TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I The Conflict Between Collective and Individual Consciousness
CHAPTER II The Conflict between Consciousness and Subconsciousness
SUMMARY IN POLISH
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (St.John)
Crime and punishment seen from the point of view of Fiodor Dostoevsky mean an act of murder done by an individual and restrictions imposed on him by the society (the representatives of the law). However, in the works of William Faulkner we can observe some rules which cause that a person is treated like an outcast for less detrimental deeds that are perceived as social crimes. It is not possible to write about human beings without taking into consideration the cultural context of their behavior. Culture changes historically (it is different nowadays from one that occurred about 80 years ago in the course of William Faulkner’s life). Although there are many ways of writing about human beings (of perceiving them and interpreting their actions), there is no one particular method which would explain everything. To my mind, the best way of describing the problem presented in Light in August (1932), which would guarantee a compelling introduction of the matter, can be analysis of this novel in the context of psychoanalysis of Zigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, and sociology of Emile Durkheim. I am aware that the above-mentioned methods have been extensively criticized over the years. However, the basis for this criticism has derived from the occurrence of some new phenomena in the societies, the phenomena which were not taken into consideration by the earlier psychologists and researchers of culture. Nevertheless, the cultural, psychological, and sociological mechanisms described by William Faulkner are contemporary to psychological and sociological theories quoted by me. What is more, the ones derive from the others: without sociological conditions of the time and coexistent psychological state of a human being (from the beginning of the 20th century) the then psychology and sociology would not have emerged.
Faulkner reveals so complicated and complex picture of human beings and their nature that in order to investigate it one has to look at it from the point of view of culture, psychology, sociology, and religion. These approaches bring a researcher closer to the human mysteries, but they do not solve them all. A human is a creature of contrasts and contents that fight against each other although all of them are included in one person. A man or a woman can be in control of this struggle and act consciously (from the level of consciousness), or can be vulnerable to the influences of those fighting powers and act unconsciously (from the level of unconscious). This struggle delimits the line of demarcation between those two contending levels of human personality. As the conscious field of battle is sociologically accepted, the unconscious one is condemned. The consciousness of a human being is regarded as the legislator and the advocate of all rules, conventions, demands, social agreements, and dogmas (according to Carl Gustav Jung), while the unconsciousness is deemed as being responsible for instinctive reactions and uncontrolled impulses (according to Sigmund Freud). All legal systems and institutions of society have been built as a support for those conscious actions. Unconscious desires have been treated as not proper and penalized in various ways. Those kinds of unconscious “crimes” and conscious “punishments” have been introduced in the novel Light in August by William Faulkner. Society penalizes persons who, following their own feelings, instincts, and desires break off from imposed rules, laws and customs. A renowned English writer (considered by literary critics as a philosopher—a representative of miliorism), Thomas Hardy states on the basis of his book Tess of the d’Urbervilles that there exist two kinds of rules which are mutually exlusive. These are: social law and natural law. Natural order justifies such crimes like murder, rape or having an illegitimate child as an outburst of instinct or depicting of emotions whereas social principles condemn such deeds as being unacceptable and morally wrong (Krawczyk).
How a personality functions in a society, and how it struggles on those two levels of conscious and unconscious is a theme of this paper. The thesis of this dissertation deals with the problem of fitting to the expectations of society or following one’s own desires. Throughout the chapters I will prove that following one’s own instincts is the basic human right, but we have to do it in a way that does not hurt others or encroach upon somebody else’s basic rights. I will try to introduce American society as the one that strives to reconcile those different attitudes (freedom of individual and rules of society) and, unfortunately, fails providing its citizens either with independence or with security. Human nature is too complex to foresee. And as individual cannot cope with him- or herself, the civilization cannot tackle this problem either. We are a kind of mystery and only the supernatural consciousness, wisdom or intelligence (maybe the one of God) can cope with the problem of human nature.
Taking the above-mentioned conclusions into account, I can sum up that definitions of crime and punishment in Faulkner’s novel differentiate from commonly known classifications of moral standards. Throughout the following chapters I will be identifying, classifying, and describing in detail those individual shades of crimes and punishments.
