was abolished, the slavery culture still affects every part of the social life of this part of the USA.


The main struggle of the protagonist is his conflict between who he is and what he wants. The two factors are mutually exclusive. His response to the white prostitute's words, that she accepts black men, proves that he hates the existing social order which allows for such a high level of hypocrisy. He beats her because she is a symbol of the system which humiliates ordinary people and turns them into offenders. Christmas wants to be treated like a white man, but his uncertain origin makes him socially maladjusted. He is trying to find his way through racial division of the American South to assimilate with one of the existing communities. However, his attempt to be a part of a black society is doomed to failure, because his socialization took place with white Southerners. For this reason, he despises black Americans, and thereby, despises himself. His aggression against black people: beating a black prostitutes in the barn, or aggressive behaviour in the black church, is directed against that part of society that prevent him from feeling like a full-fledged member of the society which is all he wants: "There were people on these porches too, and in chairs upon the lawns; but he could walk quiet here. Now and then he could see them: heads in silhouette, a white blurred garmerited shape; on a lighted veranda four people sat about a card table, the white faces intent and sharp in the low light, the bare arms of the women glaring smooth and white above the trivial cards. ‘That’s all I wanted,’ he thought. ‘That don’t seem like a whole lot to ask.’" [54]

Christmas’ actions, regardless of Gavin Stevens' monologue about blood, is the behaviour of a white Southerner, who on no account would take the role of a victim, because it may lead to his exclusion (as it happens to Hightower). The main character can not accept his socially determined race, because it would contradict the meaning of his personal fight for being a full member of society. Therefore he choses death which in that community is the only way to avoid a social stigma.


The Model of Hierarchy of Needs developed by Abraham Maslow precisely defines the conditions which are necessary for the proper functioning of an individual in a particular social structure. Maslow specifies the following needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, self-realization. [55]According to a representative of social constructivism, Henry Murray, needs cause "inner tension" which an individual tries to release by fulfilling them. [56] On the other hand, the lack of possibility to meet the needs does not forbid an individual to be a part of society, because, as was stated by the Canadian psychologist, Donald Hebb in his book The organization of behaviour: "animals and humans seek a level of ‘optimal arousal’ at which they function the best without having to meet any other basic needs.” [57]

Joe Christmas is an example of a person who, with the exception of basic physiological needs, has no other answered. From the moment of his birth, until his death his needs are ignored by the community in which he lives, and this means that his full adaptation to social norms of that community is not possible.

Black children learned what it meant to be black in the South of the United States at that time through the buffer of their families. They were subjects to segregation, but they had the support of the community to which they belonged. Joe Christmas is devoid of that base. When the old man in an orphanage answers ruthlessly to Chritmas' remark : “‘I ain’t a nigger’- that he is "’worse than that,’" because he does not know what he is and will never know [58], apart from the obvious desire to hurt the child and show him his superiority, he simply states a fact.

As Hammond clames, "Primary socialization typically begins at birth and moves forward until the beginning of the school years. Primary Socialization includes all the ways the newborn is molded into a social being capable of interacting in and meeting the expectations of society. Most primary socialization is facilitated by the family, friends, day care, and to a certain degree various forms of media (...) Children learn how to talk, interact with others, share, manage frustrations, follow the “rules”, and grow up to be like older family and friends they know." [59] In the case of the main character this stage of socialization failed. Joe Christmas went through the process of negative socialization, and it has a huge impact on his attitude towards himself and the community.

Joe Christmas rebels against the social norms which are in force in the American South. This attitude, which eventually leads to his death, indicating that the main character of Light in August is looking not so much for his identity, but rather for acceptance of his strangeness by others, and that the search is a fundamental part of his existence. His struggle is doomed to failure, and the conformist attitude (acceptance of white community's values) would be in his case a much better choice, as it would give him full civil rights. However, since his adoption by McEchern, Joe Christmas is fighting for the right to be himself. He does not even do it consciously. It is just a part of his nature, as it is shown in the scene below: ”The child was not listening. He was not bothered. He did not especially care, anymore than if the man had said the day was hot when it was not hot. He didn’t even bother to say to himself, my name ain’t McEachern. My name is Christmas. There was no need to bother about that yet. There was plenty of time.” [60]

