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Light In August By William Faulkner William Faulkner was born in a distinguished family in the southern state of Mississippi and became the most distinguished southern Novelist. Light In August is acknowledged as Faulkner’s finest and most readable novels. It is a difficult work due to its complex structure, diversity of points of view, intricate imagery and symbolism and involved themes. In this novel he created his famous fictional Yoknapatawpha County, a miniature representation of southern American society. It presents a cross section of different classes of the society like the aristocratic but decadent Sartoris and Compson families, and Snopes family, the noveau riche usurpers, and the enduring Blacks, the stable and stabilizing factor in a society suffering from moral decadence, insecurity and a guilty conscience. Faulkner’s characters are unique in that they have a reality outside the stories in which they are portrayed. They recur again and again in different situations in different novels. In Light In August, three stories are intertwined. The central figure in the main story is the light-complexioned black orphan called Joe Christmas. This mean, selfish, amoral, unscrupulous, and perverse man kills the woman who protects him, and finally pays dearly for his bad life at the hands of a lynching mob. The story of Rev. Gail Hightower is equally dark. The story of Lena Grove, who is the archetypal female representing fecundity, endurance, and stability, serves as the framework for all the three stories which make up the novel. Her untiring search for the father of the child in her womb gives deep meaning to the novel. These are separate stories but they interact with one another. The novel opens with Lena travelling from Alabama to Jefferson in search of Lucas Burch, the father of her unborn child. When she arrives in Jefferson on a Friday morning she is witness to a house burning at a distance. Three years before this day, a taciturn young stranger, called Joe Christmas, started working at the mill. Six months before Lena arrives here, a brash, garrulous and irresponsible your man called Joe Brown (the Lucas Burch Lena is looking for) also started working at the mill. Byron Bunch, a friendly and helpful man, has been working at the mill for the last nine years. The three strands in the novel are linked by Byron. Byron is the only link with the outside world for Gail Hightower, a former minister who is now a recluse after the death of his wife and forced resignation from the ministry. Byron has come to realize that Lena’s unborn child’s father is Joe brown, and Hightower guesses from Byron’s attitude towards Lena that he is in love with her. Byron tries to unite Lucas with Lena and his child but Lucas runs away from them again. Byron then takes responsibility for looking after Lena. Joe Christmas’s story unfolds through multiple flashbacks. On account of his racial identity and his white complexion, Joe is neither here nor there. He is haunted all his life by this contradiction and it twists his mind. His experiences in McEachern home aggravate his racial and sexual bitterness. The identity crisis results in him in sadistic aggression or masochistic suffering. He murders Joanne Burden in one of his fits of aggression and flees. His friend Lucas Burch accidentally sets the house on fire. Later Lucas betrays his friend Joe to the police in return for reward money. Joe Christmas is practically lynched, and killed by Percy Grimm, a young chauvinistic and racist national guardsman.