In the first Chapter, titled “The Conflict Between Collective and Individual Consciousness,” I will be analyzing those two terms and providing a reader with their definitions invented by Emile Durkheim (collective consciousness and individual consciousness). The next point of this section will deal with the way in which William Faulkner introduced those matters in the book. Collective consciousness is represented by the town of Jefferson, which implements aims beneficial for the society as a whole. On the other hand, individual consciousness is embodied by Joe Christmas, Lena Grove, Joanna Burden, Byron Bunch, and Reverend Gail Hightower. These persons realize themselves and put into practice their individual yearnings which are not in accordance with the purposes of the whole community. At the end of the chapter I will introduce consequences that emrge from the above-mentioned attitudes (a clash of individualism with collective reason) and draw a conclusion from parallel instances of literature devoted to this problem.
Chapter number two, named “The Conflict Between Consciousness and Subconsciousness” will define those two psychological terms by means of psychoanalytical theories introduced by Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung. Then I will present the way in which William Faulkner displays those issues in his novel. I will provide the reader with a profound analysis of the main character of Light of August--Joe Christmas. I will try to prove that although William Faulkner denied it, his books give such sophisticated description of how human personality works in different social and cultural circumstances that his masterpieces are a kind of psychoanalysis (Williamson, B.). I will try to prove that reading Light in August we participate in a psychoanalytical process of discovering subsequent spheres of human mind. I will present a very detailed description of Joe Christmas’s life trying to find out the background of his motives.
In Conclusion I will try to analyze what in fact causes emotional disfunctions and whether renowned psychologists as well as basic assumptions of Christian civilisation may give any remedy to it. I will try to prove that all solutions are inborn in human psyche and mind.
Taking the above-mentioned matters into account, I can generally affirm that in the culture displayed by William Faulkner we can observe characters whose “crimes” are: desire, illicit affairs, mental illness, political views, descent or contacts with black people. All of those individuals indulge their own needs, instincts, natures, and outlooks which the rational world pushes down into subconsciousness and with which it struggles by means of statements of law and principles of religion. Unacceptable contents repressed into subconsciousness take the form of hidden power which governs our lives, as Sigmund Freud states in his work Behind the Rule of Pleasure (1920). Thomas Hardy claims that our fate is determined by our former deeds (Krawczyk). In view of Sigmund Freud this determinism derives from energy hidden in our subconsciousness. The more people strive to deny it the more they are subjected to its force. In this way Oedypus killed his father and married his own mother.
All in all, it may be stated that those who do not want to be subordinated to imposed rules of consciousness, intellect, and common sense and do not want to restrain their own instincts--are punished by the collective public. Group consciousness fights with individualism in order to survive and stay unchanged with its hierarchy, structure, and moral code of behavior. Allowing for the smallest exception would violate the social order and its main principles. Due to this fact, penalties delivered to antisocial persons submitting to dark forces of nature are so severe and drastic. No crimes will stay without punishment in such surroundings. This continuation of crimes and punishments clearly shows the picture of American society: the more it is vulnerable to “evil” (everything is allowed as basic human rights), the more efficiently it overcomes this alleged “evil.” Condemned by his parishioners, minister Hightower states that even appearances of evil or bad impression can be a reason for being thrown out beyond the boundaries of the human society. Social representatives introduced by William Faulkner seem to follow the phrase coined by St. Paul, “abstain from all appearances of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22), equaling the appearance of evil with the evil itself.