Almost thirty years after the described episode, the main character is still fighting. The moment when Christmas is considering a possible marriage with Joanna, which would give him "peace and security to the end of life" [61] , in the best way shows what is the most important for him. He rejects this possibility because by accepting it,he "would deny all the thirty years that he has lived to make him what he chose to be." [62]

The main character in Light in August is often regarded as somebody who: “poses a unique twist to passing: the character passes as white and passes as black.” [63] It implies a person with mixed-race origin aspiring to be a part of the white or black community. In my opinion, Christmas can not be described as “passing (aspiring) to black” because as a man socialized among white people, he scorns black Americans. On the other hand, despite the traumatic experiences of his early childhood, Joe Christmas has all the makings of a white person. McEcharn, in spite of all his cruelty and callousness, does not care about Christmas' background. He just wants him to adopt his values. Christmas’ appearance and the way he speaks, does not indicate the fact that he can belong to a different race either. He does not have to aspire to be white because, from the white community's point of view, he is white already. Otherwise, he would not be allowed to be part of it. From the white Southerners' viewpoint, personality traits are closely associated with racial affiliation (Gavin talks about blood) and no one is able to change them. Under such circumstances, the only chance for Christmas to build a positive image of himself, is an acceptance of his strangeness by the other members of the white community. He wants to be accepted, regardless of his racial background. Therefore, he always mentions his origin, although this behaviour leads eventually to his death.

One of the key moments in the novel is a scene showing a group of white people playing cards on the porch and Christmas' words: "'That's all I wanted,' [...]. 'That do not seem like a whole lot to ask." [64] The circle of light falling on a group of friends on the one hand, and Joe Christmas standing alone in the dark on the other,- is actually a picture of social life in the American South. Being white means here full citizenship, sense of security and belonging together with social status. The protagonist behaves as if he could not understand why he can not belong to the circle with "one drop of the foreign blood." His attitude is in the best way illustrated by his words: "Just when do men that have different blood in them stop hating one another?” [65] From this perspective, his lonely and doomed struggle can be interpreted as a revolt against the existing social order, and he himself appears to be a romantic hero. His hatred towards women and blacks is directed against the slavish system which is mindlessly accepted by its victims.

One of the characteristics of totalitarian regimes is their total control of every aspect of social life. Joanna and Christmas' relationship may be an illustration of that fact. Christmas hates women because they are weak. Joanna is quite different. At first sight, she seems to epitomise all the features that Christmas has learned to respect. She is strong. She runs a plantation, works with full devotion for the sake of the black community. Like the main character, she is lonely and independent. Because she does not fit into the society in which she lives, she is excluded. Her business affairs are run by a black lawyer and she works for the emancipation of black people. She feels safe because she is guarded by the black population of the town. From the point of view of an outside observer, she is an idealist, sacrificing her live for others.

A key issue in assessing Joanna's attitude are the motives which guide her. Her work for the sake of the black community does not originate from her beliefs. It is a mission - "a burden" imposed on her by her father. In carrying out his will, she has to "improve" black men, and it takes every moment of her life. For this reason, she is able to function only among the black community in her superior role, and that what seems to be sacrifice is only a specific form of adaptation to the conditions of social life in the American South during the times of racial segregation. Joanna does not believe that black Americans are equal. They are a shadow in which she has to live. Her work is a continual self-improvement, which is a result of both her father's message ("But in order to rise, you must raise the shadow with you. But you can never lift it to your level") and Puritan's ethic. Despite her apparent strength, she is not able to resist these words, and she lives realizing her father's will, and not admitting to her own needs. The appearance of Christmas is a change. He is an opportunity for her to make up for lost years. Because of his uncertain origin and low socio-economic status, he fits perfectly into Joanna's preference. In line with her image of the world, she treats Christmas as an inferior and worse. After he raped her, she shows him his place, leaving the kitchen door (in the homes of white Southerners used by black servants) open. Joanna is not able to overcome the social pattern, which puts her higher in the hierarchy. She is not able to create a relationship based on partnership, but at the same time she does not want to allow Christmas to leave. (Therefore, she comes to his hut and tells him her life which is wrongly treated by Christmas as an act of surrender).

For Christmas, Joanna is initially a hope for full acceptance. The life she leads indicates that she is devoid of racial prejudice. Her high social status, full independence, emotionless and almost male attitude attract Christmas, who is trying to get from her any affection, even if it would be hate. Therefore, he raped her, but the only thing he achieves is another demonstration of dominance. If Christmas had any chance to withdraw from the relationship (which he is trying to do), it is at that moment. But Joanna does not allow it. She comes over to his cabin and tells him about herself in the context of her family's history. Christmas is disillusioned by the conversation in which Joanna says that "a man would have to act as the land where he was born had trained him to act," [66] and he starts considering their relationship "as though he had fallen into a sewer." [67]

Joanna acts in the ruthless and consistent way. She uses Christmas as a tool to fullfil her needs while not letting him go. She tries to get pregnant and when it fails, she wants to impose a race on him, sending him into a "black" college, after finishing which, he were going to be her attorney. If Christmas agreed, she would gain complete control over him, because as a black person, he would be excluded from the white community. It would turn him, in fact, into her slave. The need for dominance is a major force in Joanna Burden's life. She is cold and calculating. Confident about her pregnancy, she does not show any warmer feelings, calling her child "a bastard negro child." [68] Joanna's problem lies in the fact that she does not believe in love or can not feel it. Like all individuals possessed by the need for dominance, she believes that she can control people using money. On the other hand, Christmas can not get away from her because he loves her. It is shown in a scene where he gets a note from Joanna: "He should have realised then the reason why he had not gone away. He should have seen that he was bound just as tightly by that small square of still undivulging paper as though it were a lock and chain." [69]

Joanna plays in Christmas' life just as destructive role as McEcharn - her male counterpart in the novel. Like him, she is for Christmas the never realized promise of acceptance and family warmth. The pattern of their behaviour is similar. Each of them has their "mission" to fulfil, and each of them uses other people to realize it. They both need Christmas as the epitome of their efforts and at the same time a tool to achieve them. None of them accepts his personal choices, and they do not allow him to become fully independent. The main character kills both. By killing McEcharn, the protagonist begins his adult's life while by killing Joanna, he finishes it.

The death of the main character is often interpreted as liberation from his hopeless existence. Killing people who are in any way inconvenient for the system is typical of totalitarian regimes.The South of the United States was not exception. In my opinion, the scene of Christmas' castration and death is a metaphor for the enslavement of individual by system. The black blood flowing out of Christmas’ body illustrates the fact that in that particular reality, a human being can be himself only in the moment of death. In the Christian tradition, death is a liberation only if it finishes a life full of love and goodness. If not, it is a punishment which sentences a man for an eternal torment. Percy Gawin's words after Christmas' castration: " Now you’ll let white women alone, even in hell," indicate that the white, Puritan community of Jamestown assume a role of punishing God. However, in the novel the main character is presented as an average sinner: “His own life, for all its anonymous promiscuity, had been conventional enough, as a life of healthy and normal sin usually is.” [70]

The only "sin" which is committed by Christmas towards white people of Jamestown is his lack of instinct for self-preservation. Owing to his "lack of racial heritage," Christmas himself can be considered as the Everyman. Each person is unique and everyone, in a sense, is alone like Christmas. The labels of belonging which are accepted by most of people are in fact protective colouring which allows surviving in the society dominated by the "stronger - weaker" relationship. In this context, people do not differ from animals and what makes them human beings is their "uniqueness". Faulkner shows it using "’race’ as a metaphor for human difference and as a trope of great power in the word". [71]


Light in August is a multidimensional story in which, through the life of the main character, William Faulkner presented both socio-economic reality of the American South and a psychological picture of the protagonist. It is an equivocal novel, which was written in the Thirties of the 20th Century, during the time of racial segregation.