CHAPTER I The Conflict Between Collective and Individual Consciousness
The first and fundamental rule [of sociology] is to consider social facts as things.a social fact is every way of acting which is capable of exercising an external constraint upon the individual" (Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method)
Although Emile Durkheim claimed that it is the society that makes individuals, not vice versa, we can observe in every surroundings a clash of individual attitudes with those common ones. Individual point of view is represented by a particular member of the society, while the general outlook is derived from all the attitudes congregated together and represented by legal and religious institutions as well as other formal organs set up in the sociological circumstances of a human being. Those basic assumptions are the foundation that makes it possible to formulate a definition of collective and individual consciousness. According to the father of modern sociology, Emile Durkheim, collective consciousness means ideas, norms, and social expectations held important in the minds of all members of a society; the source of religion, morality, and the common values developed in society that act as cohesive bonds of social order. Here is the passage taken from the book of Emile Durkheim The Sociology of Religion, in which the author directly states what to his mind, on the basis of extensive research and time-consuming investigations the collective consciousness is:
Society is not at all the illogical or alogical, incoherent and fantastic being which has too often been considered. Quite on the contrary, collective consciousness is the highest form of psychic life, since it is the consciousness of consciousness. Being placed outside of and above individual and local contingencies, it sees things only in their permanent and essential aspects, which it crystallizes into communicable ideas. At the same time that it sees from above, it sees farther; at every moment of time it embraces all known reality; that is why it alone can furnish the minds with the moulds which are applicable to the totality of things and which make it possible to think of them. (“Kroeber, Durkheim, and Weber”)
What is more, Sigmund Freud in his work Behind the Rule of Pleasure gives instances of people who regard “melting in the crowd and loss of feeling of individual autonomy as delightful sensation” (trans. mine, 204). He relates that “undoubtedly what is of the great importance is the fact that there exist a kind of compulsion to do exactly the same what others do and behave in accordance with the masses” (205). Individuals accede such situation because they are aware that standing in opposition is dangerous. People protect themselves following patterns observed around themselves acting in accordance with the rule: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. (Freud, Behind the Rule of Pleasure)
On the other hand, we have another phenomenon called “individual consciousness” which strives to be independent. To my mind, the best characterizations of this observable fact that reflect its nature are those provided by John Locke, Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx. According to Locke the modern sense of the word consciousness is associated with the idea of personal identity. Nietzsche correlates this term with free will, while Marx links it with natural rights of a human to life, liberty and happiness. In case of William Faulkner’s novel Light in August, we can observe the struggle of those two poles of human consciousness. Collective rights are represented by the town of Jefferson and its citizens. In Jefferson lives a small community of whites and blacks. However, the town is run by whites with their specific attitudes towards black people, with their protestant religion and all components of Southern history and tradition. Joel Williamson in his book William Faulkner and Southern History depicts this kind of society in the following way:
The Old South had gone with the wind, but the values of the Old South, the true values of soul and spirit, were not lost… Southern society, in its own eyes, was superior to all others. It was whole, it was organic and ongoing. They saw themselves as having discovered in an organic society, almost miraculously, God's plan for social salvation. It was only when individuals resisted roles clearly assigned by race, gender, or "class" that trouble came. In the 1920s and 1930s, after three generations of greater and lesser disasters, the South felt that it was finally getting people into their proper places again. God was in heaven and all was right with the world. (401)
Needless to say, this 20th -century community lives in a way which resembles those introduced by the Victorian 19th century or the Puritan 17th. Although human rights as well as emancipation of women have developed remarkably, the old Southern societies stick to moral and social rules imposed on them centuries ago. In this kind of surroundings Faulkner depicts a set of characters who act in opposition to social constraints. Those people are: Joe Christmas, Lena Grove, Byron Bunch, the Reverend Gail Hightower and Joanna Burden. It may be stated that they all embody individual consciousness with its natural rights, free will and identity.
Striking example of the above-mentioned thesis is depicted by the character of Joe Christmas who has “a drop of black blood” which causes him to be seen an outcast of the white community. Although Christmas’s appearance does not reveal his origin, he is hounted by internal feelings of guilt and impending doom. He is strongly convinced that his black blood will doom him to failure and he does not act consciously. Because of his name he is compared by litrary critics to Jesus Christ--the Savior of the world. However, Joe is not able to save neither his surrounding world nor himself. It is caused by his lack of faith in the chance of winning. He is so depressed and dominated by the general view that black people are worse that the smallest sign of any positive feeling to him he interprets as a sign of pity. The love of Miss Burden to him is deemed as just sympathy--so unbelievable it seems to him. That is why, in my opinion, he kills his lover--he cannot stand the fact that he is an object of pity. At the end of his way he strolls through the main streets of his home town. Facing death and exposing himself to death--he experiences freedom from the feeling of being inferior for the first time in his life .Finally he feels powerful--he wields his life in his hands. The acceptance of death is an act of his free will which was not taken into consideration throughout his own life. Endangering himself by walking in the middle of the street, talking with citizens, going to the haidresser’s he is not a slave for the first time of his life. Being a slave of other people’s preconceptions and a slave of the whole American tradition and culture were unbearable for him. Several hours of walking in the middle of the street after committing the murder are cathartic for him and make him a free man.