African-Americans achieved full citizenship in 1964 (Civil Rights Act of 1964), and for that reason, the meaning of the story, which described the struggle for rights and freedom (especially in the context of race), should not be easy to comprehend. The plot is constructed in such a way that through the protagonist's life, the pathology of social relationship is demonstrated. The logic of the novel is disturbed by the protagonist's behaviour which at first glance seems to be sociopathic. [72] Only a thorough analysis of the text reveals that these features of personality, which seem to be socially harmful, are in fact the result of the destructive social structure.

One of the layers in the novel is focused on the legal system which prevails in that reality, in which white, male Puritans have full citizenship and the power of life and death over women and blacks. The law, which originated from colonial beginnings of the United States, was a source for stereotyping black Americans as inferior beings. When Hume and Kant wrote about white supremacy, they relied on those stereotypes, which did not exist before the rise of the great plantations of the American South.

The novel reveals the devastating effect of the system on the social circles. The protagonist's life in the McEcharn’s family or his relationship with Joanna, are completely dominated by the values, which are the essence of that order. Individuals, who do not fit into the prevailing pattern, are pushed to the margins of social life (Hightower) or commit suicide (Hightower’s wife, Christmas).

The fundamental part of the story is based on the personality of the main character who seems to be inconsistent and illogical. Joe Christmas is a metaphor for differences between people and for an individual's fight for acceptance in the world, in which the struggle is doomed to failure. His loneliness, opposition to reality, his trying to live according to his nature, and his love towards a woman whom (in spite of their sexual relationship) is unable to win, transform him into a romantic hero.

The social mechanism of racial division is the foundation of the system. In this context, the tone of Light in August is pessimistic. As humans, we are different from each other, and we are doomed to failure in the fight against the order which is built on the use of these differences. However, yielding to it, we become its slaves and also accept defeat, because these differences are what makes us humans. By rejecting them, we renounce that part of ourselves which is creative and fertile (Christmas' castration scene). We condemn ourselves to a slow death since genetic diversity (expressed in the novel through the symbol of blood) is essential for the survival and development of human species.


1. Allen Mesch."Causes of civil war." Civil war journey.(2006): 24 Jan. 2013 < http://www.civil-war-journeys.org/causes_of_the_civil_war.htm>

2. Aronson, Elliot. Człowiek - istota społeczna. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 2006.

3. Aronson, Elliot. The Social Animal. New York: Worth Publishers, 2008.

4. Basista, Jakub. "Reconstruction after the war." Historia USA: wykład 10.Film. (Warszawa: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna TWP, [200?])

5. Cyba, Frank. "An Older Light Than Ours: Faulkner's Reflections on Race and Racism in Light in August," aspeers, No.1 (2008) <http://www.aspeers.com/2008/cyba>

6. Faulkner, William. „Word to Virginians”, In: Faulkner at Virginia: An Audio Archive, dir.by Stephen Railton. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia, 1959. < http://faulkner.lib.virginia.edu/display/wfaudio20_1read>

7. Faulkner, William. Light in August. New York: Random House Inc., 1972.

8. Fowler, Doreen "Joe Christmas and Womanshenegro." In: Faulkner and women, eds. Doreen Fowler, Ann J. Abadie. Alcorn [etc.]: University Press of Mississippi, 1986, pp.146-147.

9. Hadlich, Nancy. Joe Christmas: A Critical Analysis of William Faulkner's Protagonist in Light in August. Munchen: GRIN Verlag, 2008.

10. Hammond,Ron J., Cheney, Paul. "Intro to sociology," Free Textbook, Chap. 6, (2009): 14 May 2013 <http://freebooks.uvu.edu/SOC1010/index.php/socialization.html>

11. Hume, David „Of National Characters,” In: Political Essays, ed. Knud Haakonssen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 78-92.

12. Jefferson , Thomas, "Notes on the State of Virginia": (1743-1826): 14 May 2013 < http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JefVirg.html>

13. Jerng, Mark C. "The Character of Race: Adoption and Individuation in William Faulkner’s Light in August and Charles Chesnutt’s The Quarry," Project Muse, Arizona Quarterly, Vol. 64, No 4, (Cop. 2008 by Arizona Board of Regents): 14 May 2013 [PDF].