Another example of a person being expelled to the fringe of the society is shown by the character of Lena Grove. She is regarded immoral and naïve due to the fact of being pregnant with a man who is not interested in her and whom she is chasing throughout the whole action of the book. After sexual intercourse with Lucas Burch, Lena had to escape from her home being deemed as a fallen woman by her own brother. People met by her on her road comment on her person in such a way: “I wonder where she got that belly” (Faulkner 9), “How folks can look at a strange young gal walking the road in your shape and know that her husband has left her?” (Faulkner 13) or “If it’s running away from her he’s after, I reckon he’s going to find out he made a big mistake when he stopped before he put the Mississippi river between them.” (Faulkner 16). For instance, Mrs. Armstid “watches the younger woman with an expression of cold and impersonal contempt” (Faulkner 21), telling her: “And you believe he will be there, when you get there. Granted that he ever was there at all. That he will hear you are in the same town with him, and still be there when the sun sets” (Faulkner 21). Although the whole world is cruel and ruthless with her trying to punish her in a variety of ways, Lena remains stubburn in her pursuit of happiness and carries her child which is being called a burden for the rest of the people.
A man who falls in love with her, Byron, meeting Lena for the first time can see a column of smoke coming from the burning house. Faulkner underlines that this smoke is like a kind of warning for Byron, who loving Lena, agrees to pay the price of throwing away the morality in which he was brought up. Being the object of the gossips and mockeries he finally will become aware that Lena does not love him, that she is not a virgin and does not possess a chastity, and the child she gives the birth to is not his child. Reduced to being immoral and viewed as such in the eyes of the whole community, he leaves his work and friends, and follows Lena who is chasing her lover, the father of her child.
However, he and Lena being in love with other people, are somehow happy. They have their life’s goal as well as hope and faith. A person deprived of such valuables is Reverend Gail Hightower, who is “done damned” (Faulkner 61) by the town Jefferson. He is introduced by the narrator as “the fifty-year-old outcast who has been denied by his church” (Faulkner 49). He came to Jefferson as a young pastor. However, instead of giving sermons from his pulpit, he was crying out images of the Civil War which he maintained in his mind. His wife became depressed and after finding a lover, she killed herself in a hotel. Being the object of interest of the press, Hightower lost his job as a minister, and fell into oblivion. It was the highest punishment imposed by the community on the individual: let him be buried in the course of his life. In the words of somebody from Jefferson, Hightower “had to resign from the church, but he wouldn’t leave Jefferson, for some reason. They tried to get him to, for his own sake as well as the town’s, the church’s. That was pretty bad on the church, you see. Having strangers come here and hear about it, and him refusing to leave the town. But he wouldn’t go away. He has lived out there on what used to be the main street ever since, by himself. At least it aint a principal street anymore. That’s something. But then he dont worry anybody anymore, and I reckon most folks have forgot about him. Does his own work. I don’t reckon anybody’s even been inside that house in twenty-five years. We dont know why he stays here. But any day you pass along there about dusk or nightfall, you can see him sitting in the window. Just sitting there.” (Faulkner, Light in August 60)
How tragic person he was may be evidenced by the following citation:
The house, the study is dark behind him, and he is waiting for that instant when all light has failed out of the sky and it would be night save for that faint light daygranaried leaf and grass blade reluctant suspire, making still a little light on earth though night itself has come. Now, soon, he thinks; soon, now He does not say even to himself: “There remains yet something of honor and pride, of life.” (Faulkner, Light in August 60)
Another scandalist is Miss Burden, who is the supporter of the black people. Her father and brother were killed in Jefferson as those who were in favour of abolitionists. After she was killed by Joe Christmas and her house was burnt, people spoke about this event: “My pappy says he can remember how fifty years ago folks said it [house] ought to be burned, and with a little human fat meat to start it good”. The response to this remark is: “ Maybe your pappy slipped out there and set it afire”. Later, “They laughed” (Faulkner 49).