14. Kant, Immanuel. „Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime." (1764):14 May2013 <http://www.public.asu.edu/~jacquies/kant-observations.htm>

15. McLeod Saul. "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs." Simplypsychology, (publ.2007): 11 May 2013 <http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html>

16. O'Callaghan Bryn. An Illustrated History of the USA. Harlow: Pearson Ltd., 2002.

17. Padgett, John B."Yoknapatawpha County". A Faulkner Glossary. In: William Faulkner on the Web (1995-2001): 20 May 2013 <http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/faulkner/glossaryy.html#Yoknapatawpha>

18. Sachs, Viola. Idee przewodnie literatury amerykańskiej. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1966.

19. Simkin, John."Michael Donald." Spartacus Educational. (The United Kingdom: Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd, 2013): 23.Jan.2013. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAdonaldD.htm>

20. Stoddard, Lothrop. The revolt against civilization; the menace of the under man. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1922.

21. Sundguist, Eric J. "Faulkner, Race, and the Forms of American Fictions." In: Faulkner and Race, eds. Doreen Fowler, Ann J. Abadie. Alcorn [etc.]: University Press of Missisipi, 2007, p.21.

22. Thompson, Carlyle Van. The Tragic Black Buck: Racial Masquerading in the American Literary Imagination. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

23. Towner, Theresa M. "Flesh and the pencil." In: Faulkner on the Colour line: the later novels, eds. Doreen Fowler. (Alcorn [etc.]: University Press of Missisipi, 2000), p.16.

24. Williams, Marion, Burden, Robert L. Psychology for language teachers: a social constructivist approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009

25. "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Opinion of /USSC the Court.(May 17, 1954). SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES". Cornell University Law School.(Ithaca, NY: Legal Information Institute,1992): 17 Jan. 2013 <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics _CR_0347_0483_ZO.html>

26. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. (Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,1994-2011): 14.May 2013 <http://www.britannica.com/>

27. „Historic Jamestown”. (Richmond,VA:Preservation Virginia,[200?]): Jan. 2013 <http://www.historicjamestowne.org/history/>

28. “Marriage prohibitions: conflict over inter-racial marriage in the U.S.”: Miscegenation laws. Supreme Court ruling of 1967. ReligiousTtolerance.org. (Ontario: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 2006-2012):15 Jan.2013. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_mar14.htm

29. Oxford dictionaries Online. (2013) : 24 Jan. 2013 <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/race--2>

30. U.S. History: pre-Columbian to the New Millennium.(Philadelphia: Independence Hall Association, 1995-2013): 14 May 2013 <http://www.ushistory.org/us/5b.asp>

31. West Valley College, Saratoga. “Race and segregation in post civil war America". Lecture 2. The Free Encyclopaedia. (Saratoga, CA: West Valley College, [200?]): 24 Jan. 2013 <http://instruct.westvalley.edu/kelly/Distance_Learning/History_17B/Lecture02/Lecture02_p01.htm>


Akcja powiesci Light in Augut dzieje sie w fikcyjnym Yoknapatawpha County, ktore Wiliam Faulkner stworzyl, jako swiat dla swoich opowiesci. Slowo „Yoknapatawpha” pochodzi z jezyka Indian Chickasaw i jest zlepkiem dwoch odrebnych wyrazow: „yocona”(rozdarta) and „petopha” (ziemia). Pomimo to, ze Faulkner nadal inny sens slowu „Yoknapatawpha” ("ziemia podzielona woda"), uwazam, ze pierwsze znaczenie lepiej odzwierciedla sytuacje spoleczna Poludnia Stanow Zjednoczonych, ktorego Yoknapatawpha jest symbolem.

W mojej pracy, przedstawiam polozenie jednostki nieprzystajacej do obowiazujacego schematu, w kontekscie stosunkow spolecznych panujacych w tym czasie na Poludniu Stanow Zjednoczonych. Staram sie udowodnic, ze powiesc jest metafora walki jednostki z systemem o miejsce w spoleczenstwie, w ktorym niepewna przynaleznosc rasowa glownego bohatera skazuje te walke na przegrana. Poniewaz rasa jest w powiesci symbolem roznic miedzy ludzmi, powiesc ma wymiar uniwersalny wykraczajacy znacznie poza stosunki spoleczno-polityczne panujace w tym czasie na Poludniu USA.

Praca podzielona jest na trzy rozdzialy. W pierwszym przedstawiam historie segregacji rasowej i wyjasniam pojecie rasy i rasizmu. Drugi rozdział poswiecony jest sytuacji spolecznej na Poludniu Stanow Zjednoczonych, w kontekscie zycia bohaterow powiesci. Trzeci rozdzial jest analiza osobowosci glownego bohatera, zarowno, jako jednostki zyjacej w okreslonym kontekscie spoleczno-kulturowym jak i symbolu unikalnosci kazdego czlowieka.

[1] John B. Padgett."Yoknapatawpha County". A Faulkner Glossary. In: William Faulkner on the Web (1995-2001): 20 May 2013 <http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/faulkner/glossaryy.html#Yoknapatawpha>

[2] Bryn O'Callaghan, An Illustrated History of the USA (Harlow: Pearson Ltd., 2002), p. 14.

[3] "U.S. History: pre-Columbian to the New Millennium".(Philadelphia: Independence Hall Association, 1995-2013) : 14 May 2013


[4] "Race". Encyclopadia Britannica Online. (2013) : 24 Jan. 2013


[5] Ibid.

[6] Jakub Basista "Reconstruction after the war." Historia USA: wykład 10. (Warszawa: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna TWP, [200?]).

[7] "Historic Jamestown".(Richmond,VA:Preservation Virginia,[200?]): Jan. 2013 <http://www.historicjamestowne.org/history/>

[8] Allen Mesch."Causes of civil war." Civil war journey.(2006): 24 Jan. 2013 < http://www.civil-war-journeys.org/causes_of_the_civil_war.htm>

[9] "Slavery". Encyclopadia Britannica Online. (2013) : 24 Jan. 2013

[10] "Race." Ibid.

[11] "Race.” Oxford dictionaries. (2013) : 24 Jan. 2013 <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/race--2>

[12] "Race". Encyclopadia Britannica Online. (2013) : 24 Jan. 2013

[13] „Racism.” Encyclopadia Britannica Online. (2013) : 24 Jan. 2013

[14] West Valley College, Saratoga."Race and segregation in post civil war America". Lecture 2. The Free Encyclopedia.

(Saratoga, CA:West Valley College, [200?]): 24 Jan. 2013 <http://instruct.westvalley.edu/kelly/Distance_Learning/History_17B/Lecture02/Lecture02_p01.htm>

[15] Jakub Basista "Reconstruction after the war." Historia USA: wykład 10 . (Warszawa: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna TWP, [200?])

[16] "American Anti-Slavery Society" Encyclopadia Britannica Online. (2013) : 24 Jan. 2013

[17] Lothrop Stoddard, The revolt against civilization; the menace of the under man (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1922) ,p.63. <http://www.archive.org/stream/revoltagainstci00stodgoog#page/n71/mode/1up>

[18] Elliot Aronson, Człowiek - istota społeczna (Warszawa: PWN, 2006), p. 195.

[19] May 17, 1954. "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Opinion of the Court. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES”. Cornell University Law School.(Ithaca, NY: Legal Information Institute,1992): 17 Jan. 2013


[20] Jakub Basista "Reconstruction after the war." Historia USA: wykład 10 . (Warszawa: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna TWP, [200?])

[21] John Simkin."Michael Donald." Spartacus Educational. (The United Kingdom: Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd, 2013): 14 Jan. 2013<http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAdonaldD.htm>

[22] "Marriage prohibitions: conflict over inter-racial marriage in the U.S.: Miscegenation laws. Supreme Court ruling of 1967."ReligiousTtolerance.org. (Ontario:Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance,2006-2012): 15 Jan. 2013.<http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_mar14.htm>

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Frank Cyba, "An Older Light Than Ours": Faulkner's Reflections on Race and Racism in Light in August," aspeers, No.1 (2008), p.113.