Although freedom and pursuit to happiness are guaranteed by the American Constitution, we can observe that small local communities are scared of every attempt to obtain this promised state of being glad and content. To explain this attitude I can quote Carl Gustav Jung who states in his book Man and His Symbols that: “Man today is painfully aware of the fact that neither his great religion nor his various philosophies seem to provide him with those powerful ideas that would give him the security he needs in face of the present condition of the world.” In this state of matters we cannot treat town communities as underdeveloped or backlooking. They are not worse. They are just more scared.
It could be stated that such communities are pragmatic in a sense in which William James perceives it in his book Life as Common Sense. According to this psychologist and philosopher pragmatism “turns towards concretness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power” (James, “Pragmatism” 26). This pragamtism is contrasted to modern philosophies such as for example solipsism or constructivism in which human mind creates its inner world being its own construct (Lankiewicz). Such individual consciousness not only does not obey the social rules but also undermines the sheer existence of the outside world. It may be perceived as a fact that social communities are just scared of non existence not only in the mind of an individual but also in reality. It is commonly true that such extremely individual, abstracted from reality minds (as that one of Christmas in literary fiction and those of Hitler or Stalin in a human history) can cause death and annihilation. Every action is the outcome of human consciousness. If this mind is broken, it creates a reality on the basis of the broken premises. George Orwell in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four describing totalitarian regime writes that:
Anything could be truth. The so-called laws of nature were nonsense. The law of gravity was nosense. [These laws] pressuposed that somewhere or other, outside oneself, there was a “real” world where “real” things happened. But how could there be such a world? What knowledge have we of anything, save through our own minds? All happenings are in mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens. (Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four 314)
As Orwell has it, totalitarian approach “can be called in case of need collective solipsism” (Orwell 301). This corporate disorder has its origins in a mind of a one or several men who are strong enough to impose their individual points of view on the whole society. However, those extreme individualists who can endanger the existence of communities are children of those societies (as it is in the case of Christmas). Joyce Merrill Valders states briefly:
When a baby is born it is slapped on the back and made to cry – this much is virtually universal; but from this point on each person’s life, attitudes, creeds, religion, politics (in a broad sense) – indeed, most of his world view – are shaped largerly by his environment. Each person, herever he dwells, is an individual, but an individual influenced by family, community, country, and even language. (Valders, vii)
In this way a viscious circle closes and human experience as well as wisdom do not provide an attainable solution to this problem of the balance between collective reason and individual tendency to the biggest possible freedom. In literature we have great examples of singular and self-directed struggels against rules imposed by the society. These instances are The Trial written by Franz Kafka as well as Ślub by Witold Gombrowicz. In the first case the individual consciousness fails, in the second it wins. However, none of those two solutions solve the problems of the humankind and provide it with the clear vision how to tackle the issue of control and liberty.
On balance, as far as William Faulkner’s characters are concerned, they all fall into the category of manipulators or opportunists who do not want to obey social conventions. There is in Light in August the whole array of antisocial outcasts who are: a pregnant mother without a husband; an middle-aged woman supporting Negros; a Negro himself dreaming about human life and an escape from the curse put on him by his father and step father in his childhood; an ex-minister, who lives despite the fact of being expelled behind the borders of the society; and a young man who fall in love with a fallen woman. All of these people encroach on standards imposed by the tradition and religion. However, the question remains: who is more human? Those who obey or those who fail for the sake of their inner dreams and desires?
That society is not always right in its judgement may be evidenced by research done by Sigmund Freud in the book Behind the Rule of Pleasure when he makes known the fact that: “in the crowd people with lower intelligence draw down people with higher intelligence to their level” (trans. mine 205). Moreover, community may be “violent in its judgement, ready to accept only the simplest and the most imperfect conclusions and arguments, easily directed and prone to undergo upheavals, deprived of self-awareness and […] prone to commit the biggest crimes about which may be suspected such absolute and irresponsible power” (206). What happened in Nazi Germany in the thirties of the 20th century and the effortless spread of communism in Russia may be the best example of functioning of such social forces. In the Light in August there is described displayed a situation when Gail Hightower was severely beaten by the Ku Klux Klan organisation due to having a black cook. The whole attitude of the South towards their ex-slaves and racial discrimination of blacks can also serve as an instance of dark powers hidden under superficial cover of rightful principles and tradition. The case of Joe Christmas is an evidence how an individual may suffer due to misconceptions existing in the society. Such argument that the collective consciousness is faultless may be questioned even by the fact that father and brother of Miss Burden were murdered after the Civil War as a result of prejudice against abolitionists.