[26] Viola Sachs, Idee przewodnie literatury amerykańskiej (Warszawa: PWN, 1966), pp. 16-17. [own translation]

[27] Cyba, "An Older Light Than Ours": Faulkner's Reflections on Race and Racism in Light in August," p. 113.

[28] Nancy Hadlich, Joe Christmas: A Critical Analysis of William Faulkner'Protagonist in Light in August (Munchen: GRIN Verlag, 2008), p.

[29] William Faulkner, Light in August (New York: Random Hause Inc.,1972), p. 68.

[30] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 115.

[31] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 64.

[32] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 103.

[33]William Faulkner, „Word to Virginians”, 20 February 1958 < http://faulkner.lib.virginia.edu/display/wfaudio20_1read>

[34] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 155.

[35] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 181

[36] Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on the State of Virginia": 1743-1826

< http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JefVirg.html>

[37] David Hume, ”Of National Characters,” in: Political Essays, Knud Haakonssen (ed.)

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 78-92. < http://ebooks.cambridge.org/ebook.jsf?bid=CBO9781139170765>

[38] Immanuel Kant, „Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime": 1764 <http://www.public.asu.edu/~jacquies/kant-observations.htm>

[39] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 106.

[40] Carlyle Van Thompson, The Tragic Black Buck: Racial Masquerading in the American Literary Imagination (New York: Peter Lang, 2004), p.128.

[41] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 106

[42] Eric J. Sundguist, "Faulkner, Race, and the Forms of American Fictions." In: Faulkner and Race, eds. Doreen Fowler, Ann J. Abadie. Alcorn [etc.]: University Press of Mississippi, 2007, p.21.

[43] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 17.

[44] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 21.

[45] Thompson, The Tragic Black Buck, p.121.

[46] Thompson, The Tragic Black Buck, p.133.

[47] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 182.

[48] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 187.

[49] Elliot Aronson, The Social Animal (New York: Worth Publishers, 2008) p. 301.

[50] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 29.

[51] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 29.

[52] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 12.

[53] Doreen Fowler, "Joe Christmas and Womanshenegro." In: Faulkner and women, eds. Doreen Fowler, Ann J. Abadie. Alcorn [etc.]: University Press of Mississippi, 1986, pp.146-147.

[54] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 49.

[55] McLeod Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs." Simplypsychology, (publ.2007): 11 May 2013 <http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html>

[56] Marion Williams, Robert L. Burden, Psychology for language teachers: a social constructivist approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 113.

[57] Williams, Psychology for language teachers: a social constructivist approach, p.114.

[58] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 155.

[59] Ron J. Hammond, Paul Cheney. "Intro to sociology, Free Textbook, Chap. 6, (2009): 14 May 2013 <http://freebooks.uvu.edu/SOC1010 /index.php/socialization.html>

[60] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 61.

[61] Faulkner, Light in August, p.108.

[62] Faulkner, Light in August, p.108.

[63] Mark C. Jerng "The Character of Race: Adoption and Individuation in William Faulkner’s Light in August and Charles Chesnutt’s The Quarry," Project Muse, Arizona Quarterly, Vol. 64, No 4, (Cop. 2008 by Arizona Board of Regents): 14 May 2013.

[64] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 49.

[65] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 102.

[66] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 104.

[67] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 102.

[68] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 108.

[69] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 111.

[70] Faulkner, Light in August, p. 106.

[71] Theresa M. Towner "Flesh and the pencil." In: Faulkner on the Colour line: the later novels, eds. Theresa M. Towner. (Alcorn [etc.]: University Press of Mississippi, 2000), p.16.

[72] a person with a psychopathic personality whose behaviour is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience. < http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sociopath>

33 of 33 pages


Race and Racism in William Faulkner's "Light in August"
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Joanna Grzenia (Author), 2013, Race and Racism in William Faulkner's "Light in August", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/285271


  • guest on 2/9/2016

    This was an Excellent thesis. It helped me a lot in the understanding of the novel beyond the general information i got from the reading of the novel. Thank you :)

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