CHAPTER II The Conflict between Consciousness and Subconsciousness
“He thought it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. (Faulkner 226)
Sigmund Freud coined the terms of consciousness and subconsciousness. According to this father of psychoanalysis, human mind is divided into these two spheres which fact is the basic assumption of psychoanalysis. This division creates a basis to understanding of the pathological processes of the human psyche (Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis)
The first modern conceptualization of consciousnes was done by John Locke in “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” in 1689 (“Consciousness”) In the words of Locke consciousness is the repeated self-identification of oneself, through which moral responsibility could be attributed to the subject--and therefore punishment and guiltiness are justified, as critics such as Nietzsche would point out. According to Locke, personal identity (the self) “depends on consciousness, not on substance nor on the soul” (“Consciousness”). It is the consciousness that establishes laws and rules from which our religion, legal systems and all institutions can be traced back. Consciousness controls our social lives and determines the independence of an individual in his or her grown lives. Consciousness makes it possible that people marry, legalise their relationships as well as take care of each other, bring up children, control their emotions, instincts and desires. As it may be stated--conscious mind controls a human being and all his or her activities in order to avoid the destruction and simply--to survive.
Consciousness in pathological instances is clashed with subconsciouness defined by Carl Gustav Jung as a phenomenon that consists of “temporarily obscure thoughts, impressions and images that in spite of being lost continue to influence our conscious mind” (Jung, Man and His Symbols). Carl Gustav Jung also states that: “a man is guided by an unconscious, then he realises what it is what he wants. His unconscious has prompted him” (Jung, Man and His Symbols). He declares that “we can hardly ever control ourselves, very often we act again our intention. […] Ubnormal behaviour is a way in which our unconscious expresses itself” (Jung, Man and His Symbols). He also claims that: “subliminal material can consist of all urges, impulses and intentions or perceptions or intuitions or rational or irrational thoughts, conclusions, inductions, dydactions or premises and all varieties of feelings. […] It takes a form of unconsciousness because there is no room for it in a conscious mind” (Jung, Man and His Symbols). What is more, Freud in his book Behind the Rule of Pleasure defines subconsciousness as repression of psychological content from the consciousness which functions later as a subliminal power determining our behaviour. People simply repress the whole content which is difficult to accept by the rational mind --their errors, misunderstandings, complexes, criticsm and all kinds of failure. What really matters is the conscious convenience that the behaviour of an individual is correct and he or she are accepted by the society. The problem is that matters repressed into subconsciousness do not disappear but on the contrary--act as inner energy determining our lives. In this way--Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. He did exactly what he did not desire to do being propelled by the inner power coded in his subliminal mind.
 … roztopienie się w tłumie i utrata poczucia indywidualnej wartości stanowi dla jej członków wręcz rozkoszne doznanie.
 Nie ulega wątpliwości, że pewną rolę odgrywa przy tym rodzaj przymusu, by robić to samo, co inni, by postepować zgodnie z masą.
 …ludzie o niższej inteligencji ściągają do swego poziomu ludzi o inteligencji wyższej.
 …gwałtowna w swych sądach, gotowa przyjąć jedynie najprostsze i najbardziej niedoskonałe wnioski i argumenty, łatwo dająca się kierować i łatwo ulegająca wstrząsom, pozbawiona samoświadomości (…) gotowa dać się porwać do wszelkich zbrodni, o jakie tylko możemy podejrzewać absolutną i nieodpowiedzialną potęgę.
- Quote paper
- Magdalena Siemieńczuk (Author), 2007, Crime and Punishment in William Faulkner's "Light in August", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/310613